[For brief biographical notes on the five Rebbe-Kabbalists in this story, see below]

The year was 1814. Mashiach fever was in the air! The evil Napoleon had been defeated and imprisoned. Rebbe Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev had passed away a few years before, and beforehand he had sworn that he would give the righteous in Heaven no peace and would refuse to enter Paradise until the coming of Mashiach was decreed. The "Holy Yid" of Peshischa had also recently passed away, just months before. The Chassidim knew it was so he could be their advocate in the upper worlds at this crucial time.

The "Seer of Lublin" lived constantly in a state of expecting Mashiach. Now, he decided, had come the time for the final effort. He engaged in special prayers, meditations and unifications of the Holy Name, and linked his endeavors with those of another great rebbe and his close friend from yeshiva days, the great Maggid of Koznitz, and two of their disciples, the "Meor v'Shemesh" and Rabbi Naftoli Hertz of Borizan. Together, the four tzaddikim decided the propitious moment would be on Simchat Torah, when all Jews would be in a state of merit, after passing through the Days of Awe and Judgment.

When we have a good Simchat Torah, then we will also have a good Tisha b'Av, the Seer remarked….

During the day of Shemini Atzeret, the Chassidim made many "l'chaim's" (toasts) at the the Seer of Lublin's house. The empty bottles were lined up on the ledge of the window in the Rebbe's room. "When we have a good Simchat Torah, then we will also have a good Tisha b'Av," the Seer remarked cryptically

After the hakafot on Simchas Torah night, The Seer told the chassidim who were in the big shul adjacent to his room that they should keep a careful eye on him. But everything that happens is from G‑d, and it was as if the happy, celebrating chassidim were deaf; not one paid attention to the Rebbe's request. Seeing this, the Rebbe told his wife she should watch over him in his room, but "if G‑d isn't guarding the city, a guard is of no use" (Psalms 127:1).

Unbeknown to the Seer, the Maggid of Koznitz had passed away on Sukkot Eve.

At the house of the Meor v'Shemesh a stone was thrown, shattering the glass of the window. His reaction: "Who can imagine what is happening in Lublin?"

While Rabbi Naftoli Hertz was dancing and singing with his followers, in the manner prescribed by the Holy Ari of Tsfat, a fire broke out suddenly in his house. Everyone managed to run out safely, but one young girl was badly burnt.

The Rebbe was nowhere to be found….

Back in Lublin, the Seer was immersed in prayer, alone in his room, with tears flowing down his cheeks. Suddenly, the Rebbe's wife, the Rebbeztin, who had been standing near his door, thought she heard a child crying and knocking at the front door. She went to open it, but no one was there. When she returned to her post, the Rebbe was nowhere to be found, not in his room nor anywhere else in the house. The only possibility was that he had gone out the window, on his own, or ....

The Rebbetzin began to scream. The Chassidim came running immediately. They realized this was no simple matter. The Rebbe couldn't have fallen or jumped - in the entire fifteen years he had lived there, he had never even once gone next to the window to look out. Besides, the ledge of the window was higher than the height of a person, and also, the empty bottles were still standing there undisturbed.

The Seer lay in a heap on the ground, severely injured….

They searched around the house for several hours. Finally, one chassid heard a groan nearly a hundred feet (30m.) from the house. He approached in the dark and asked, "Who is there?" Back came the frightening answer, "Yaakov Yitzchok ben Mittel." The Seer lay in a heap on the ground, severely injured.

After the immediate uproar, the leading chassidim held a lottery among themselves for who would hold the tzaddik's feet, who his arms, and who his head, as they carried him to the house. The chassid who merited to hold his head saw that his lips were moving. He bent over him and realized the Rebbe was murmuring "Tikun Leah" from the Midnight Prayer lamenting the destruction of the Temple. He looked at the clock and saw it was exactly 11PM, the hour that the Rebbe personally would always start the Midnight Prayer. "Look how the Rebbe worships G‑d even in such a situation," he whispered to his companions.

He had been called into judgment for attempting to force Heaven to allow the Redemption….

The Seer was in critical condition. He revealed that he had been called into judgment for attempting to force Heaven to allow the Redemption, and it had been decreed that he be slammed to the ground. Fortunately, he said, the Maggid of Koznitz had spread his cloak and eased his fall; otherwise there wouldn't be an unbroken bone in his body. That is how he became aware that the Maggid had passed on. "If Heaven hadn't prevented me from knowing," he said, "I would never have started."

When the opponents of the Seer heard of the Rebbe's "accident", they drank wine in celebration of his demise. When the Seer was told of this, he said, "On the day I actually leave this world, they won't even drink water."

The Seer never recovered from his "fall". He passed away the following Tisha b'Av fast day.

First published in Kfar Chabad Magazine from Sipurei Chassidim-Moadim, p. 367-8 - not included in the English edition!)

Biographical notes:
Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev, 1740-1809, a leading disciple of the Maggid of Mezritch, and one of the most famous and popular of all chassidic rebbes. Author of the chassidic classic, "Kedushat Levi".

Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchok of Peshischa, 1766-1813, "the Holy Yid", chief disciple of the Seer and Rebbe in his own right.

Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchak of Lublin, 1745- 9 Av 1815, "the Seer", successor to Rabbi Elimelech of Lizensk (1717-1787), and leader of the spread of chassidut in Poland.

Rabbi Yisroel Haupstein, 1737-1814, "the Maggid" of Koznitz, another major disciple of the Rebbe Reb Elimelech, and author of the chassidic-kabbalistic work, "Avodat Yisrael" and other books. His miraculous birth is the subject of a popular Baal Shem Tov story.

Rabbi Kalonymos Kalman Epstein of Cracow, ?-1823, author of the mystical Torah commentary, "Meor v'Shemesh".

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