A Jew traveling about on business from town to town arrived in the middle of a winter’s night in Gostynin, and made his way to the only house where lights were still shining. The householder—Reb Yechiel Meir of Gostynin (1816-1888), whom he did not know—gave him a warm welcome, and when he heard that his guest was hungry, served him strong drink and refreshments. But since the traveler was still hungry, the tzaddik searched about the house for food of some kind, and found a quantity of uncooked porridge and a saucepan full of fat. Unschooled in the finer points of cooking, he emptied one into the other, and put the result into the oven, which was still heaped with red-hot coals. The famished traveler ate with gusto, and was sated. The tzaddik then settled him in for the night in his own bed, where he slept soundly, galoshes and all (for he was weary from his travels), while his host, having nowhere to sleep, stayed awake through the night.

When his family awoke early, Reb Yechiel Meir did not allow them to enter the room lest they disturb their guest, and he too walked about on tiptoe. The time came for morning prayers, and he went to synagogue as usual. The guest, waking up soon after, also went to shul; and there, in the course of conversation after prayers, people told him the identity of the illustrious personage who had gone through so much trouble for him.

He was much abashed, and hastened to offer his apologies to the tzaddik, explaining that he did not know whose room he was in or whose house he was visiting.

The tzaddik’s reply was disconcerting: “I refuse to accept any apology from you.”

The traveler tried even harder to explain that he was the innocent victim of ignorance, and so on and so forth, until the tzaddik finally said: “If you promise to carry out an instruction which I will give you, then I will accept your apology.”

The unfortunate fellow solemnly gave his promise, after which the tzaddik spoke: “This is my condition—that every time you ever pass by Gostynin, you will be my guest. For when do I ever get a chance to fulfill this mitzvah as I was able to this time?—and they all spoil it for me!”

Reproduced from A Treasury of Chassidic Tales by Rabbi S. Y. Zevin, with permission of the copyright holders, ArtScroll /Mesorah Publications, Ltd.