Rabbi Yaakov Kaidaner, author of Sippurim Nora’im, recalls a meeting at a fair in the city of Königsberg. Jewish merchants from all over Poland, Lithuania, and Russia had gathered. They had time on their hands and began discussing the chassidic movement and its leaders.

Among the assembled were a group of learned men from the city of Slutzk, Belorussia, known as a stronghold of staunch opposition to the chassidic movement.

When the conversation turned to Rabbi Dov Ber, the Maggid of Mezritch, who had succeeded the Baal Shem Tov as the leader of chassidim, the merchants from Slutzk shared the following story:

It happened once that a young man from Slutzk traveled to Volhynia onFreezing and scared, he continued to wander deep into the night... business. It was a cold, wintry day, and he suddenly found himself in unfamiliar territory. Freezing and scared, he continued to wander deep into the night. It was well after midnight when he finally arrived at the town of Mezritch.

He drove down the silent, snow-covered streets, looking for a place to warm himself and rest his weary bones. Suddenly, he saw a candle flickering in a window. Unbeknownst to the young merchant, it was the home of Rabbi Dov Ber.

Excited to find a place to rest, he knocked on the door and was soon admitted into Rabbi Dov Ber’s sparsely furnished home. Hearing that there was a visitor, Rabbi Dov Ber (who had been studying by candlelight) came to see who had arrived.

In response to the rabbi’s warm greeting and inquiry, the young merchant introduced himself as an aspiring businessman from Slutzk who had lost his way.

“It was not for naught that you lost your way and arrived at my house,” replied Rabbi Dov Ber. “Oh no, if G‑d arranged that you find yourself here, there is a purpose.”

He then put on his spectacles (as he was wont to do when peering deeply into the spiritual worlds) and asked, “When you left home, was your son ill?”

“Yes, he was,” said the astonished merchant.

“You have nothing to worry about,” said the rabbi reassuringly. “He has recovered and is doing fine, thank G‑d.

“When you go home,” Rabbi Dov Ber continued, “you will hear that there is a terrible illness in the city and that children are falling ill and dying, may G‑d shield us. In response to the tragedy, the rabbi and Torah sages of the city will investigate the actions of the townspeople to try to determine whose sin caused the terrible tragedy.

“On the day following your arrival, one of the rich men of the town will hold a celebration for his son’s circumcision, and you will be invited. There, the elders of the city will speak about the plague and people will accuse aPeople will begin to strike the hapless young man! certain young man of being the cause of the evil. In truth, this young man is completely innocent and he will try to defend himself. In fact, one of the leaders of the accusation—a respected man in the city—is the one who has sinned, and it is he who is the reason for the plague.

“Things will get so bad that the people will begin to strike the hapless young man. When the rich leader (whom you know to be a sinner) will raise his hand to hit the poor man, you must grab his hand and tell him, ‘Evil one, admit your wrongdoing. You are the sinner, and you are the cause of the death that has come to our city.’ He will then admit his sins, and the plague will subside.

“Know,” concluded the rabbi, “that if you do not follow my instructions, your own son will die a terrible death.”

The following morning, the merchant continued on his way. Upon arriving home, he learned that everything was exactly as Rabbi Dov Ber had foretold. His son had recovered, and other children were ill. At the circumcision, an innocent man was accused, he confronted the true sinner, and the plague dissipated.

The entire town was abuzz, continued the men from Slutzk. They wondered, “Can there be such a holy man of G‑d among us, through whom G‑d Himself speaks?”