Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Rothenberg-Alter will forever be remembered as the brilliant founder of the Ger Chassidic dynasty.

Married to Feigele, daughter of Reb Moshe Lipshitz, a wealthy magnate from Warsaw, Yitzchak Meir was then known as the “Genius of Warsaw.” After several years of intense study, he founded a yeshivah, admitting only students who were exceptionally learned and sharp. Masterfully taught, his classes required a keen mental grasp coupled with a profound knowledge of Torah. Not everyone was able to understand.

Offers for rabbinic positions poured in but he rejected them all. Even when his father-in-law suffered severe setbacks in business and thus lost all of his wealth, Rabbi Yitzchak Meir refused to accept the yoke of rabbinic leadership. He never paused his learning or teaching and relied on the meager income from his occasional role as a bookbinder.

With time, the room housing his yeshivah became too small. Students continued to show up at the doorstep, wanting to learn from the famed rabbi, and Rabbi Yitzchak Meir began to consider expanding. Ultimately, he decided not to. Transplanting the entire yeshivah for renovations, even temporarily, constituted an unwarranted interruption of Torah learning.

Yet the growing crowds of students found it more and more difficult to wedge themselves into the tight confines of the study hall. One day, the rabbi was heard to say, “If only someone was capable of completing construction on a larger space in a single day, I would be immensely pleased.”

To everyone, it was an impossible dream. But not for Reb Yekel.

Reb Yekel began to brainstorm and an idea quickly evolved.

In Warsaw, there lived a certain wealthy contractor. He was not a Chassidic man, nor was he particularly G‑d-fearing. Reb Yekel met with him and described, in dramatic terms, the cramped yeshiva conditions. Though he’d heard of the “Genius of Warsaw,” the contractor remained unmoved by the yeshivah’s circumstances. He calculated a lengthy timeframe and a high cost on a sheet of paper, handed it to Reb Yekel, and waited for a response.

Reb Yekel gave it a fleeting glance, and handed it back with a nod, and said, “Remember, the timeframe isn’t to be taken into account.”

The contractor’s eyebrows rose uncertainly. “Meaning?”

“Meaning,” said Reb Yekel without batting an eye, “the work has to be finished in one day.”

The contractor nearly fell off his chair. Fixing Reb Yekel with a frosty stare, he said, “No one can finish this work quicker than me. It is impossible.”

The harsh tone didn’t sway Reb Yekel, and he returned the stare. “Tell me, how many years are you married?”

Caught off-guard by the personal question, the contractor stammered a number.

“And children?”

At those words, the contractor deflated. “Sadly, none.” His voice trembled.

“Well then,” said Reb Yekel enthusiastically. “We have a deal. You renovate the yeshivah within 24 hours and the great rabbi, Rabbi Yitzchak Meir, will bless you with offspring!”

(Perhaps it’s too obvious to note, but Reb Yekel never spoke with Rabbi Yitzchak Meir about such an arrangement. This was a spontaneous promise on Reb Yekel’s part.)

A spark of hope ignited in the contractor’s eyes. Hands were extended and shaken, and a date was set.

Within days, the final stages of the plans were drawn up and palettes of building materials sprung up around the yeshiva. The contractor marshalled an army of workers. When everything was ready, Reb Yekel told Rabbi Yitzchak Meir that construction was to start the following day, exactly in the manner he prescribed—to be completed in a single day.

Rabbi Yitzchak Meir’s class took place somewhere else the following morning. In turn, the workers swarmed the tiny yeshivah and began renovations at a rapid clip. Orchestrated by the contractor, walls were torn down, cement was mixed and spread, and new floors were planted. Despite the brisk pace, the work stretched throughout the entire day and continued into the night, not winding up until the early hours of the morning. When only an hour remained to the 24-hour deadline, the windows were finally installed. Even as the last few minutes ticked closer, workers were still seen fussing over details.

Where a pitiful room once stood, a magnificent hall, amply furnished, now supplanted its place. One would be hard-pressed to say it was built in just one day.

Rabbi Yitzchak Meir arrived and immediately toured the unrecognizable structure, admiring it from every angle. “Amazing,” he kept muttering. “Absolutely amazing.”

Reb Yekel seized the chance to reveal his impulsive promise to Rabbi Yitzchak Meir.

“Rabbi, I agree it’s indeed beautiful, but the price is quite expensive! We pledged—in your name—a son for the contractor.”

Rabbi Yitzchak Meir’s delightful expression curled into a thoughtful frown. For a minute, Rabbi Yitzchak Meir was silent, seemingly lost in thought.

Hashem will help him,” he finally declared, and stepped inside his new yeshivah building.

And indeed, within the year, the contractor invited Rabbi Yitzchak Meir to act as sandak at his son’s circumcision.

Adapted from Sichat Hashavua #997