The name Chozeh of Lublin demands an explanation. "Chozeh" translates as "seer" (one who sees). What did Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchok of Lublin see? How did he come to acquire his incredible sight? By way of explanation, we'll answer the second question first.
As a young boy, the Chozeh covered his eyes for seven consecutive years, only uncovering them to look into the seforim that he needed for learning and tefilloh.
Either as a reward or as a result, he was given an extraordinary power to see and foresee, to look through and further beyond what the human eye normally sees.
A Lubliner Jew who was known to be magnanimous and kind to the poor, once came to the Chozeh for advice. He had a number of cows in his possession and wished to slaughter some for food and to sell the others. Which ones should he choose to slaughter and which to sell?
As a favor, the Chozeh pointed to each animal, stating whether it was kosher or treif. However, he cautioned the Yid, "Torah is not in Heaven. You can trust my word as far as your decision is concerned, but once the animals have been slaughtered, they must still be checked and their kashrus verified." Indeed, all the slaughtered animals were found to be kosher.
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Lublin, an ir vo'eim beYisroel, was skeptical about their new rov. Many were of the opinion that if he could "see" so much, he probably dealt in Kabboloh, and who knows if he was consistent with the Toras Hanigleh? Their doubts, however, vanished after the following episode:
One morning, not many weeks after the Rov's arrival, the shamash was on his regular rounds, waking the Jews to arise and daven to their Creator. Passing Rabbenu's house, he saw the Chozeh signaling to him from the window. "Stay where you are," instructed the Chozeh, "until I bring you water for netillas yodayim."
The shamash was perturbed. It didn't befit the Rov to bring out water to the street for the simple shamash. Wouldn't it be better for him to enter the Rov's house and wash there? The Chozeh firmly disagreed. "The Shulchan Oruch forbids a Jew to walk four amos without washing his hands in the morning."
So saying, he ran to fetch a cup and bowl and hurried to bring it out to the shamash who had no choice but to allow the new Rov to serve him.
A curious crowd of onlookers gathered to gape at the strange sight. The shamash was forced to offer an explanation. He had gone to sleep late after attending a wedding, and had subsequently overslept. Afraid that all the townspeople would be late for shacharis due to him, he had jumped out of bed and run straight outside to begin his rounds. The Rov had sensed that he had not washed his hands and had come out to bring him water.
Now it was clear to all of Lublin's Yidden that the Chozeh was stringent with the laws of Shulchan Oruch to the letter — kaloh kevachamurah!
A group of chassidim once traveled to the Chozeh of Lublin. Upon alighting from the carriage, their simple wagon-driver asked that they give his name to the Rebbe too, and ask for a blessing on his behalf.
Upon looking at the kvittel, the Rebbe was surprised, "Who is this person whose name radiates on the paper?"
Having always known the wagon-driver as an ordinary fellow, the chassidim turned to one another in wonder. Seeing their doubts, the Chozeh suggested that perhaps the man was at that moment doing a special mitzvah, causing his name to glow.
Curious, the chassidim set off to look around the town and find their simple wagon-driver. They had not gone further than a few streets, when they reached the town square, where they found their friend. There he was singing, dancing and making merry to the accompaniment of a klezmer's lively music. To their flurry of questions, the Jew replied:
"I was just strolling through the city and heard the sound of music coming from the central square. Following the sound, I found a crowd waiting apparently for a wedding to begin, but nothing was doing. The reason I managed to pull out from the bystanders here. An orphaned girl was scheduled to marry an orphaned boy, but just before the wedding, problems arose. The girl had promised to buy the chosson a tallis, but had not had the money to keep her word. Hearing this, the chosson refused to continue and wanted to cancel everything. Well, the chuppah is set up, the band is playing and the guests are all waiting."
The wagon-driver paused for effect and shrugged his shoulders. "What could I do? I felt so sorry for this poor orphaned bride, I just quickly gave her the money she needed for the tallis and all was resolved. The chosson came, the chuppah ceremony has taken place and now I'm dancing in their honor!"
The great light that had shone over the "ordinary" wagon- driver's name was explained and the awe of the Chozeh in the eyes of the chassidim heightened.
One of the Chozeh's great talmidim, the Yismach Moshe, related what the Chozeh saw when his talmid came for a Shabbos to his Rebbe.
At the time, the Yismach Moshe was rov in Shinova. There people would often deposit money at the rov's house to be kept in his care.
During the Shabbos morning tefilloh, the Yismach Moshe recalled that before he had left home, he had been given the money of a widow to put away, but could not remember where he had placed the key to his box. What would happen if the money got stolen and he wouldn't be able to repay it? Immediately, he decided that these thoughts were only the yetzer hora's ploy to distract him from davening.
Then, having restored his own peace of mind, he returned to the tefilloh.
At the Shabbos seudah, the Chozeh of Lublin turned to his guest.
"What happened to you today at Shacharis? Until Nishmas, we were davening together and then for a few minutes, until Yotzer Or, I sensed that you weren't with me . . . for the sake of the key to a deposit box you have to stop davening?"
Each year during the first twelve days of Nisan, the Chozeh would write down what would happen to him during the coming months. On the first day he would write what would be during Nisan, the second day — Iyar, and so on.
In Nisan, 5575, to everyone's wonder, the Chozeh only wrote on the first four days. On Tisha B'Av, when he passed away, all was understood — the Chozeh could see till the end of his days in this world and no further.