Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

28 Elul 5763 - September 25, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








Third Generation Talmid of the Ari HaKodosh

by S. Avrohom

Rebbe Nosson Neta Shapira zt'l, the author of Megaleh Amukos

370 years from his petiroh -- 13 Av, 5393

Cracow, in southern Poland southwest of Warsaw, was a leading Torah city in learning and observance for many generations. It was the home of Torah giants who were pillars of Torah and halochoh. Among these was the gaon, kodosh and mekubol HaRav Nosson Neta Shapira zt'l, who was world famous as the author of the Megaleh Amukos.

R' Nosson Neta was blessed with rare talents. His diligence and labor in Torah study were limitless, and his phenomenal memory astounded everyone.

When he was twenty years old his father-in-law, the gvir R' Moshe Eberless, introduced him to a Polish noble who wanted for himself to see the young illui's recall of what he heard. The aristocrat read him an entire book written in French, a language totally unknown to R' Nosson Neta. In the middle of the reading, which took a very long time, R' Nosson Neta rested his head on his arm. The noble thought R' Nosson Neta had fallen asleep, and he asked him in Polish: "Have you fallen asleep?" Rabbeinu nodded his head from side to side to signal that he had not. The noble continued reading the book until its very end.

Then he asked R' Nosson Neta to retell by heart the whole book. This apparently illogical demand didn't bother Rabbeinu at all. He repeated the whole book, word for word, and he even repeated the question, "Have you fallen asleep?" in exactly the place where the noble originally asked him that question.

At the age of thirty, Rabbenu became rosh yeshiva of the Cracow Yeshiva, one of the most famed yeshivos of the day. This yeshiva was founded by HaRav Yaakov Pollack, the father of the pilpul method of Torah study, which had proven its tremendous usefulness in better understanding the Torah.

The way R' Nosson Neta studied amazed everyone. His son R' Shlomoh writes: "Hashem gave him a heart of deep understanding and capability to relate to others what he had read in seforim and what he was taught by others. Within his extensive memory, which is incomparable to that of anyone living today, one can find all the works of the Rishonim and Acharonim besides the Talmud Bavli and Yerushalmi. He would repeat verbatim to his cherished talmidim excerpts from gemoras with the commentaries, the Rif and the Tur, teshuvos and other poskim. No reference existed that he was not proficient in . . . and when he would study with his attentive talmidim flames of fire would burst from him. He transformed these talmidim into Torah giants."

To realize his astounding power in Torah and the wide scope of his knowledge, it is sufficient to study his teshuvoh that was published in Teshuvos Penei Yehoshua II, in the Kuntrus Ho'agunos ch. 48.

In his noted yeshiva he taught his talmidim how to dive to the depths of the Sea of the Talmud and to extract precious pearls. He himself, besides being occupied in the Open Torah, also studied the Hidden Torah -- Toras Hanistar.

This was at the period in which Kabboloh study spread in Am Yisroel and it also arrived in Cracow. It was in Cracow that HaRav Moshe Cordovero published his seforim, the Pardes Rimonim, the Or Yokor, and others. In this city of Torah giants the study of the Hidden Torah became widespread. The city's rabbonim such as the Ramo (niftar 5332,1572), who authored a sefer on the Zohar, and the Tosafos Yom Tov (niftar 5414,1654), devoted time to this sacred study. It must, however, be noted that they cautioned the public at large not to study Kabboloh.

Three Pillars

In one period three pillars of Chochmas Ho'emmes (Kabboloh) flourished: the Sheloh HaKodosh (niftar 5390- 1630), R' Shimshon of Ostropoli (niftar 5408- 1648), and the author of the Megaleh Amukos. R' Sholom, son of the latter, writes: "He was totally proficient in the wisdom of Kabboloh, and knew all of the Zohar and Tikkunim, and writings of the Ari z'l. Likewise, he was well versed in other seforim of the ancient mekubolim and Acharonim."

His grandson R' Yehonoson Eibeshutz writes in the introduction to his own sefer Kereisei Uplesei, that his grandfather, the Megaleh Amukos, was the peh shelishi to Maran the Ari z'l. He means Rabbenu was a talmid of R' Yisroel Serug z'l, who was himself a talmid of the Ari z'l. Rabbenu mentions R' Yisroel Serug several times in his sefer.

An interesting story that depicts the extraordinary humbleness of R' Nosson Neta is told about him. It happened while the Bach (niftar 5401) served as rov of Cracow. The Bach was walking down the street when he noticed two other people walking slowly. The faces of the two were radiant like the blazing sun in the afternoon. He saw four people running after them whose faces were as black as "the bottom of a pot." The four were chasing the two, but never caught up to them.

The Bach went up to those with the black faces, greeted them, and asked who they were. They refused to answer. The Bach then said sternly: "I am the rov of the city and I decree upon you to immediately answer my question."

The four could not refuse the Rov's explicit command: "We are Geichazi and his three sons!"

"And who are the two people you were running after?" asked the Bach.

"They are Eliyohu and Elisha. This is our punishment. We must always run after Elisha but we can never catch him."

"Where did they go?" the Bach then asked.

"They were on their way to see the Megaleh Amukos," they answered.

The Bach hurried to the house of the Megaleh Amukos and told him: "I know for sure that Eliyahu Hanovi is in your house. Ask him why he doesn't come to me?"

The Megaleh Amukos asked Eliyahu this question, and Eliyahu answered: "The Rov of a city must have some pride (ga'avah), since if he completely lacked pride the baalei batim would gain control over him. Nonetheless, I cannot come to him because of that small amount of pride!"

Avodas Hashem

As great as he was in Torah study, so too he excelled in avodas Hashem. R' Nosson Neta's avodas Hashem is a topic unto itself. His tefillos would burst the heavens. When he davened the look on his face would fill people with awe of Hashem. His clinging to HaKodosh Boruch Hu during his tefillos and Tikkun Chatzos was tremendous.

R' Nosson's tears flowed like water, over the Shechinah in golus, until even the Heavenly Yeshiva lamented together with him about the destruction of the Beis Hamikdosh. The following anecdote testifies about his pure avodas Hashem.

One day when the Rebbetzin was talking to her sisters, she mentioned that her husband ordered her not to allow anyone in his room when he said Tikkun Chatzos. She said that her husband added that anyone who dared to enter his room during Tikkun Chatzos was jeopardizing his life.

When the sisters returned home they related to their husbands what the Rebbetzin had told them. The husbands did not take the Rov's warning seriously. Although they surely revered R' Nosson Neta as a godol in Torah, they did not realize that their brother-in-law was an Ish Elokim Kodosh. They wanted to prove to their wives that nothing would happen when someone was in Rabbenu's room during Tikkun Chatzos. So, when R' Nosson Neta went to the river to be tovel before Tikkun Chatzos the three hid in his room underneath the bed in the corner.

Rabbenu returned from his tevilloh in the river and was unaware that people were in his room. His face burned as a flame of fire. He was overtaken with reflections about matters of kedushoh and his whole essence yearned to cleave to HaKodosh Boruch Hu. He sat down on the ground and began Tikkun Chatzos according to the kavonos of the Ari z'l. His son, R' Shlomo, depicts this avodoh:

"He would sing and lament at night about the churban of the Beis Hamikdosh. He would cry profusely, implore Hashem and sing the tune that the mal'ochim sing during their three watches at night, as Eliyahu Hanovi revealed to him."

After he finished Tikkun Chatzos Rabbenu stood up from the ground, sat down at his table and immersed himself in Torah study until the break of dawn. In the morning his sisters-in-law were dismayed when their husbands did not return home. They began to search for them. Meanwhile the servant entered Rabbenu's room to clean. He bent down to sweep under the bed and discovered to his total amazement the three lifeless bodies of the brothers-in-law.

Indescribable grief descended on the city of Cracow. The crying heard during the funerals of the three brothers-in-law shook every heart. R' Nosson Neta was completely heartbroken. He walked after their bier, bent and full of pain. He absolutely refused to say a word about their deaths.

He decided he has the halochoh of someone who kills another Jew beshogeig and must therefore go into golus to atone for his sin. At the end of the shivah R' Nosson Neta told his wife: "What can I do? During Tikkun Chatzos I hear the song coming from the wings of the Chayos hakodesh and not everyone is capable of enduring that. Now I have decided to go into golus as the halochoh is for someone who kills another unintentionally." He asked his wife to swear not to divulge that he had disappeared and why. Rabbenu took his golus clothing with him so that he would not be easily identified.

"How long will your golus take?" his wife asked him.

He answered, "Until I receive a sign from Heaven of my atonement."

That night Rabbenu secretly left Cracow and began wandering. He joined groups of poor Jews wandering around and hid his true identity from everyone.

The Son-in-law Disappears

Rabbenu's father-in-law, who had already suffered from the loss of his three sons-in-law, was astonished when he found out that Rabbenu had vanished. He repeatedly questioned his daughter, but she pretended to know nothing. R' Moshe sent urgent letters to all rabbonim near and far with a precise description of his son-in-law and a request for assistance in finding him.

For a long time R' Nosson roamed from community to community, and accepted with love the yissurim he suffered. His clothing was ragged like those of the poor Jews whom he accompanied, and at night he would lodge together with them in a hekdesh provided by the community for the poor.

Succos was coming. On erev Sukkos his group of poor Jews arrived in Lublin. R' Nosson Neta was disturbed that he would not find an esrog mehudar. At Minchah time Rabbenu entered the shul and approached the head of the community. He asked him to arrange a place where he could stay and fulfill the mitzvah of sitting in a succah and taking the arba minim behiddur.

The head of the community immediately understood he was not dealing with a simple Jew. "From where do you come?" he asked. But Rabbenu avoided giving an answer.

Soon he sent Rabbenu to the house of one of the rich Jews of the city so he could sit in a mehudar succah and use mehudar arba minim.

It was the first night of Succos. After Ma'ariv Rabbenu walked with his host to the mehudar succah. Rabbenu's heart was full of joy. After entering the succah, R' Nosson Neta began the pizmon of Ulu ushpizin ilo'in (May the Ushpizin come in) in a captivating tune. Rabbenu's enthusiasm increased from one moment to the other and it seemed that he forgot altogether what his pretended status was. His appearance was like someone from another world. The family members remained silent when their guest sang. They felt that they were zocheh to a guest who was a holy man, a hidden tzaddik.

After the meal Rabbenu turned to his host and asked if he could remain to study Torah in the succah at night. The host readily agreed and, since he relied on Rabbenu's being in the succah, he didn't bother taking inside the expensive ornaments that adorned his succah.

Rabbenu immediately began studying with growing enthusiasm. A boundless joy filled his heart. He was entirely aflame with the fire of the Torah and was unaware of his surroundings. During the night, thieves came and took all the precious ornaments. Rabbenu didn't notice anything, since his soul was soaring in higher spiritual worlds.

At sunrise, Rabbenu laid himself down to sleep a little. Meanwhile his host woke and went down to his succah. To his astonishment he found his guest sleeping, the door wide open and the expensive cutlery missing. The host immediately woke up his guest and asked him what had happened. R' Nosson Neta was utterly surprised and answered that he didn't know anything.

The host jumped to the conclusion that this guest was a scoundrel and part of a bunch of thieves. He began to hit his guest, threatening him and insisting that he restore his property.

The neighbors woke up and joined in screaming at the guest, the "obvious" ganov. They brought him to the local hekdesh and locked him in a room, threatening to keep him there until he admitted the theft and returned the stolen goods. The poor Jews staying in the hekdesh also began to taunt Rabbenu and criticize him for acting so lowly and for ruining the reputation of the paupers in Lublin. Children came and tossed smelly vegetables peels on the "wretched ganov."

R' Nosson Neta was crushed with grief, but not because of the immeasurable disgrace he was suffering. On the contrary, the more they embarrassed him, the better he knew it was for him since it speeded his kaporoh. One thing, however, disturbed him terribly. Since it was the first day of Succos he could see from his jail window the streams of Jews on their way to shul with their arba minim, and he also yearned to fulfill the dear mitzvah. How could he also recite a brochoh on a lulav and esrog?

He began to beg passersby on their way to shul to allow him hold their arba minim briefly. But the townspeople ridiculed him: "You need arba minim? Is that what a ganov like you needs?"

Eventually a compassionate widow passed by and brought him an arba minim on which he recited a brochoh with great simchah.

When the Rov of Lublin arrived at the shul he noticed the hustle and bustle around the hekdesh "jail." After he heard what had happened, he requested to speak with the alleged ganov.

When he was brought in, without delay the Rov asked R' Nosson Neta: "Where are your host's possessions?"

R' Nosson Neta was afraid that he might not be able to eat a yom tov meal in a succah and straightaway answered: "I did not touch them and did not see who walked into the succah. It is quite possible that while I was immersed in my Torah study, thieves came in. Indeed I am at fault that I did not watch over them but may Hashem be my witness, I did not see anything."

While talking to R' Nosson Neta, the Rov had the feeling that he knew him from somewhere, but he could not remember from where. The Rov thought hard and then -- suddenly everything became clear. The Rov hurried home, opened his drawer and took out a letter. This was the letter that Rabbenu's father- in-law had sent to the Rov of Lublin when his son-in-law disappeared. In the letter was a precise description of Rabbenu. The Rov returned to Rabbenu's place of confinement and looked carefully at the "ganov." He could see without a doubt that he was the one described in the letter. The Rov ordered Rabbenu's immediate release, and said that after the tefillah he would examine the man at greater length. During the tefillah people watched over R' Nosson Neta so that he would not escape.

After the davening R' Nosson Neta accompanied the Rov to his house. When they entered the succah the Rov honored him with performing Kiddush. Afterwards the Rov went to his room, took out the letter and handed it to R' Nosson Neta: "See what it says in this letter!"

As soon as R' Nosson Neta started reading the letter he paled. The Rov of Lublin said sternly to him: "As Rov of the city I decree on you to tell me why you fled home?"

Rabbenu was forced to tell him the truth, and concluded, "I promise you that I did not steal anything from my host."

The Rov stared at his guest who, although dressed like a simple wanderer, now appeared to him like a mal'och.

The Rov said to Rabbenu: "Chazal rule that sheluchim to perform a mitzvah are not harmed. Your host was a shaliach to perform a mitzvah of hachnosas orchim with you. It is your obligation to assure that what was stolen be returned to your host's home."

R' Nosson Neta promised to attend to it.

The Rov of Lublin went over to the host who was eagerly waiting for the results of the investigation and told him: "I examined this man and I am a hundred percent sure that he did not take any of your possessions. Furthermore by nightfall the ganov himself will come to your house and return them. However, know that you have embarrassed an odom godol and you must appease him."

The former host went home, but the Rov sat with his guest the whole day and delighted himself with his divrei Torah.

Before evening, the real thief began trembling. A strong fear suddenly gripped him. With great haste he took the stolen goods and brought them to the host's house. He confessed his sin and asked for forgiveness. The rich host, realizing how wrong he was in accusing R' Nosson Neta and how terribly he had acted with him, rushed over to R' Nosson Neta and begged him to excuse him for his improper behavior. Of course, for a long time the whole story was the talk of the town.

On motzei Yom Tov, R' Nosson Neta told his host that Heaven had announced to him that his sin has become atoned, and that he wanted to return home right away. The Rov of Lublin gave him respectable clothes to wear and accompanied him to Cracow.

Rabbonus of Cracow

When the two arrived at Cracow they found that the city's Rov had been niftar that very same day. The inhabitants of Cracow were surprised to see the Rov of Lublin arrive in their city and saw in that a sign from Heaven that he must fill the place of their Rov. To their great astonishment the Rov answered that in a place where such a great person as R' Nosson Neta lived he would not dare to be Rov.

On that same day R' Nosson Neta was appointed Rov of Cracow.

(NOTE: At that time in Europe it was customary to have two rabbonim in large cities. One officiated as the rosh yeshiva, the position to which the Megaleh Amukos was now appointed, and the other was the rov of the community. At that time the Bach served in Cracow in the latter capacity.)

Rabbenu led his community as befits every great rov. Heaven sent him great wealth, and he used his means to support Torah and engage in chesed. The Chida writes in Shem HaGedolim: "He was zocheh to two tables: Torah and greatness in one place. He was affluent and virtuous and was always involved in acts of tzedokoh. He supported the poor and gave to the needy."

Also his son R' Shlomo testifies about his father's generosity: "Elokim gave him riches, possessions and precious stones, and he was able to eat from the delicacies of earth. He distributed much money to the poor and fed the destitute. He encouraged the sick and never took any bribes. He donated generously to the houses of Hashem and gave them costly poroches and silver plates, and covers with precious jewels for the sifrei Torah. Just like in the time of Shlomo, money was nothing for him."

The sefer Kelilas Yofi says that the Megaleh Amukos was wealthy, refused to take any wages from the community, and for that reason he was obeyed.

He Possessed All Virtues

Rabbenu's singular way of drush was to clearly show how all the secrets of the sages of Kabboloh are hidden in the pesukim of the Torah, and how one can find allusions to sayings of Chazal both in the Revealed and Hidden Torah from pesukim of the Tanach. In his time, R' Nosson Neta was considered one of the highest authorities in both halochoh and Kabboloh.

His Kabbalistic contemporary, R' Shimshon of Ostropoli zt'l writes in Likutei Shoshanim: "Many residents of Lublin proficient in Torah learning asked me . . . but this medrash was incomprehensible, and even the kodosh HaRav HaGaon the author of Megaleh Amukos, was unable to interpret it."

His Legacy

Indeed at his petiroh he left behind a gigantic treasure of fifteen volumes of manuscripts covering all areas of Torah knowledge. His son writes in his introduction to Megaleh Amukim: "He wrote fifteen seforim. Five contain precious derushim on the whole Torah from beginning to end. They light up the world like sapphires and the glowing sky. He dived into mighty waters . . . and also wrote an invaluable derush of 70 pages, a perfectly refined work without any dregs, containing 720 ways of expounding on the word Bereishis. He worked industriously on Kabboloh matters such as the Esser Sapirim . . . Seder Kabboloh . . . and the last, which is this honorable and awesome book (252 ways of expounding on Voeschanon) in which he grinds up mountains (i.e., he attacks difficult subjects), and reveals deep and hidden secrets . . . Hashem put in his heart to answer halachic queries . . . He has also written on halochos in which he displays his sharpness, proficiency and the depth of his intelligence . . . about hilchos of niddos and zovos, Shabbos, kiddushin, kesuvos, and has included teshuvos that he wrote when he was a boy."

From this excerpt we understand that Rabbenu left seven volumes of Torah manuscripts. One volume with 720 commentaries on the word Bereishis, one volume on Voeschanon and three volumes of teshuvos, one volume on the halochos of the Rif, and volumes about the secrets of Kabboloh and the ten sefiros.

Right after Rabbenu's petiroh his sons began publishing his divrei Torah and, after overcoming various difficulties in copying and arranging the manuscripts, in the year 5397 (1637) they published the Megaleh Amukos that contains 252 ofanim of interpreting the tefillah of Moshe in parshas Voeschanon.

A second volume of works on the Torah reached the gaon HaRav Ephraim Zalman Margoliyos zt'l of Brodt, the author of Beis Ephraim, who published it in 5555 (1795) in Levov. A third volume on the Torah remained in the collection of HaRav Dovid Oppenheimer zt'l that ended up in the Oxford Library. The sefer on Bereishis was published in New York under the name Megaleh Amukos Second Edition, and later it was again printed together with Shemos. A volume on Vayikra, Bamidbar, Devorim was published recently by HaRav Yitzchok Yeshaya Weiss.

The vicissitudes of the generations caused many problems with the seforim. For example the edition of HaRav E. Z. Margoliyos had in parshas Vayeishev 36 interpretations (ofanim) of what is written in Yosef's dream: "Behold-- we were binding sheaves" (37:7). At the end of the section it says: "The original manuscript contained 94 ofanim, and it is a great pity they are lost," without any explanation of how the publisher knew that there were more. However in the manuscript (second edition) there are 48 ofanim and then the next pages are torn out. The manuscript continues from the 95th ofan until the beginning of the 129th ofan, and the rest is missing.

It seems that the volume of HaRav Margoliyos had the missing pages from the other manuscript, from the 49th to the 94th ofanim. Those were numbered according to the original sequence, but the printer just numbered them from 1 to 36, noting that there were originally 94.

Also in parshas Bo ten ofanim were printed on the posuk, "This month shall be for you the beginning of the months." In the manuscript we find from the middle of the eleventh ofan until the middle of the seventeenth ofan.

The Problems with His Writings

An unfortunate fact is the disappearance of many sections of the manuscripts and their being torn maliciously. It may be that this was done by aggressive opponents of Kabboloh or else by people who hoped to become rich from publishing the manuscripts. His son, R' Shlomo, already complained bitterly about this: "All of the seforim are divided and spread among others; in all the cities one can find a little here and a little there, that were stolen . . . and they do business with something that doesn't belong to them . . . and my father z'l in all his deroshos even mentioned them and cursed them with all the kelolos and arurim found in Devorim. What a disgrace! A person who fears Hashem should do complete teshuvoh." (This section was omitted in many editions and was reprinted by HaRav Yitzchok Yeshaya Weiss in the kuntrus called Zichron Reizel that was appended to the Megaleh Amukos Tanina.)

Another interesting detail that the publishers did not notice is that sometimes the Megaleh Amukos would expound about what the number of the specific ofan alludes to. For instance, in one place in ofan six (vov) he writes about the hints of the vovim in that parshoh. In another place in ofan 42 he writes about the Divine name of 42 letters. In ofan 43 he writes about challah spelled ches, lamed, hei that is the gematria equivalent of 43, and so on. When the publishers changed the numbering of the ofanim they obviously lost these pearls.

As mentioned, until now two manuscripts on the Torah have been found, and there is at least one more that was seen by the Seder HaDoros, that we have not been zocheh to see. That volume contained a thousand ofanim on the small alef in the word Vayikra.

It seems that after what happened to am Yisroel in the years of 5408 and the death of two of the sons of the Megaleh Amukos in the year 5409, the remainder of the volumes remained in manuscript. From all the other seforim we only have his work on the Rif, excerpts of which were printed in Chidushei Anshei Shem that appears on the margin of the Rif.

After the pogroms in Cracow of the year 5391 in which the kodosh R' Asher Anshil Hy'd was killed, the Megaleh Amukos authored a selichoh to be chanted on Yom Kippur, and it was printed that very year. The author's name appears at the beginning of the stanzas. To this selichoh was attached the author's interpretation on one of its stanzas, and at its end is printed: "If only the holy mouth wanted to reveal to us one thousandth, to divulge to us the true interpretation on this holy work, but this is not the time to reveal them, and we recite selichos so that tzoros should not come."

In the Cracow community they say this selichoh also on Simchas Torah, Chol Hamoed Pesach and after Pesach. This selichoh was also reprinted by HaRav Yitzchok Yeshaya Weiss in the kuntrus called Zichron Reizel that is appended to Megaleh Amukos Tanina.

His works on Kabboloh, his chidushim on Maran the Beis Yosef, sheilos uteshuvos, Torah Nossan--three volumes on the Torah, and many other manuscripts were unfortunately lost.

Geonim engaged in the study of this sacred sefer. The Bnei Yissoschor began to write a sefer called Be'eiros Amukim that would serve as a commentary to the Megaleh Amukos but it was published only on Noach and Lech Lecha. Many times the Bnei Yissoschor cites the Megaleh Amukos in his own sefer.

The Chasam Sofer on the Torah often cites allusions and gematriyos that were written by his talmidim but appear to have been taken from the Megaleh Amukos. Likewise, the Chida cites him many times in Nachal Kedumim and Midbar Kedeimos.

Even the publishers in Sadlikov took advantage of the famous name of Rabbenu and printed the name Megaleh Amukos in the beginning of the sefer called Yismach Yisroel of Dr. Yisroel Kelorori of Cracow in order to increase its sales.

The Lights of Shomayim Were Extinguished

The month of Av arrived. R' Nosson Neta labored over his commentary on Voeschanon. He had already written 252 ofanim in explaining the tefillah of Moshe. He wanted to continue to write a thousand interpretations, but in the middle of this great work he became seriously ill.

On 13 Av he was niftar. The nefesh of this tzaddik ascended to Shomayim, and all of Cracow was orphaned.

Only several days before, they had mourned the churban of the Beis Hamikdosh and now they were forced to mourn their own spiritual churban.

R' Nosson Neta was not even forty-eight years old when Hashem took him away.

On his tombstone is engraved the following: Here is buried the ish Elokim a kodosh whose kedushoh was like those who lived long before him. He would reveal deep hints [of the Torah]. It is said about him that he talked with Eliyohu. Av Beis Din Morenu R' Nosson Neta the son of Morenu Shlomoh Shapira zt'l, was niftar on 13 Av 5393.

The notebook of the Cracow Chevra Kadisha records this miraculous event:

A poor Jew, one of the many who would wander in and out of Cracow, said to a gabbai of the Chevra Kadisha that he wanted to purchase a plot in the cemetery next to the Megaleh Amukos. Naturally, the gabbai did not listen to him. Such a plot could not be given to just anyone. The poor Jew entreated him again and again and said he would give a real fortune of money for that particular plot. The gabbai who wanted to get rid of that person and didn't take his offer seriously just told him a tremendous price for the plot. To his utter astonishment, the poor Jew took that sum out of his pocket and handed it over to the gabbai. Left without any other choice, the gabbai wrote up a bill of sale for that plot.

That same night the poor Jew was niftar and, since he did not have any relative or acquaintance, the Chevra Kadisha buried him in the part of the cemetery in the plots reserved for the poor.

The night afterward the poor Jew revealed himself in a dream to the gabbai and summoned him to a din Torah since he held a bill of sale for the plot next to the grave of the Megaleh Amukos. Initially, the gabbai did not pay any attention to the dream, but the departed Jew continued to appear to him, night after night. The gabbai saw that this was something serious and decided to go to the rov of Cracow, the Bach, and ask his advice. The Bach ruled: "If that person is fitting to lay near the Megaleh Amukos he is hereby permitted to move himself there."

The next day when the Chevra Kadisha arrived at the graveyard, they found a new grave that they never saw before next to the grave of the Megaleh Amukos, and the grave of the poor Jew was empty.

Many years later on that grave was placed a tombstone instead of the original one. It bore the following inscription:"We found here a corpse and the other grave was empty. He was buried among the other graves but the letters [on the original tombstone] were erased over the years. Indeed the Megaleh Amukos and the one who enlightened us during our darkness showed that he wants to forever remain near him. The gabboim of the Chevra Kadisha therefore erected a new tombstone of his grave, in the year 5392 after the creation of heaven and earth."

It is interesting to note that the follow paragraph was later added to the gravestone: "In the year 5684 it has been found out by our community heads and according to what is written in the books of the Chevra Kadisha, that here is buried R' Yitzchok the son of Morenu Nosson Shapira zt'l, the Megaleh Amukos. He died young at the age of 25 on Rosh Chodesh Shevat in the year 5409."

The added paragraph indicates either that the son of the Megaleh Amukos was the poor person who was buried near his father, or it may mean that later the son of the Megaleh Amukos was buried on top of the grave (as was customary at that time) of the poor person.

We thank HaRav Yitzchok Yeshaya Weiss, the head of Machon Tzefunos, for his gracious help.


All material on this site is copyrighted and its use is restricted.
Click here for conditions of use.