His very birth was already a jewel in the crown of
greatness of his father, Rav Yisroel Isserles.
A textile dealer, Rav Yisroel was going through a
difficult period. Business had not been thriving
lately, stocks were low and customers had dwindled to a
On a Friday morning, a well-to-do gentleman entered his
store. He began to choose and measure out fabric,
compare prices and set aside large amounts to buy.
Naturally, R' Yisroel rejoiced in his heart and thanked
Hashem for sending him such a customer in his most
The clock ticked on and time was passing. Perceiving
that in another half-hour it would be noontime, Rav
Yisroel politely asked his client to hurry and make his
purchases, for he has a long-standing custom not to buy
or sell on Friday after chatzos. "Instead," he
explained. "I make sure to prepare myself as befits one
who is going to greet the Shabbos queen."
Trying to oblige, the merchant began to hurry, but time
was running out. Five minutes before chatzos, R'
Yisroel Isserles told his customer in no uncertain
terms, "Listen my friend, if you like, we can sort out
your goods now so that you can pay and go. But if you
tarry any longer, I'm afraid I cannot sell you anything
anymore on this erev Shabbos."
Hurt by the poor dealer's adamant stance, the wealthy
merchant stormed out in a huff and cancelled his whole
Happy and contented that he had not broken his custom
and was able to honor the Shabbos, Rav Yisroel
hurriedly closed his store and went about his Shabbos
A great tumult took place in heaven. The rewarding
angels all clamored for a reward to be given to a man
who had withstood the difficult trial of bolstering his
livelihood in exchange for honoring Shabbos. It was
decided that a son would be born to him who would
illuminate the world with his Torah, like the radiance
that Shabbos brings to our world.
That son was the Ramo, in whose brilliance we bask to
this very day, as the Chasam Sofer, zt"l, so
aptly put it, "Uvnei Yisroel yotz'im beyod romoh"
— that the halochoh in Yisroel is as the Ramo
Rav Yisroel called his son Moshe and, seeing that as he
grew up he was indeed a born leader and teacher as
Moshe Rabbeinu, his father built a beis medrash
so that his son would have a yeshiva building in which
to teach talmidim.
Not long after, the whole building went up in flames
and was completely gutted. Undaunted, Rav Yisroel
rebuilt the beis hamedrash, this time a sturdy
stone edifice near the old cemetery. There the Ramo
spread Torah for many years.
Close to the beis hamedrash lies an empty plot of
land surrounded by a fence. The elders of Cracow relate
a phenomenal tale regarding this fenced-in area: When
the Ramo had risen in greatness and was appointed rov
of the great city of Cracow, he made a takonoh
for a prevention of chilul Shabbos.
The local custom was to arrange and set up a
chuppah on erev Shabbos, before sunset, and
the wedding and the wedding feast would take place on
Friday night. However, the Ramo saw that the often-
delayed preparations were causing a laxity and people
unwittingly desecrated Shabbos. He therefore decreed
that no weddings take place on Friday. This
takonoh was kept in Cracow until the Holocaust,
when Jewish life in this holy place was snuffed out.
Once, an insolent couple insisted on their marriage
taking place on a Friday, despite the Rov's decree. The
father of the groom was a close friend of the local
governor and managed to extract from him a command to
the Rov to be mesader kiddushin.
Rabbeinu stood his ground and refused to officiate at
All was ready, the canopy stood erect. Chosson,
kallah and mechutonim had gathered at the spot
and sent a delegation to fetch the Rov. The Ramo,
however, would not attend. All at once, the earth
underneath the chuppah split open, swallowing the
bride, groom and their parents, and sending the
participants fleeing in all directions. A trembling and
fear of Hashem and his holy servant the Ramo, gripped
the city from that day onwards and no one dared to
disobey his word. The site of this doomed chuppah
was fenced in as a lasting reminder for the
generations to come.
Reb Dovid Moshe of Tchortkov, zt"l, a grandson of
the Ramo, once received a letter with a request. After
reading it, he asked his son Reb Yisroel to go around
the town and collect money for a worthy cause. His
attendant tried to stop him, saying that it did not
befit the Rebbe's dignity that his great son should
personally go collecting like a common gabbai
tzedokoh. "Perhaps one of us can go and raise the
"I'll tell you a story of my grandfather, the Ramo,"
replied R' Dovid Moshe, "and you'll see that he too
went personally to the wealthy people of the town to
"It was a sight the people of Cracow were familiar
with. Every Friday, at about mid-morning, `Yankel the
shikker' as he was known, would emerge bleary-eyed
from his lodgings. Jingling the money he managed to
make that week, he would make his way to the local
tavern and spend all his savings on wine and liquor.
"One Friday, as he made his way as usual, a destitute
woman sighed and called out bitterly, `There goes
Yankel the shikker to buy his drinks and I don't
even have money to buy candles for Shabbos!'
"Yankel stopped in his tracks and deliberated for a
moment. Then, before he could change his mind, he ran
in the direction of the voice, up the two flights of
stairs and deposited his money in the hands of the
"Yankel returned home empty-handed. His stomach,
however, accustomed to its dose of strong drinks and
wines, could not take the sudden change and, within a
few hours, Yankel the shikker passed away in his
"Motzei Shabbos found the Ramo engrossed as usual
in his learning, when suddenly he was distracted by the
entry of Yankel the shikker, who informed him that
he was summoning the Rov to a din Torah.
"Deep in a sugya, the Ramo had no time for what
he thought was an erstwhile joke and gently reprimanded
Yankel to stop disturbing and leave the room.
"A few moments after Yankel had disappeared, the Ramo
realized that the door to the room had been closed
throughout. How had Yankel come inside?
"Upon enquiring as to the whereabouts of Yankel, the
Rov was told that the drunkard had been niftar
this past Friday.
"Realizing this was no simple matter, the Ramo sat in
his room waiting for Yankel to return and reiterate his
"Sure enough, Yankel returned and revealed to the Ramo,
`Since the Rov only goes to collect tzedokoh from
the wealthy people of the town, the poor, ordinary folk
are prevented from fulfilling this worthy mitzvah,' he
said. He then went on to relate his one act of
tzedokoh that took his life and added that since
he had done so noble a deed, his reward was to inform
the Ramo of his misconduct.
"`I have accepted your rebuke,' replied the Ramo
solemnly. `Go and tell them up there that from now on
I'll go to all the inhabitants of the city on my rounds
for tzedokoh, thereby giving everyone the
opportunity to fulfill this great mitzvah.'
"So you see," concluded R' Dovid Moshe, "if fundraising
was not too menial a task for my illustrious
grandfather the Ramo, surely it is not below the
dignity of my son to do it!"