Cracow's Jewish elders sat in silence, mulling over the
situation. Things were looking bleak since they had
been left without a rov. The Haskalah movement
was taking advantage of the leaderless city and was
enticing youngsters to join their reforms and schools
of thought. All too swiftly they were gaining a sure
foothold in Cracow and the city's leaders had now
convened to make a final decision on choosing a new
rov. Representatives of all the different sectors of
Cracow's religious Jews were present, each suggesting
someone agreeable to their particular group. They had
come to no conclusion.
The silence was broken by a loud bang on the table. "I
have it," exclaimed a prominent Yid. "The young
rov from Mattersdorf. Rabbi Shimon Sofer!"
Most of the heads around the room nodded in agreement
as one of those present quoted the Tiferes Shlomo as
having said that since Rabbi Shimon was the son of the
Chasam Sofer, who was at the forefront of the battle
against the maskilim, he surely had experience
and firsthand knowledge of the dire situation and was
well-equipped to deal with it.
A petition was sent to Mattersdorf but the final
decision was not so easy for Rabbi Shimon Sofer. He
expressed his doubts in a letter to his brother, the
Ksav Sofer. Indeed it would be an honor and
responsibility to be rov of the great city of Cracow,
but here in Mattersdorf lived a talmid chochom
who had grown old and sick. The only person who could
cheer him up and bring a ray of light into his life was
Rabbi Shimon, who would visit him frequently and either
talk in learning with him or even discuss daily events.
Reb Shimon was in a quandary and asked his brother his
shailoh. Was his obligation in life to spread
Torah in Cracow or should he stay in Mattersdorf to
save the life of this talmid chochom?
The Ksav Sofer was swift to reply. The Torah of many
was more weighty than that of a single person and
therefore he should accept the rabbonus in
Cracow. In any case, the talmid chochom of
Mattersdorf should accompany him and also settle in the
The townspeople of Cracow waited in anticipation of the
arrival of their new rov. A small minority had
preferred a different rov and they were not too happy
with the majority vote.
They decided that during the new rov's first
drosho they would ask him some difficult
questions and thus lower his dignity in the eyes of
They did not reckon however with Rabbi Shimon Sofer's
keen perception. As he walked up to the bimah on
that first day, he had a feeling that some of the crowd
were planning trouble. As a result, he began his
drosho somewhat differently than he had planned.
"When I was a child living in Pressburg, there was a
Jew who opened his shop on Shabbos. My father, the holy
Chasam Sofer zt"l, instructed me to go to the Jew
and inform him in the name of the rov that he was to
close his shop. I did as I was told, but the brazen
Yid laughed in my face, telling me not to bother
him with such unimportant matters.
"I repeated his reply to my father, who told me to go
to him again and say that if he doesn't close his shop
he will be punished from Above. This time the
shopkeeper became annoyed and warned me that if I dare
to come again he'll thrash me thoroughly. I expressed
my fear to my father that he would carry out his
threat, but the Chasam Sofer commanded me, `Go to warn
him a third time, and if he tries to hit you I'll teach
you now one of the Holy Names of Hashem and that will
"When the shopkeeper saw me approaching for the third
time, he raised his fist in anger and strode towards
me. I concentrated on the Name my father had taught me,
and when the fellow reached my side he fell to the
ground in a dead faint.
"Morai verabosai," announced Rabbi Shimon. "If
you have come to argue in Torah with me lesheim
Shomayim, so that the light of truth should shine
forth, you are welcome to do so and the Torah will be
glorified and strengthened. However, if your intentions
are lo lishmoh and you have come to harm me, I
will have you know that I still remember the
Sheim that my father taught me."
Immediately the troublemakers were gripped by fear and
they never dared to trouble the rov.
As time went by, the house of Reb Shimon Sofer became
the address for anyone seeking advice, be it a
shailoh in halochoh, a difficulty in
learning or a question in business. Day and night the
Rov's door was open to the public and nobody left empty-
One wintry night the world outside was bedecked with a
thick blanket of snow and even closed doors and windows
could not completely prevent the howling wind from
somehow penetrating the cracks. On a night like that
the Rov was surprised to hear a knock on his door and
he quickly welcomed in a distraught Yid. His wife
was in labor and was in grave danger, and the young man
begged the Rov to bless him and give him a
Segulos were not Rabbi Shimon's line and he tried
to explain that he didn't know much about such things.
However the man was desperate and pleaded with the Rov
to give him some sort of segulah.
The Rov's pity was aroused. He looked around him,
trying to think of something tangible he could give the
man. Then, removing the scarf from around his neck, he
handed it to the young man, accompanied with two strict
conditions. The first was that he return the scarf
immediately after the birth, and the second condition
was that the man was not to tell a soul that the rabbi
gave him his scarf.
With a lighter step and renewed hope in his pounding
heart, the young man made his way to the hospital where
his wife lay. He covered her with the scarf and within
a few minutes the lusty cry of a healthy newborn was
heard, amidst joyous exclamations of surprise and
Remembering the Rov's conditions, the man ran back to
Rabbi Shimon's house, his heart bursting with joy and
overflowing with gratitude. After thanking the Rov
profusely, he tarried another moment and said, "The Rov
should forgive my asking, but what is the reason for
the two conditions that the Rov made?"
"I'll tell you the truth," replied Rabbi Shimon kindly.
"When you asked me for a segulah, I honestly had
no idea what to give you. But my pity was aroused for
you and your wife and I felt I could not turn you away.
I decided then that this scarf on my neck, soaked with
the sweat of my toil in Torah learning, will surely be
a zchus for your wife. The Torah with which it
is permeated will bring about a healthy birth, and
Boruch Hashem you see that in the merit of Torah
you were helped from Above.
"My first condition that you return the scarf, is
simply due to the fact that it is my only scarf, and
when I learn at night I get very cold and need it to
"The second condition, whereof I beg you again to keep
the matter a secret, is because I do not want people to
disturb my Torah and avodoh with requests for
yeshu'os, refu'os and segulos. For those
they should go to others who are better versed in these
areas than I am."