Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

14 Adar 5772 - March 8, 2012 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










Produced and housed by











The Michtav Sofer, HaGaon Reb Shimon Sofer, zt,"l, of Cracow

In honor of his yahrtzeit: 17 Adar

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 big town.

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 those present.

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 protect you.'

"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- handed.

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 seguloh.

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 wonder.

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 warm me.

"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."


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