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A Journey of Love: Chapter 5

“This storm is clearly Divine! Tell me, how can we escape this?”

 

1798


Shortly before Rebbe Nachman finally left Istanbul, he had another brush with death. He had traveled to the gravesite of a special tzaddik and relative of his who was buried in Istanbul, Rebbe Naftali of Posen. After visiting the tzaddik’s kever, Rebbe Nachman suddenly fell deathly ill and collapsed. He hovered between life and death, but by a tremendous miracle, he recovered.

Then frightening news struck Istanbul. The French army had invaded the sultan’s lands in Egypt and Palestine. The French navy were patrolling the seas around Istanbul, terrorizing ships sailing through the treacherous Mediterranean.

A man on horseback galloped through the streets, delivering a chilling message from the Jewish leaders in Istanbul.

“No one is permitted to leave the city under any circumstances! Whoever does so is risking their very life, and we will not permit that. Lie low, stay put, and wait for further instructions.”

“Our plans are ruined!” The Rebbe’s attendant cried. “There’s no safe passage to Eretz Yisrael! We’ve come so far, just to be turned back now!”

“I am still going,” Rebbe Nachman said. “I understand the dangers involved, but as I’ve already told you, there is nothing on earth that will deter me from reaching the holy soil of Eretz Yisrael. I will continue, no matter how many French warships stand poised to destroy us.”

“And what about myself?”

“Take money for your traveling expenses, and whatever else you need. When the opportunity arises, travel back to your home. I will continue this journey alone.”

“No, Rebbe…” The Rebbe’s attendant stood tall. “As Rus told Naomi: Where you go, I will also go. I am coming with you, whether to death or to life.”

But how would they ever find a ship to take them to Eretz Yisrael? No one was willing to set sail in the treacherous waters. But even as the Rebbe and the attendant were expressing their resolve to continue despite the great danger, Hashem was preparing miracles to assist them on their mission.

That very day, a great chacham living in Istanbul approached the Jewish leaders of the community and shared with them an astonishing vision that he had had.

“I have foreseen my burial place in Yerushalayim, and I also know that my time to depart from This World is very close. I must travel now to Eretz Yisrael, and you must not fear because no harm will come to me or anyone who travels with me.”

The news soon spread across the city and many people rushed to join the chacham on his journey, Rebbe Nachman and his attendant included.

 

 

The journey began with a terrifying start. A monstrous storm overtook the seas and spun the ship across massive waves. People screamed and davened. It seemed certain that they were all about to be dunked underneath the ocean’s surface and drowned.

But there was one person who was not screaming at all. Rebbe Nachman sat quietly, as if their lives were not about to be brutally ended. People began to take notice of his silence, and it greatly angered a certain lady.

“What is wrong with you?” she screamed at the Rebbe. “How can you sit with your hands folded when our ship is about to be capsized? Raise your voice!”

“If only you, along with everyone else, would just be silent….”

“What?”

“If everyone is silent, the sea will be silent.”

The word quickly spread, and a total hush overcame the entire ship. Everyone cried quietly and davened fervently, but without making any noise. Immediately, the storm dissipated, and the sun broke through the dark, turbulent clouds. Cries of joy and thanksgiving erupted from the passengers and songs of thanks to HaKadosh Baruch Hu filled the air. They would live!

The next danger was not long in coming. This time it did not involve storms or even enemy warships. The biggest threat was actually the lack of proper drinking water. Only one barrel of smelly, infested water remained to quench the tremendous thirst of all the people on the entire ship.

Again, an open miracle took place and just as people were on the verge of dying of thirst, a wind began to blow heavily across the ship’s sails. The ship began cutting through the ocean with tremendous speed and after two days of this Divine wind, they sighted land. They had arrived at long last!

 

The Port of Jaffa

 

Everyone rushed to leave the ship, but Rebbe Nachman was stopped by the Turkish soldiers who were examining the passengers.

“Stop! You’re not going anywhere!”

They looked at his strange-looking clothing and his long peyos and they soon discovered that he could not even speak their language.

“You are a French spy, an enemy! You cannot enter!”

So Rebbe Nachman was forced to stay on the ship for another few days.

“Rebbe, Rosh Hashanah is in two days!” The Rebbe’s assistant noted with alarm. “I just spoke to the captain and he says he plans on staying here for another few days! How will we get into Eretz Yisrael for Rosh Hashanah?”

“Hashem will help. Look how many miracles he has already performed for us until now. It is a miracle we are even here now, so very close to finally setting foot on the holy soil of Eretz Yisrael.”

A few raindrops began to fall from the sky, which quickly turned into a huge downpour. Winds swept against the sides of the ship, which was already battered from the long voyage it had just undergone. Soon, the ship was moving violently from side to side. The captain was astonished; they were docked at port, not out in the open ocean!

The captain approached the Jews still left on board.

“This storm is clearly Divine! Tell me, how can we escape this?”

“It has been passed down from father to son, through all of our generation, that this place is the spot where the Navi Yonah was thrown into the water!” the Sephardic passengers immediately replied. “You cannot keep the ship in these waters.”

Immediately, the captain lifted anchor. This time they docked in Haifa. The Rebbe and his attendant locked eyes.

It was finally time to disembark in the Holy Land.

to be continued…

(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 822)

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