T he holy Rav Aryeh Leib of Shpole walked slowly on the long narrow path leading from the town shul to his small house.
As he neared the house he was surprised to hear a babble of loud voices and arguments from inside. The loud voices stilled as soon as the Shpole Zeide entered the house. He looked for a moment at the unexpected guests and immediately realized what had brought them here.
“Shalom aleichem welcome ” he smiled his eyes emanating love. “I haven’t seen you for a few months already and I thought it was a good sign. I assumed Poritz Barshovsky hasn’t been harassing you so much anymore.”
“Not at all Rebbe!” the guests replied almost in unison.
“That evil man is alive and well and he has renewed his decrees against us!” one said.
“You’d think he has nothing else to do with his time other than concoct new ways to make our lives miserable ” said another.
“It’s always something else — hard labor endless taxes that we have no way of paying and all kinds of other terrible strictures ” a third said.
The speakers fell silent and one of them spoke up to represent them all. He would explain what had prompted them to seek the advice and guidance of the Rebbe the Shpole Zeide.
In a magnificent three-story villa lived the poritz Lord Anatoly Barshovsky. From his elegant office he held the entire district under a reign of terror. His burning hatred for the Jews under his jurisdiction had no logic. In fact logic would dictate the opposite.
Barshovsky was the boss of a cluster of villages surrounding a large town in which he lived. The Jewish residents comprised about a quarter of the population and the land that he leased to them yielded the biggest percentage of his income. He admitted that the Jews were a wise diligent and honest nation. But he despised them with a vengeance. His Jewish tenants had to pay rental fees several times higher than the non-Jewish farmers’. He would toss fathers mothers and children into dungeons when payments came even a few days late and remained unmoved when informed of any deaths.
The poritz was an intellectual man who liked literature and science. He studied the lifestyle of the Jews and read a lot about them. He knew that Shabbos was their holiest most precious day and thus he enjoyed summoning them specifically on Shabbos to do forbidden work.
Finally one young Jewish man who lived in one of the smaller villages had had enough. He invited some of his friends to a secret meeting. The participants pledged to keep everything they said and heard quiet.
“Listen ” the young man declared. ‘The time has come to put a stop to this. How much longer are we going to put up with the unbridled wickedness of the poritz? How much longer will we remain silent in the face of his murderous acts and the suffering he has caused every Jewish home in the district? We have to put an end to his reign of terror.”
It was silent. Barshovsky was the dread of the local Jews and the very idea of fighting him made their hearts quake. “You are a brave young man ” the participants complimented him. “But your plans will endanger us all. We are in galus and the poritz’s power is at its peak. If we rise up and fight him and then fail he will likely obliterate the entire community in revenge.”
Murmurs of agreement could be heard in the crowded room. But this energetic young man was not ready to give up so fast. He continued to present various plans to get rid of the poritz. Until someone stood up and presented the most sensible idea of all:
“We must not make such a critical decision on our own. The Shpole Zeide is just a one-day ride away. Let us go ask him if it is worth our while to take the risk. Whatever his answer we will know that it is sanctioned from Above.”
Everyone agreed. (Excerpted from Mishpacha Issue 662 – Special Shavuos Edition 2017)
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