“See me now, old man? Who do you think you are, talking to me like that? I have powers at my disposal that you could never dream of!"
Rav Shmuel Abuchatzeira learned of the trouble caused by the sorcerer from his own personal experience. At one of the funerals in this community near Damascus, Rav Shmuel was part of the entourage leading the deceased.
Sure enough, like so many times before, the casket suddenly became unbearably heavy, and the mourners were forced to come to an abrupt halt. They placed the casket on the floor and looked to the side of the road, sure that they would see the sorcerer silhouetted in the window, as they always did when they tried passing to get to the cemetery.
Indeed, as they looked toward the house, they could see the outline of the sorcerer in his room, gazing upon them with impure eyes and casting his spells upon them. Rav Shmuel was confused; what was occurring? When the Jews explained how the sorcerer was tormenting them, Rav Shmuel decided the time had come to put an end to this.
Rav Shmuel left the group and walked with his head held high toward the window where the sorcerer was casting his spells.
“O’ sorcerer, come out and stop hiding your face!” Rav Shmuel stopped just outside the window. “Why do you shy away and place yourself behind closed windows to practice your mischief? Who are you so afraid of, evil one? Come forth and show yourself so that I may see with my own eyes who is causing so much grief to my people!”
The window slid open and the sorcerer stuck his face all the way out.
“See me now, old man? Who do you think you are, talking to me like that? I have powers at my disposal that you could never dream of! I can turn you into a dog, if that is what I desire! What? Did you think you are someone special, that you would save your people from getting out of the payment I always demand? It won’t happen, and if you don’t pay up now, I’ll keep the casket frozen to the ground until every last coin I demand is in my hands!”
Rav Shmuel gazed downward to avoid staring at the sorcerer’s evil countenance, and he began to murmur different combinations of Hashem’s holy name underneath his breath. The sorcerer watched him with a large smile, chuckling to himself.
“Are you going to try and hurt me, old man?” The sorcerer’s laugh was shrill. “I can’t be harmed, there are too many forces working under my influence, I am all-powerful, brilliant, and capable of doing anything that I desi—”
Suddenly, the sorcerer stopped talking and gripped the sides of his head. He moaned in pain and everyone watched in shock. Something was happening to the sorcerer, but they were unsure what it was. The moans of pain turned into high pitched shouting as horns began to protrude from the sorcerer’s head! The horns grew and grew as the Jews watched in fascination. The sorcerer realized he should escape the presence of this obviously holy and powerful Jewish sage before him, and he quickly backed away, to disappear into the safety of his dark room.
But by now the horns were so large, they had been caught in the window frame. The sorcerer was stuck! Laughter broke out, and a wave of tremendous relief swept across the crowd watching.
The sorcerer’s students appeared and they tried hoisting their teacher away from the window, but the more they pulled, the deeper the horns dug themselves into the frame, entangling the sorcerer so that soon he couldn’t move at all! He was stuck like a chicken with its neck in a noose, shouting furiously to his students to set him free.
“The casket is no longer heavy and frozen!” Someone from the crowd announced. “We can proceed!”
And proceed they did, leaving the sorcerer and his students to deal with their comical predicament. Everyone thought that their troubles were over. The sorcerer had been dealt a tremendously embarrassing blow by the great tzaddik. Surely, he would not be foolish enough to continue his shenanigans. But they were wrong. The sorcerer had been defeated, true, but his desire for revenge burned strong inside his black heart.
It did not take long for word to spread about the incredible miracle. Even the non-Jews began flocking to the sorcerer’s house, to see for themselves if it was no exaggeration that the sorcerer had not only been trumped, but that he was forced to walk around with horns on his head. The sorcerer of course stayed indoors, humiliated and furious. But when a powerful nobleman came to visit in person, even the sorcerer was forced to grant him an audience.
The nobleman stepped into the sorcerer’s dark and grungy home. “Let me see the horns for myself!” he ordered. His eyes traveled over the black tombs scattered around the house, the candles, and some strange looking bones on the shelves. “Come now, I didn’t travel all this way to stand here without seeing them — take off the turban you are hiding them with!”
“Fine.” The sorcerer unraveled the turban and reluctantly showed the nobleman. When the nobleman went from gasping in shock to laughing so hard that he almost passed out, the sorcerer’s face began to burn with anger and shame.
“You’ve been defeated, haven’t you?” The nobleman wiped away a tear from the corner of his eye. “You used to have a reputation far and wide of being invincible, but apparently your armor is not quite as thick as you would have liked us all to believe.”
“He caught me by surprise, that’s all there is to it! Arrange for a meeting between myself and the rabbi, and I will put him in his place… face-to-face…”
To be continued…
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 891)
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