Rav Shmuel handed his student a small paper. “If he casts a spell, and I am unable to respond, focus on the holy Names written here”
The news reached Rav Shmuel that he was being forced to meet with the sorcerer at a match that was to take place in a few days’ time. He was unafraid, because his power came not from his own self, but from his tremendous fear of Heaven. His fear of Hashem, and nothing else, had enabled him to harness his powers of holiness to stem evil in the first place.
Still, there were others who worried for Rav Shmuel’s safety. After all, the sorcerer was no phony. He had already clearly demonstrated through his public spells that he had significant abilities to use the powers of impurity to harm the Jewish community. What if he did something to Rav Shmuel that the tzaddik was unable to counterattack? How could the Jews let him go ahead and put himself in such danger?
“Let me remind you of whom we are speaking,” Reuven, one of the elderly Jewish locals, said to the murmuring crowd one day in shul, as they were all discussing the impending meeting. “This tzaddik is our holy defender, and the battles he fights are not for his sake, they are done for the sake of Klal Yisrael, for the sake of the honor of Hashem. That’s why I have no fear that he will be harmed.
“Listen closely, and I will tell you what once occurred… As you know, it is necessary for the Jews of Eretz Yisrael to send messengers to chutz l’Aretz to collect money for our poor. It is a dangerous, unpleasant journey, so the only fair way to determine the messenger is via a lottery system. Well, once Rav Shmuel’s name was drawn in the lottery. The tzaddik boarded a ship, first headed for Turkey. But he didn’t have enough food for even that leg of the trip. When he approached the captain shortly after the ship had set sail, he inquired when they would be arriving in Turkey. The captain, of course, looked at him like he was mad. Arriving? They had just left!
“But the captain did not realize whom he was speaking to. After telling Rav Shmuel that they would not be arriving for some time, the tzaddik responded that they would be arriving shortly… his words were soon understood as the ship picked up speed, seemingly flying like a bird over the roaring waves, and they arrived in Turkey… that very night!
“Rav Shmuel spent Shabbos in the capital of Turkey, choosing to remain anonymous. No one, not even his hosts, suspected that he was anyone of special stature. When Shabbos ended, there was a commotion in the streets. Apparently, the sultan himself was out inspecting the city, something which did not bode well for the Jews. They all huddled inside their homes, eager for the sultan to pass them by and move on.
“Rav Shmuel ascended to the second story of the house and peered outside, intending to make the special brachah one recites upon seeing a royal personage. But to everyone’s shock, the sultan suddenly stopped in his tracks as he passed the house and demanded that his guards go inside and bring out whomever they found inside.
“The gabbai and the owner of the house hid themselves, trembling in fear, but Rav Shmuel calmly stood still and walked to the sultan’s carriage with the guards on either side of him. It turned out he was not in trouble at all. The sultan said he had seen a pillar of fire descending onto the house as he passed and understood that whoever was inside was an extremely holy man.
“The sultan invited Rav Shmuel into his palace as an honored guest, and Rav Shmuel of course immediately used the opportunity to bring up the dire situation affecting the poor in Eretz Yisrael. The sultan immediately had royal documents drawn up that explicitly forbade the non-Jews to threaten the Jews with eviction. He even gave permission for the Jews to build more Jewish infrastructure in the Holy Land.
“To finalize this incredible visit, the sultan gave Rav Shmuel the entire amount he had needed to collect on his journey for the poor of Eretz Yisrael. Rav Shmuel was free to return home, no longer needing to make the physically and spiritually dangerous journey across the globe. On the way back, more miracles occurred, finally culminating in his safe return. The people simply could not believe that he had come home so quickly. But there were no complaints; after all, he not only had the money he was tasked to collect, he even came bearing royal decrees that would change the entire landscape of the Jewish communities.
“So, you see?” Reuven said with a smile, “we have nothing to be afraid of; Hashem is protecting Rav Shmuel and all of his actions are blessed on High. Rav Shmuel is not just a tzaddik, he is our tzaddik, our protector whose actions are always motivated by his tremendous concern for his Jewish brethren. He will defeat the sorcerer, because he fights not for pride, nor for honor. But the sorcerer fights only for impure motivations.”
The day of the meeting finally arrived, and everyone gathered to witness the event. Rav Shmuel turned to face the sorcerer.
“Take this parchment,” Rav Shmuel handed his student a small paper. “If he casts a spell, and I am unable to respond, focus on the holy Names written here.”
Sure enough, the sorcerer made the first move. He screamed something and then began chanting, turning Rav Shmuel into a dog before the astonished eyes of all present. Immediately, the spell was reversed, however, as Rav Shmuel’s disciple concentrated on the Names written on the parchment.
“Today, everyone will witness that Hashem controls the world!” cried Rav Shmuel.
Saying that, he held up a branch with different Names of Hashem etched upon it. He slammed the branch into the ground, and with each thrust, the sorcerer found himself sinking deeper and deeper into the ground. The wicked rasha began pleading for his life, sobbing and screaming, begging for mercy. But soon, even his head had disappeared beneath the ground.
The sorcerer’s disciples hurried to dig out their master, but yet another miracle occurred. All that was left of this terrible evildoer was a pile of bones!
Once again, Rav Shmuel had protected Klal Yisrael. He truly was “the holy defender.”
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 893)
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