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When a Tzaddik Prays: Chapter 1     

“What do you mean I can’t marry your daughter? Do you know who I am? You don’t just say no to me!”


Come children, gather ‘round. We are going to tell the story of Rav Aryeh Leib Sarah’s, a Tzaddik who was a close disciple of the Baal Shem Tov. Along the way we will share some stories about the Baal Shem Tov himself, his foremost disciple, the Maggid of Mezritch, and a few other of the great masters of chassidus. It is a minhag to share stories of the tzaddikim on Motzaei Shabbos, but whenever you are reading this is special as well!

One day, a young, Jewish girl named Sarah was walking to the tavern in a small village. Her father was the owner. When she arrived at the tavern, she was shocked to see the son of the poritz pummeling her father outside the front door.

“What do you mean I can’t marry your daughter? Do you know who I am? You don’t just say no to me! I see something I like; I take it! You know the rules already, you miserable old Jew!”

“But she is my daughter! You can’t just wake up one day and decide to steal someone’s child! Ouch! Stop hitting me!”

“My father already told me I can take her hand in marriage, so there’s nothing in the world that you can do to stop it. Just tell me where she is and do it quickly. I’m losing my patience with you. You wouldn’t want me to burn your entire tavern to the ground, would you?”

“No, please don’t do that!”

Sarah’s father raised his eyes, looking past the brute beating him, and he saw his daughter standing there in shock.

“What are you staring a—?”

The fiend turned around and saw Sarah.

“Well, look who showed up right on time. I was about to give your father another few blows, but perhaps now I won’t have to.”

“My father is absolutely correct. There is no way you could possibly marry me.”

“Oh? And why not?”

“Because I-I’m…”

“Hahaha! Look at you, stammering like a nervous wreck! What excuse will you think of, young one? Will you tell me that you’re already married? Hahahaha!”

“Yes, actually.”


“Yes, it’s exactly as you just said. I am a married woman.”

“It cannot be. You are too young.”

“I am young, but I’m already married.”

“I don’t believe you.” The poritz’s son clenched his teeth. “You’re lying through your teeth, aren’t you? You just made up that lie from thin air, on the spot. If you’re really married, then where is your husband, eh?”

“He’s in shul, learning Torah. Where else would my husband be?”

“Little liar,” the fiend growled. “I’m going to get my father and his soldiers. We’re going to go to the synagogue and find out if you’re telling the truth or not.”

“Go ahead. I’m not afraid of you.”

The poritz’s son stomped off angrily.

“Sarah!” Sarah’s father lifted himself from the ground, groaning in pain. “Why did you lie like that? When he finds out you’re not really married, we’re all going to be severely punished, and he’ll still end up stealing you away. What have you accomplished?”

“Father, we have only one choice, then. I need to find a husband right now.”

“Right now? Sarah, you know full well that this is a tiny Jewish village. There is barely a minyan of men. And certainly, there are no youngsters. To find you a husband in our village is impossible!”

“Father, I will do whatever I have to in order to escape the clutches of that rasha!”

Sarah and her father rushed to the beis medrash, where a few people were learning.

Rabbosai! I have a terrible problem on my hands! Please listen to me! The poritz’s son is going to force my daughter to marry him if I cannot find someone to marry her first. He is coming now with his father, and we need to marry off my daughter immediately. In fact, we need to have the chuppah right this moment!”

The men in the shul looked at each other, and then shook their heads. They were all older men, their beards flecked with white and gray.

“You need to take your daughter to the nearby village where there are bochurim that are her age.”

“There is no time!” Sarah began crying. “He is already on his way!”

Sure enough, they could hear a mob approaching the shul.

An older man standing in the back of the shul quickly stood up. His name was Reb Yosef.

“Are you sure you are willing to marry someone so much older than you?” Reb Yosef asked. “If so, I agree.”

Sarah squared her shoulders and said bravely,


Hastily the members of the shul led the soon-to-be-bride and groom out of the shul and toward the house of the local rav so that they could conduct everything necessary to make a kosher marriage.

Sometime later they arrived back at the shul where the poritz, his son, and several of their cronies were impatiently waiting with sticks and clubs.

Can you imagine the poritz’s face when he saw Sarah and her elderly husband?

“So… you weren’t lying after all. This is your husband?”


“Oh, well, thanks for wasting our time.” The poritz shook his head at his son and they returned the way they had come.

In the merit of Sarah’s great sacrifice, marrying an older Yid to save herself from the clutches of that rasha, their future son, Rav Aryeh Leib, would respectfully refer to himself by his mother’s name.

And Sarah’s great act continued to have great repercussions in the future.

Many years later, Rav Aryeh Leib Sarah’s was traveling to a distant village where he ended up having to stay for Yom Kippur. The local Jews informed him that there were only nine Jewish men there, not even a minyan for one of the holiest days of the year. They did say, however, that the local mayor was a Jew, but he had long ago converted to Christianity and married a gentile wife.

Rav Aryeh Leib Sarah’s immediately set out for this man’s house, and upon meeting him, he began crying.

“How can such a thing be? A Jew marrying a gentile? Do you know my mother, a young girl in her teenage years, sacrificed so much and married an elderly man, all in order not to be married to a gentile? And you willingly went ahead and threw away your heritage?”

The tzaddik’s words pierced the mayor’s heart, and that Yom Kippur he attended shul, sobbing like a newborn baby the entire time. When Ne’ilah came, the mayor screamed out “Shema Yisrael!” along with everyone else, grasped the aron and slumped over lifeless, returning his now repentant soul to his Maker.

To be continued…


(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 918)

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