Yesterday, we discussed an incident recorded in the Gemara whereby Rabbi Akiva’s daughter was saved from certain death in the merit of the Mitzvah of Tzedakah.
Once, there was a pious Torah scholar who was a close Chassid of the saintly Rabbi Aryeh Leib of Shpoly and this Chassid was married to his wife for over ten years and they had not yet merited bearing children. This distressed them very much and every time the husband travelled to see his Rebbe, he begged him to beseech Hashem for Heavenly mercy on his behalf so that they merit bearing children. The saintly Rebbe kept on pushing off the man while quoting the teaching of our Sages (Berachot 64a), “One who pushes the hour, the hour shall push him pack. One who gets pushed by the hour, the hour shall be pushed by him.” Nevertheless, the man’s wife would complain to him and say, “What benefit do I have that you leave me and spend the holidays with your righteous Rebbe if he does not promise you that we will bear children?” The wife continue to cry to her husband until this Chassid decided that the next time he would visit his Rebbe, he would not rest until the Rebbe promised him that he would merit children. (We are actually aware of several cases where people came to Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l in tears begging for him to promise a certain salvation would occur and he would very much avoid promising anything and would tell people that he could not promise. However, after a great many pleas, Maran zt”l promised and the salvation would indeed come about in miraculous ways.)
When this Chassid arrived at the holy Rebbe’s home, he found the Rebbe deep in thought engrossed in his service of Hashem. The Chassid began begging the Rebbe to pray that he and his wife merit bearing children. The Rebbe, as usual, turned away the Chassid and told him, “I am now busy with the welfare of the entire Jewish nation and I therefore cannot deal with private matters at this time.” The Chassid carried on with his pleas and exclaimed, “I shall not move from this place until the Rebbe decrees that we shall be blessed with a baby boy!” The Alter of Shpoly became angry at this Chassid would constantly bother him and he exclaimed back, “I hereby swear an oath of the Torah that you shall not bear children since you are pushing the hour!” The Chassid then left the Rebbe broken and downtrodden with almost not a shred of hope that he would ever father children. When he arrived home, he told his wife what had occurred and together they shed copious tears as they realized that the Rebbe’s words would certainly make an impact in Heaven and there was no longer any hope that Hashem would grace them with the gift of children.
Sometime later, this Chassid amassed great wealth and had to travel to the city of Koritz for a business trip along with his wife. The great and saintly Rebbe, Rabbi Pinchas of Koritz, student of the great Rabbi Yisrael Ba’al Shem Tov, lived in that city in terrible poverty since he was extremely diligent in his Torah study and he bore only the yoke of Torah as his house remained completely empty. It was the month of Nissan and the holiday of Pesach was nearing, however, the saintly Rebbe lacked wine, Matzah, Maror, and any of the other basic holiday necessities.
The Chassid found out about this matter and he went on his own to the home of the great Rabbi Pinchas where he saw that the house was truly bare. He asked the Rabbanit about the situation at home to which she replied, “I do not even have one cent at home, from where will my salvation come?” The Chassid replied, “Worry not, I will take care of all of your needs. However, I have one request: Please say nothing to the holy Rebbe about this and keep it a secret and I wish to join you in your home on the Seder night.” And so it was.
When Erev Pesach came along, the righteous Rebbe was in great distress because he had not even the most basic necessities for the holiday. In his sadness, he made his way to the Bet Midrash to toil in the holy Torah and he trusted that Hashem would not withhold his kindness from those who were close to Him. All this time, Rabbi Pinchas wondered how his wife left him alone to study Torah, however, he asked her nothing because of his intense love of the Torah.
The wealthy Chassid prepared Matzah, Maror, and wine for him and his wife as well as for the family of the holy Rebbe and brought this all over to the Rebbe’s home before the holiday. Additionally, he sent beautiful clothing for the Rebbe and his wife as well as beautiful new and superior housewares and linens for the house. He also sent long and ornate candles to illuminate the home of the Rebbe in honor of the holiday. Upon returning home from the synagogue of the night Pesach, he was shocked to see the house full of light and the table laden with wine, Matzah, Maror, and all forms of Pesach delicacies. He asked the Rabbanit, “Where is all of this from?” The Rabbanit then revealed to the Rebbe all that the pious Chassid had done for them and proceeded to show him the new housewares and linens as well.
Soon afterwards, the Chassid arrived at the Rebbe’s home along with his wife and without saying a word, Rabbi Pinchas began leading the Seder. All throughout the Kiddush, reciting the Hagadah, and eating the Matzah and Maror, the Chassid was completely silent and merely watched how the holy Rebbe was in a festive mood recounting the exodus from Egypt and the great miracles Hashem had performed for us. When they reached the festive meal, the Rabbanit brought out delicious meat dishes in honor of the holiday and as Rabbi Pinchas ate and was overcome with joy, he exclaimed to the Chassid, “Look how much you have done for us! You have honored us and brought us so much joy, tell me whatever it is that you request and it shall be done!” The Chassid proceeded to tell the Rebbe how he and his wife had not yet bore children and when he turned to the Alter of Shpoly to beg for him to pray on his behalf, he became angry at him and swore to him that he would not have children. He then begged for Rabbi Pinchas to nullify the decree of the Shpoly Rebbe so that they would be able to bear children. Upon hearing this, Rabbi Pinchas immediately stood up and exclaimed: “If I have any merit in Heaven, I hereby swear an oath of the Torah that your wife will give birth to a baby boy within the year!”
When Rabbi Pinchas said this, a great tumult ensued in Heaven, for the two oaths, that of Rabbi Pinchas of Koritz and that of the Alter of Shpoly, stood head to head in Heaven. The decision was made to look in the Book of the Righteous where they found that, in all of his life, Rabbi Pinchas of Koritz had never sworn even regarding a matter that was true. It was therefore ruled in Heaven to fulfill his oath and the couple fathered a baby boy that same year.
This entire story was recounted by the saintly Rebbe, Rabbi Yisrael of Ruzhin and is quoted on the Sefer Derech Ha’Nesher (page 51). We see from this incident the importance of the Mitzvah of donating Tzedakah generously as the Chassid did and merited fathering a baby boy that year as a reward for gladdening the righteous Rebbe on the night of Pesach with his wealth. Indeed, the verse states (Yeshaya 32, 17), “And the work of charity shall be peace and the effect of charity tranquility and confidence forever.” (See Anaf Etz Avot, page 111)