Sometimes natural events seem to us on the surface as difficult and harmful, but they may really be helpful and beneficial. This chasidic story is a beautiful illustration of the importance of natural systems that may initially be difficult for us to understand. It also helps us appreciate the beauty and mystery of the wind.
Everybody knows that the holy Roptchitzer was the right-hand man of the Seer of Lublin. The holy Roptchitzer was very tall, which was helpful when he was ushering people into meetings with the holy Lubliner because he could stretch his arm across the door frame, forcing the visitor to pass underneath. If the person was really humble, the Roptchitzer would keep his hand high so the visitor could enter freely, without any problem. But if the guest was known to be arrogant, the Roptchitzer would lower his arm so the visitor would have to stoop in order to pass.
As for those who, mamash, had great delusions about themselves … the Roptchitzer would put his hand on their heads and push them down so they were practically crawling on their knees as they came before the holy Seer of Lublin.
The holy Seer of Lublin, in turn, did honor to the spiritual stature of the Roptchitzer by calling him “heilige Roptchitzer” even though he was only his assistant, his righthand man. “Holy Roptchitzer” is how he always referred to him, except one Shabbes afternoon when he called him “Ropchic!” And this is the story.
That Friday night, one of the thirty-six hidden holy people [known as lamed-vavniks, upon whose holiness the world rests], came to the Seer of Lublin and said “My wife had a baby and tonight is the shalom zachor [celebration to welcome a new son] to celebrate his birth. But there is no minyan where I live….”
The Seer of Lublin called out: “Heilige Roptchitzer! Gather together a minyan to go to the home of this little Jew!”
The Roptchitzer, understanding immediately that the yidele [little Jew] was a lamed-vavnik, chose the eight best pupils of the Seer of Lublin. He went himself, with the lamed-vavnik, to make the tenth man for the minyan.
The group walked to the outskirts of the city. Halfway to the home of the yidele, they were crossing a large field when a terrible storm rose without warning. The wind was so powerful it threw dust into their eyes, making it impossible to move or to see. Most of the group wanted to give up, but the holy Roptchitzer wouldn’t let them. Instead, he yelled at the storm. “Wind! What kind of hutzpah is this? We’re going to the home of a holy hidden Jew for a shalom zachor and you’re in our way! Take off!”
And the wind ceased.
The next morning, the city was struck by a terrible pestilence that affected the animals. There was an epidemic: the horses and cows were dying. The livelihood of the entire city was affected. Everyone was worried – no one could think of anything else.
When the Roptchitzer came into the synagogue, the Seer of Lublin wouldn’t acknowledge him. Whenever the Roptchitzer looked at him, the holy Seer of Lublin would turn his head away. Or, if he needed something from his right-hand man, the Seer of Lublin would say in a very abrupt way: “Hey, Ropchic! Bring me the wine!”
This went on all morning – “Ropchic! Ropchic!” in front of everyone.
The Roptchitzer started feeling smaller than small, but he didn’t know what he had done wrong. He had taken the men to the shalom zachor, just as his teacher had asked. The evening had been beautiful; they had returned in time for prayers in the morning.
By late afternoon, when his teacher finally called for him alone, the Roptchitzer was desperate. “Rebbe! What have I done?”
“Ropchic!” the heilige Lubliner called out as the Roptchitzer came near. “Do you have any idea how many tears I cried before God to send a wind strong enough to carry the pestilence away, so that no plague would strike Lublin?”
The Roptchitzer was ashamed.
“Ropchic, if you don’t know what the wind is for, don’t touch it!”
The Wind appears on pages 139-144 in Shlomo’s Stories by Shlomo Carlebach and Susan Yael Mesinai, published by Jason Aronson. This story appears by permission of the publisher and is protected by copyright. All rights reserved. Please contact the publisher for permission to copy, distribute or reprint.