It Once Happened…


Many years ago, after the rabbi of Tchentzikov had been married for eighteen years without having been blessed with children, he travelled to the Kozhnitzer Maggid to obtain the tzadik’s blessing.

When the Kozhnitzer listened to the man’s request he uttered a sigh from deep within his being. “The gates of heaven are closed to your petition!” he cried.

“No, no! Please, you must help me!” the man wept desperately.

“I cannot help you,” said the Kozhnitzer. “But I will send you to someone else who will be able to help. You must go to a certain person who is called ‘Shvartze Wolf — Black Wolf,’ and he will be the one to help.”

“Yes, I know him,” the rabbi said, “He lives in my village, and a more coarse, miserable person you could never find.”

At first the Kozhnitzer did not respond. The rabbi realized that if the Kozhnitzer was sending him to Black Wolf, he must have a good reason.

The Kozhnitzer then quietly revealed, “Black Wolf is head of the eighteen hidden saints whose merits sustain the world.”

The rabbi sought out Black Wolf in the forest hut which was his home. Though cognizant of Black Wolf’s true identity, the rabbi was still frightened to approach him.

He devised a ruse by which to gain admittance to his hut.

He would go into the forest just before Shabbat and when he found Black Wolf’s house, would pretend that he had lost his way. He would beg to spend the holy Shabbat there, and under the circumstances, Black Wolf could hardly refuse a fellow Jew that favor.

Friday afternoon he set out and as planned reached Black Wolf’s hut. He knocked on the door and the man’s wife answered.

Her horrible appearance marked her as a true equal to her husband, for never had a more hideous and unpleasant woman been seen.

Nevertheless, the rabbi begged her to allow him to stay over Shabbat.

“Very well,” she finally relented. “But if my husband finds you here, he’ll tear you apart with his bare hands. You can’t stay in here, but go into the stable if you want,” she croaked.

Soon Black Wolf arrived home and entered the stable, his eyes blazing with hatred. “How dare you come here! If you set foot outside of this stable, I’ll rip you apart with my bare hands!”

The frightened Jew shivered in his boots as he beheld the terrible visage of Black Wolf.

Suddenly the thought came to the rabbi that a tzadik is so pure that he acts as a mirror, reflecting the image of the person who is looking upon him.

Thus, what he saw in the appearance of Black Wolf was nothing more or less than a picture of his own spiritual impurity. With that, he searched into his soul, and prayed from the deepest part of his being. He poured out his soul and in those few moments returned wholeheartedly to his Maker. He felt himself suffused with a warm, peaceful feeling.

Suddenly he was shaken from his reverie by the unexpected sensation of a soft hand being laid on his shoulder. He looked up, not quite sure what he would see, a shiver of fear passing through him. There stood Black Wolf, but instead of his accustomed fierce exterior, he had a refined and peaceful visage.

The visitor was ushered into the hut, which no longer appeared rough and tumble-down, but warm and inviting. Black Wolf’s wife entered with her children, and their appearance, too, was beautiful and serene.

Black Wolf turned to his guest and said in a quiet voice, “I know why you have come here. I know, I know. You and your wife will rejoice in the birth of a boy. But you must name him Schvartze Wolf.”

The rabbi wondered to himself, “How can I name my son after him? It is not our custom to name after the living,” but he remained silent.

The following morning Shvartze Wolf passed away.

After Shabbat, the Tchentzikover Rabbi returned home. In time, he revealed to his congregation the hidden identity of the hated Shvartze Wolf.

True to his word, a baby boy was born and he was given the strange name “Shvartze Wolf.”

In the year 1945 Jews who had survived the horrors of the Holocaust began streaming into the Land of Israel. When the Belzer Rebbe held his first Melave Malka (Saturday night meal taking leave of the Sabbath Queen) in the Holy Land many Chasidim came and introduced themselves to the Rebbe.

This story was one of those related at that first Melave Malka of the Belzer Rebbe.

And at that memorable occasion one man stood before the assembled and said, “My name is Shvartze Wolf ben Chana, and I am a descendant of that child who is spoken about in the story.”

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L’Chaim Weekly

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