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Beit Midrash Series Chassidish Stories and Great Rabbis

You Will Certainly Fall

The Torah giant Rabbi Shmuel Eliezer Eidels, better known as the Maharsha, faithfully fulfilled the commandment to delve into the Torah day and night. So when the local Jew-hater planned a scheme against the Jews, he tried to spring a trap on the one night a year that the Rabbi didn't study...
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The energy exerted by Rabbi Shmuel Eliezer Eidels, the Maharsha, in learning Torah, was beyond human comprehension. All day long he would teach Torah to his hundreds of students, and at night he would sit in his room by candlelight, with the long locks of his head tied to a string suspended from the ceiling, lest he lean forward over the book he was learning and fall asleep. Only when he felt his strength finished, he slept for half an hour, and even then his lips moved with words of Torah. After this minimal ration of sleep, he woke up with doubled energy and continued to labor over the Torah with tremendous enthusiasm.
He maintained this practice on Shabbatot and Holidays as well. On Shabbat night, when it is forbidden to read by candlelight, he reviewed his learning by heart. Even on the night of Passover, after he had finished leading the Seder, he sat and learned Torah until sunrise.
The light of the candle which emerged from Rabbi Shmuel Eliezer's window all night signaled to the Jews of the town that their Rabbi was faithfully at his watchpost, and this gave them a feeling of security and inspired them with fear of G-d.
Only on one night of the year did Rabbi Shmuel Eliezer refrain from studying Torah. This was on the night of what they called Nittel, commemorating the death of "that man," the 25th of December. According to the Kabbalah, the powers of impurity intensify to the utmost on that night, and they are liable to feed off from the powers of holiness. In order to not allow them to do so, it is proper not to learn Torah at that time. On that night the Rabbi would make an account of his yearly income, in order to compute how much to apportion for the poor who knocked on his door every day.
In the Rabbi's town, Ostrah, next to the market square, lived a goy by the name of Vladimir. He hated Jews and his only goal was to see their downfall and particularly the downfall of their Rabbi the Maharsha. He had already made several attempts to harm the Jews of the town. On one night, for example, he tried to drive the cattle of his Christian neighbor into the yard of the great study-hall in order to instigate a libel and persecution against the Jews. The Count's night guards were astounded to see a herd of cows tramping through the old streets of Ostrah, and quickly arrested the thief. Vladimir was thrown into prison and all of his pleading was of no avail. Only the intervention of his friends, who had connections with the authorities, saved him from long imprisonment. Aside from this attempt, jewelry and other valuables that had disappeared from Christian townspeople were found in his possession. Under interrogation, he confessed that he had intended to plant these in the homes of Jews in order to incriminate them. This plan was also foiled and the incident was recorded in the log of the captain of the guard. Vladimir's hatred of the Jews intensified all the time. His instinct told him that his failures were the result of the spiritual power of the Rabbi of the Jews, who doesn’t stop his learning even for a moment. Several tines Vladimir snooped around the Rabbi's window and tried to concoct some plot.
Once, on the night of Nittel, Vladimir passed by Rabbi Shmuel Eliezer's window and discerned that the Rabbi wasn't absorbed in his learning as usual, but with paperwork. He pondered over the phenomenon, and then came to the conclusion that the reason for the Rabbi's behavior, like that of many Jews, was because this night is sacred for the Christians.
Over the next Christian year, he wove a scheme in his mind, and toward the end of it, he strode over to the authorities in order to testify that the Rabbi of the Jews doesn't learn Torah on the night of Nittel, as opposed to the rest of the year, because he considers this night to be defiled. The police kept a watch the Maharsha for several nights and saw that, indeed, he learned Torah ceaselessly every night.
On the night of Nittel, a company of policemen, led by Vladimir, started over to the Rabbi's house. On that night, Rabbi Shmuel Eliezer sat at his table and calculated his contributions to the poor, as he did every year. Suddenly, one of the books from his large library landed on the floor with a loud noise. The Rabbi hurried over, bent down, picked up the book, kissed it and, with great respect and reverence, returned it to the shelf. After a few minutes the same thing happened. The same book fell from the bookshelf and the Rabbi hurried over again to return it to its place.
When this happened a third time, the Rabbi was most amazed and decided to see what was written in the book which fell again and again. He understood that there must be some heavenly purpose behind this, and therefore opened the book curiously and began to delve into it.
At that moment, the group of policemen burst through the door of the Rabbi's home and entered his room. They were confounded by the sight of the Rabbi, who was occupied with his learning, just like on every other night of the year. They apologized, retraced their steps, exited and closed the door. Then they proceeded to give Vladimir a sound beating for daring to harass them again with a false accusation against the Jews. And this time they sent him away for a long imprisonment...
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