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Beit Midrash Shabbat and Holidays The Seder Night

The Mitzvah to Halt from Work

The marriage of a young adherent of Rabbi Yaakov Yosef of Polonne is threatened by opposition to Hassidism. Until an elderly Count tells an incredible story...
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Mitzvah number 25 is the positive commandment to halt from performing work on the first day of Passover, as the Torah says: "The first day will be a sacred holiday" (Vayikra 23:7).
The excitement in the carriage was great, as the parents rode for the first time to visit their daughter who had been wed several months earlier. Their hearts were filled with anticipation of seeing their daughter happy and blissful. But when they saw that their daughter's face was worried and sad, they were gripped with anxiety. In answer to their question, the daughter said that definitely her husband was a man of pleasant conduct, patience and good character. But as of late she has been very worried by bizarre behavior that he has been exhibiting. She told that her husband gets up every night at midnight, goes to the Mikveh, prays in an extraordinary fashion and then reads from a book which he hides under the mattress. The parents were alarmed and asked her to show them the book she mentioned. The father picked up the book, opened it to the first page, and read its name, "Toldot Yaakov Yosef," which was written by Rabbi Yaakov Yosef of Polonne, the dedicated student of the holy Baal Shem Tov. The father shuddered when he understood that his son - in - law belonged to the cult of the Hassidim. He ran over to his young son - in - law and demanded that he immediately grant his daughter a divorce, as he would never have agreed to the match had he known this beforehand. To his surprise, the young man adamantly refused, stating that there were no legitimate grounds to force him to part from his righteous wife. He added that all the father's claims against Hassidism were based on lack of knowledge of Hassidism and its great Rabbis.
The argument between the two became stormy and attracted a gathering of the people of town, all of which belonged to the camp of the "Misnagdim" - those opposed to Hassidism. Tempers flared and the clamor of the dispute intensified. Suddenly, everything became quiet. The old Count of the town approached the scene. The Count, renowned for his great fondness for the Jews, heard the voices of the argument from his nearby castle and decided to come down and see what the Jewish residents were so worked up about. After he had settled into a chair which was brought in his honor, those present told him of the argument which had arisen between the young man and his father - in - law over the former's joining Hassidism. When the Count heard about the book which the son - in - law read in secret, he jumped up excitedly from his seat and began to tell: "Many years ago I was a senior officer in the Czar's army. Once as we were about to move our camp, we made an roll call of all the soldiers in order to make sure all were present, but three were discovered to be missing. I sent a party to search for them in the nearby town of Polonne, and soon afterwards they returned, all excited. The told that they found the missing soldiers in a house, fixed in their places and completely unable to move, with an old Jew sitting next to them. When I heard this, I thought that these soldiers had probably gotten drunk, and that their imaginations were getting the best of them. So I decided to go and see for myself, and it really was just as they described. I knocked on the door of the house until the old man opened the door. I told him that these three soldiers must continue with us, and therefore I request that he release them. The Rabbi answered that they probably stole something from the house, and as long as it was in their pocket they couldn't go. We searched in their pockets and, indeed, we found stolen silver goblets, and as soon as we took them out of their pockets, they could move normally and they ran out of the house." The Count was visibly moved, and after a short pause continued:
"The old man told me that this night is Passover, the night the Nation of Israel became a nation, and therefore there is a special safeguarding over the Jewish People on this night, and consequently they didn't succeed in stealing." The Count gazed at the Jews who listened riveted to his story, and continued: "I bowed my head before the old Rabbi and asked that he bless me. He gave me blessings for a long life and for other things, on the condition that I always treat the Jews well. The Rabbi then added, 'There will come a day when a controversy will arise among the Jews over my character, and then it is your duty to recount all you saw tonight, and with that my blessing for long life will terminate.'" The Count paused momentarily and said, "I know that at this moment I am sentencing myself to death, but I owe this debt to the holy man you are disputing about, Rabbi Yaakov Yosef from the town of Polonne."
That very day the Jews of the town escorted the beloved Count to his final resting place, as the sadness of his passing intermingled with the great joy which enveloped the home of the young bride with her husband and her parents.
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