Page 89 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 46

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DORON / HASIDIC AND FOLKLORISTIC MOTIFS
81
In this story M eltzer shows us how g re a t is th e m itzvah o f
ligh ting Sabba th cand les. I t has th e pow e r o f an n u l l in g th e evil
dec re e o f a pow e rfu l ru le r like th a t o f th e A u s tro -H u n g a r ia n
Em p ire . M o reover , because o f th e m e r it o f this m itzvah , Rabbi
Leib’s jo u rn e y to V ienna is m iracu lously sh o r ten ed . F u r th e r ­
m o re , Rabbi Leib is no t
pleading
with the em p e ro r . He com ­
m and s him , th re a te n s him an d wrestles him with his very hands!
T h e po e t pu ts th e follow ing wo rds in his m ou th : “T h e Sabbath
cand les a re G o d ’s candles! How
dare
you place a heavy tax on
them , to d im in ish th e i r ligh t?” Again: “T h e dec ree m u s t be
to rn u p and cancelled! I f you re fu se , I shall w ind my k e rch ie f
r o u n d you r neck . . . A b r ie f in te r ru p t io n . A f te rw a rd — a
scream . . . a s trugg le . . . the p a p e r is to rn . Rabbi Leib whispers
in ang e r : Will you eve r pass a d ec ree aga in !” Rabbi Leib does
no t fe a r the k ing an d his soldiers. H e has fa ith in the m e r it
o f the g re a t m itzvah. H e knows th a t “T h o se sen t to p e r fo rm
a m itzvah will n o t be h a rm e d .”7
A secondary th em e in this story is the g re a t pow er o f the
zadd ik an d , even m o re so, th e be lie f o f the comm on peop le
in his power. T h is is why th e coachm an stands in awe o f Rabbi
Leib an d d a re s no t ques tion his s ta tem en t th a t no t only will
they cover th e g re a t d istance to V ienna in one day, bu t will
even m anage to r e tu r n in time to ligh t the Sabbath candles.
In th e second ballad , th e p lo t o f the legend is as follows:
T h e r e was a ta ilo r in Rome who h o n o re d the Sabbath an d Holy
days. O n e year, on Rosh H a sh an ah eve, which fell on Friday,
the ta ilo r w en t to the m a rk e t to buy a fish. However, no fish
was to be fo u n d ; w h e reu p o n th e ta ilo r p rayed to God th a t he
shou ld f ind a fish. In answ er to his p ray e r , a f ishe rm an a p ­
p e a red ca rry ing a beau tifu l catch. At th a t very m om en t, how ­
ever, the se rvan t o f the d istric t go v e rn o r a p p e a re d an d o f fe red
to buy the same fish. T h e f ish e rm an dec ided to auc tion the
fish an d th e b idd ing began . T h e ta ilo r ra ised the bid to twelve
d in a r (an en o rm o u s sum) a t which p o in t the g o v e rn o r ’s servan t
desisted . U pon h e a r in g o f th e inc iden t, the gove rno r , believing
the ta ilo r to be wealthy, visited him with the in ten tion o f con ­
fiscating his p ro p e r ty fo r th e k ing ’s trea su ry . H e was greatly
su rp r ised to lea rn th a t a p o o r ta ilo r h ad ou tb id him . T h e ta ilo r
exp la ined th a t he had d o n e it only to be able to h o n o r the
7 Pesahim 8b.