HaRav Aharon Perlow
The Poritz Obeys the Karliner Rebbe’s Demand – Just to Save His Own Skin
HaRav Aharon Perlow, זצוק”ל, author of the Bais Aharon (and often referred to by that name), was born to his father Harav Rav Asher from Stolin, who was, in turn, the son of Rav Aharon Hagadol from Karlin, זצוק”ל. The Rebbes moved back and forth between the towns of Karlin and Stolin in White-Russia, and were therefore known at times as Karliner Rebbe (Rav Aharon Hagadol and his grandson were in Karlin) and at times Stoliner Rebbe (Both Rav Ashers were Rebbes in Stolin).
The Bais Aharon was born on Rosh Chodesh Sivan, 5562 (1802) and lived 70 years and 17 days. He passed away on the 17th of Sivan, 5632 (1872).
The legendary Stoliner Chasid, Reb Nissan Pilchick זצ״ל, told the following story which he had heard “ish mipi ish” (from one man to another).
Harav Aharon had a chasid who had a very successful lumber business. He was a clever businessman and his business model was to lease a forest from a Poritz (landowner) and then sell the different grades of wood yielded by the trees for heating and building. One year he heard of a very large forest available for lease. The chasid saw a good deal and borrowed money to lease the forest. He was confident that with Hashem’s help he would be able to manage the assets, repay the debt, and realize a nice profit. However, השגחה עליונה (Divine Providence) arranged for the price of wood to suddenly plummet.
The chasid quickly made some hard calculations and concluded that if he were to go through with the deal he would go bankrupt and not be able to repay his debts. He braced himself and went to the Poritz, not known for his easygoing ways, saying he wanted to back out of the deal and to get his money back.
The Poritz answered: “Nothing doing, Jew! A deal is a deal and I’m not returning your money.”
The noble chasid maintained his mastery over the situation, knowing that he had an avenue of salvation: he hurried straight to the Rebbe, the Bais Aharon, to pour out his heart. The Rebbe calmed him down and counseled him to return to the Poritz with the message, “The Stoliner Rebbe demands that you return my money.” He said, “Even if the Poritz gets angry, don’t be afraid because he cannot harm you.” The chasid had strong Emunah (faith) in his Rebbe and he went to the Poritz.
When he came to the Poritz he noticed that the Poritz was deep into a business meeting with some older Poritz from the neighbouring gubernia-district. He waited patiently until they were finished. That meeting turned out to be the key to his salvation.
After the meeting, the Poritz noticed the chasid and asked him, “What do you want now?”
The chasid remained focused and said, “The Stoliner Rebbe demands that you return my money.”
This enraged the Poritz and he yelled, “Who is the Stoliner Rebbe? I never heard of him! You think I’m going to listen to some Rebbe?!”
The older Poritz overheard this exchange and decided to do his younger colleague a big favor. He said, “If the Stoliner Rebbe demands that you return his money you had better do so, my friend. You don’t want to start up with this Rebbe or the story will have a bitter ending!”
The older Poritz continued, “I don’t know where he gets his powers from, but let me tell you about the rough encounter I once had with him… Some Jew once rented an inn from me and wasn’t able to pay the rent. I waited and waited until I lost my patience, and one blustery, snowy winter night, I threw the Jew and his whole family out into the snow. To me, it was just a businesslike thing to do and I went home to my warm house and lay down to rest. As I was lying in bed, I saw a distinguished-looking man standing in front of me who admonished me in strong and stern words, ‘I am the Stoliner Rebbe; how dare you throw my chasid and his family out into the snow! Go find them now and let them back into their warm inn.’ I thought it was a dream and I turned over onto my other side. But minutes later, exactly the same apparition reappeared, only this time, there was an explicit threat, ‘Let them back in or else you will suffer greatly.’ I apologized to the man, got dressed and found the poor family. They were half-frozen to death. I took them to the inn and warmed them up. I didn’t hear again from the Rebbe.”
“Now,” continued the old Poritz, “I advise you not to start up with the Stoliner Rebbe. If he demands you return the money you had better do so, if you know what’s good for you!”
The young Poritz hung on the older Poritz’s every word and returned the Yid’s money immediately.
When Harav Hatzadik Reb Aharon of Chernobel heard this story he commented, “There is not another Tzaddik who would be able to do what Rav Aharon of Karlin did to save his chassidim.” זכותו יגן עלנו.