Reb Meir’l of Premishlan
Died : 29 Iyar 1850
Erev Rosh Chodesh Sivan, 29 Iyar, is the yahrzeit of the famous tzadik, Reb Meir’l of Premishlan. He was the son of R’ Aron Aryeh Leib of Premishlan, who was the son of R’ Meir “HaGadol” of Premishlan, a student of the Baal Shem Tov. When Reb Meir’l was a little boy he was already something very special. His mother commented on this saying: “Meirlech like this don’t grow in every garden” (Meirlech means carrots in Yiddish).
Reb Meir of Premishlan was a great tzadik whose holiness and ruach hakodesh was acknowledged by Jews from far and wide who sought advice and blessings from him.
One day a woman was admitted into his study. As soon as she set eyes on the Rebbe she burst into tears. “ What is troubling you?” Reb Meir asked. The sobbing woman could barely speak, but she managed to get out the words, “ Rebbe, I have no children; please give me your blessing.”
The Rebbe was full of compassion for the woman’s pain and he replied to her, “ May it be Hashem’s will that your request be fulfilled.”
Armed with the holy man’s blessing, the woman confidently went home and waited for his words to be realized. Not a year had passed when Rabbi Meir received a letter from a distant city from a person he did not know.
When he read the letter and removed the papers contained in the envelope, he was shocked to find a bank note for the tremendous sum of 300 rubles. The letter read: “My wife has just given birth to a child thanks to the Rebbe’s blessing. I beg the Rebbe to accept this gift in gratitude.”
Far from being pleased, Reb Meir’s distress was apparent, as he extended his hand to put the bank note on the far side of the table as if he wanted to remain as distant from it as possible. Then he called his children to come to him at once to discuss an important matter.
When they arrived, he brought them into his room and pointed to the letter: “ Today I received a letter which is brimming with errors and falsehoods. For one thing, it refers to me as a holy man and that is patently false. Secondly, the entire premise of the letter is false, for this man credits me with the birth of his son. How ridiculous! What do I have to do with such lofty matters as birth and death? Am I a holy man that I have control over these things? I have therefore decided to return the money to him at once.”
His children were shocked. The eldest spoke first. “ Father, we are very poor. Perhaps Hashem has taken pity on us and decided to end our poverty through this man. Maybe it would be wrong and ungrateful of us not to make good use of it.”
Everyone agreed. Only the Rebbe staunchly maintained that the money must be returned to the misguided sender.
They turned the matter over this way and that, but it became clear that no consensus could be reached. The family decided to bring their dilemma to a rabbinical court, a beis din. The judges listened to both sides of the case and then reached their decision – the Rebbe should keep the money. It was true that Rebbe Meir was such a modest man that he denied being a tzadik whose blessings could have helped the childless woman, but the woman and her husband obviously thought differently. In their estimation it was the Rebbe’s prayers that brought about the birth of their child, and they gave the money purely as a gift from their hearts. Therefore, it was perfectly fine to keep the gift.
The Rebbe and his children left the rooms of the beis din in very different moods. The children were satisfied that their opinion had been upheld by the judges. The terrible poverty in which they lived would be alleviated at least for a time. Their father, however, was brought no peace by the decision. For although the rabbinical court had ruled that he was completely justified in keeping the money, his own heart was uneasy. He decided to take the problem to his wife, the Rebbetzin. As his life’s companion and a woman whose vision was always clear, she would be the final arbiter of this case, for he trusted her judgment completely.
The Rebbe and his children entered the house and asked the Rebbetzin to come and sit with them; they had something of great importance to discuss with her. When the family was seated around the table, the Rebbe filled her in on all the details of the problem, leaving out nothing, but stressing his own unease with the reason for receiving the gift.
Her children, on the other hand, stressed how much easier their lives would be now, since Hashem had clearly wanted to help them out of their troubles by sending them this money.
She listened wordlessly to both sides and then turned to her husband. “ My dear husband, all your life you have guarded yourself from even tasting food that had a question about its kosher status. Even when you discovered that it was 100% kosher you refrained from eating it, because its permissibility had been in question. Now we are faced with the same situation, the only difference being that the question is on the permissibility of money and not on food. Why should you act any differently now?”
Reb Meir smiled at her. He stood up, walked into his room, took the bank note and put it into an envelope which he addressed to the sender. That very day it was deposited in the post and the hearts of the Rebbe and Rebbetzin were content.