Reb Yitzchock Shapiro of Neshchiz, zt”l
Passed away: 21 Shevat 5628 (1868)
Reb Yitzchock was born to the great and holy tzadik Reb Mordechai of Neshchiz. Rebbe Mordechai was a close disciple of Rabbi Levi Yitzchock of Berditchev (whose granddaughter he married) and also of Rabbi Baruch of Medzhibozh and the Chozeh of Lublin.
Reb Yitzchock was appointed Rebbe at a young age and served in this capacity for over 60 years. He was famous for his prayers and wonders and heavenly revelations. He was revered in all Chassidic circles as a holy man and exceptional Baal mofes.
A man suffering from eye problems once came before Rav Yitzchok to request a bracha for a refuah sheleimah. He stayed in Neshchiz for several weeks and on Erev Shabbos, the Rebbe saw him as he passed by to greet all the guests. The Neshchizer asked him to stand up, called him over and told him: “In previous generations, the Tzaddikim had the power to heal the sick because they were able to discern a person’s spiritual blemishes. They rectified the matter at its source, it’s root, healing the person from his sickness. For example, the Hebrew word for eye is equal in gematria to chochma and bina, which are known as the supernal eyes (aynei is 140, chachma is 73 and bina is 67 which together equals 140). In our time, however, no Tzaddik has the power or ability to discern such things. The most important thing, therefore, is complete faith – emunah shleima. If a person believes with complete emunah, then he can be saved and healed.” “This shall be my sign,” said the Neshchizer, meaning that if this person were healed it would mean that he had true emunah and if not, that was the cause of his failure to be healed.
On another occasion, a sick person came before Rav Yitzchock Neshchizer. Rav Yitzchok told him that while in his youth he could help. But now, in his older years, he no longer had the strength to help heal the sick. “I have great difficulty in bringing myself into the position to save these sick people,” he explained. “However, sometimes they are saved through my bracha alone.”
The Rebbe was once in the town of Ratneh and among the throngs of Chassidim and other Jews seeking his help and blessings, a woman came from Lithuania. She came in to receive the Tzaddik’s blessings but left without hearing clearly or understanding his blessings and words of advice. She turned to the gabbai and begged to be let back in.
The gabbai knew that the Rebbe was adamant that people should not return, because whatever bracha and words of advice were given to him from Heaven were sent only at the point of the person’s departure. The gabbai refused, but she begged and pleaded relentlessly. Eventually, she succeeded in annoying and pestering him so much that he became angry and said, “Don’t worry, I will find out what you need!”
“I need a teshuvah,” she told him. And so he gave it to her! The gabbai prescribed fasts, mortifications, and different forms of penitence that are given to those who wish to do teshuva for grievous offenses! The lady was placated and she left happily with the Tzaddik’s advice!
After the last guest had left, someone who had witnessed the gabbai’s prank brought the matter to Rav Yitzchock Neshchizer’s attention.
The Rebbe called the gabbai over and rebuked him, telling him the following tale:
“There once came a poor, unlearned simpleton before my father, Rav Mordechai of Neshchiz, zt”l. He bothered and annoyed the gabbai with his repeated requests to get a bracha and for the gabbai to write him a kvittel, and so on. He pestered the gabbai so much and made him so angry that he wrote him a kvittel all right! And on the note of petition he listed all manner of horrible offenses and terrible sins – the worst transgressions! In short, he wrote that he (the peasant farmer) was asking to do teshuvah for he had transgressed all the worst sins in the entire world! The poor, illiterate peasant happily took the kvittel that he could not read and presented it to my father. My father’s ruach hakodesh evaded him at that moment, and, upon reading the kvittel, he prescribed a fitting teshuvah! Many fasts, rolling in the snow, and all manner of self-mortification! The simple peasant had true emunas Tzaddikim and asked no questions. He had full faith and trust in my father, the Tzaddik. This is what the Rebbe had told him to do and so he did it! For three full years!!!
“When he came back to visit my father, he had been transformed into a great man! For these practices had refined his soul and made him into an adam gadol. From shamayim they had withheld my father’s ruach hakodesh so that this would happen. My father saw that a lofty soul now stood before him and asked him how he had reached such spiritual heights. When the simple farmer told him, ‘Three years ago, Rebbe, you prescribed for me to fast and afflict myself,’ my father investigated and realized what the gabbai had done.
“He then remarked to the gabbai, ‘You certainly placed your soul in danger. You are lucky. If those afflictions had harmed him, you would have been liable! Bedieved, fortunate and praiseworthy was that simple man who reached such lofty spiritual levels!”
A story is told of a man who suffered from a terrible illness, and traveled to the tzadik, Reb Yitzchock of Neshchiz, all the way from Germany begging him for a promise that he would be cured from his illness. Reb Yitzchock refused to make such a guarantee saying that he was unable to help him. But the man continued to beg him, asking him again and again and then placed his entire money pouch before the Rebbe, begging the Tzaddik to take whatever amount he wished as a pidyon to heal him.
The Rebbe answered him, “Please believe me, perhaps you will heal, but I simply cannot commit to promising you. The reason is your own fault and shortcoming. For I see that you have lost faith in Hashem. Your emunah in Hashem is weak. You have forgotten Him because you heard that in Neshchiz there is a wonder-working Rebbe who saves people. You have therefore placed all your faith and trust in me alone. The truth is that it is not I who saves. Salvation comes only from Hashem. Once you place your faith and trust in Hashem, from there your salvation shall come.”
He then recounted the following story: “There once came a couple before the Kozhnitzer Maggid. They had been robbed and the thieves stole all their belongings. When the husband and wife came before the Maggid, and asked him to help recover what was stolen, he said to them, ‘I tell you emphatically that it was not I who stole your things! I have witnesses and a sound alibi proving my whereabouts at the time of the theft so that you can tell I am innocent’!”
As the Maggid continued to protest that he had no hand in the theft, the astonished couple insisted that they had not come to blame the Maggid.
“Why then have you come to me if you do not suspect me?”
The couple began to beg the Tzaddik to help them recover their stolen property. They placed a golden coin on the table. The Kozhnitzer Maggid then told them that it was not enough. They added another coin, then another, as the Maggid continued insisting that the sum for Tzedaka was insufficient. Finally, he told them that he needed sixty golden coins and not one less! The poor couple were at their wits’ end! They emptied their purse but the sum fell short.
“No,” insisted the Kozhnitzer Maggid, “it has to be sixty!”
At this, the wife took a handkerchief, gathered all the coins and said to her husband as she turned to leave, “Come, let us go. Hashem can help us without this as well.”
This was what the Rebbe had been waiting for. “Aha!” he declared. “Now I can help you! Before, when all your emunah was to rely on me alone, I saw I could do nothing for you – you had forgotten Hashem! But now that you have placed your trust and faith in Hashem, I can help you for just that one original coin you offered for tzedakah!”
Zechoso yagein aleinu – May the merit of the Tzadik, Reb Yitzchock of Neshchiz protect us.