The Stern Preacher’s Eulogy For An Informant

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The Yahrzeit of Rabbi Yehudah Leib “Mochiach” of Polonnoye (d. 1770) is commemorated on the 21st of Tevet. The following meise / hasidic tale appeared in Sefer HaHasidut, Meah Tzadikim, Raphael, Yitzchak, 1961, Tel Aviv. (Freely translated by Gabbai Seth Fishman.)

The Stern Preacher’s Eulogy For An Informant

In the times of the Mochiach (stern preacher) of Polonnoye, there was an informant in the town who caused the people a lot of grief through his livelihood of turning other Jews over to the authorities.

One day he got sick and died.

The Mochiach instructed the officiating Chevra Kadisha to let him know when it was time for the funeral.

When they informed him, he went and joined the procession.

When the townspeople saw that the Mochiach is walking in the procession to the informant’s funeral, every single Jew joined the procession, both men and women.

The son of the informant rejoiced greatly that the Mochiach was paying his respects to his father and was walking by himself to accompany the deceased.

The Mochiach walked to the cemetery.

As soon as they came with the deceased and the casket was brought to rest near the Ohel / covering as was the custom, the Mochiach approached the Ohel and stood near the deceased to speak the eulogy for him.

The informant’s son was very happy.

Then the Mochiach‘s words began with a comparison and, it went like this:

“One time a lord had a certain dog and his name was Brittany.”

When the relatives heard the start of the eulogy, they understood that he would be speaking to the informant’s discredit, and they repeatedly threatened to summon the lord’s servants who would be free to disgrace the Mochiach or to beat him.

Reb Meir of Yalkes, who was there, tried to restrain the Mochiach, grabbing the hem of his garment, whispering to him that the sons of the informant had gone to report on him. But he was undaunted and continued:

“This dog had it really good with the lord, for he could snatch continually all kinds of game when the lord would sally forth for hunting. But now the day has come when this dog has died.”

And the Mochiach pointed with his hand to the deceased.

And there was joy among the “animals”. And this “fox”, most clever of all animals, said to them:

“Oy, fools, about what are you so joyful? If he had died before the rest of the dogs had learned from him to grab animals, it would be appropriate to rejoice. Now that the rest of the lord’s dogs have already learned from him how to hunt animals it would actually have been better if he were still living.

“For when the rest of the dogs saw that when they tried to hunt game the dog Brittany would come up and snatch from them what they had already hunted through their own initiative and, that he would then bring it to the lord and  get all the credit, all the dogs stopped hunting. For, they said, ‘why go to all the trouble for no credit!’ However, now that that dog, Brittany, is dead, all the dogs will revel in hunting anew to raise their esteem in the eyes of the lord.

“And we will find that many, many hunting dogs will grab what’s been hunted by others — and about what is there for you to rejoice?”

 And the Mochiach added:

“That is what is intended in the phrase, ‘And I praise the dead who have already died more than the living,’ (Ecclesiastes 4:2). For if the informant had died before others learned the grabbing from him, there would have been ‘praise’ for his dying. But, it’s not the case in this situation now, there is no joy for his being dead, ‘more than the living’ — because the rest of the informants are still alive.”

And the Besht (z’l) said that a dog had been standing ready, a dog named Brittany, and that as soon as the informant was buried, his soul was to have reincarnated into this dog. But the Mochiach‘s disgracing of him in his eulogy reprieved the informant from this punishment.

(Praises for the Baal Shem Tov)

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