FIT TO BE TRIED

The famine in Russia that year was worse that anybody could ever remember. Slowly but surely the markets became bare and soon there was only a meager selection of vegetables and the barest amount of groat bread and margarine for sale.

Letters from all over Russia began to arrive in Shpole. These emergency messages were addressed to the Tzaddik, the Shpoler Zayde, for he had always been able provide for the poor and downtrodden of his people. He was called the Zayde, (grandfather) on account of his great spiritual and practical benevolence. He himself was in such anguish over the famine that he could only partake of a few bites of bread and some tea for weeks on end. Who could beseech Hashem that the decree be rescinded. Even the Gentiles looked to the Jews for help them, and the Jews looked to the Shpoler Zayde. Still, Hashem wasn't answering prayers for food. The famine spread.

The Shpoler Zayde decided on a bold course of action. He requested 10 of the generation's most venerated Tzaddikim including, Reb Zusha of Anipoli, Reb Shimshon of Shipitovka and Reb Wolf of Zhitomir, to meet with him in Shpole.

When they had all finally arrived a few days later, he seated them around a long and broad table then arose to address them. "My Masters', I have decide to press charges and to take the Almighty to court. While according to the law of the Torah, the plaintiff must take his case to the place where the defendant is located, nevertheless Hashem is called Makom (the place) and there is no place devoid of His presence. Not only this, but as we all know, a place where there is a gathering of 10 men is considered a dwelling place of the Shechinah. (divine presence) Therefore, the court case will conducted here in this chamber". The attendant then announced, "Reb Aryeh Leib ben Rachel hereby summons the Almighty to a lawsuit in this location three days from now."

For the next three days the Tzaddikim fasted and prayed, allowing no one to interrupt them. On the fourth day, wrapped in his Tallis and crowned in his Tefillin, the Shpoler Zayde instructed his attendant to call the court to order.

The Shpoler Zayde presented his case. "In the name of all of the men, women and children in Russia, I come to claim that the defendant, The Almighty, is failing to live up to His obligation to His People. Instead of sustaining them as is written, "He opens up His hand and satisfies every living thing with His favor" (Psalms 145), he is allowing them to perish from hunger." "Does not the Torah itself state, 'For the Children of Israel are bondsmen to me, they are my bondsmen . . .'? (Lev. 25:55) They belong to the Almighty for eternity. And doesn't the Law as stated in the Mechilta and the Talmud require the master to provide for the wife and children of the bondsman? How can the Almighty disregard His own Torah?

Now I can imagine that some prosecuting angel might argue in the defense of the Almighty that these servants do not serve the Master properly as they should. 'Nevertheless', I would answer him, 'Where is written that if the servant is lazy and unfaithful therefore his wife and children should suffer? Furthermore, it is all the fault of the Master Himself. For He burdened His servants with a Yezter Hara (base inclination), which constantly tries his loyalty. I am confident that were it not for this Yezter Hara, they would provide the Almighty with the most praiseworthy service."

With that, the Shpoler Zayde fell silent. He slumped into his chair, exhausted from the ordeal of bringing a lawsuit against the Almighty. Clutching his head in his hands, he awaited the verdict.

The judges huddled, discussing the case amongst themselves for some time in hushed, solemn tones. Finally, Reb Zusha rose to his feet to announce the verdict.

"The court finds", he declared, "that justice is with Reb Aryeh Leib ben Rochel. The Almighty is therefore obligated to find whatever means He deems appropriate to provide for His people. It is our prayer that the Heavenly Court concur with the decision of this court."

Then all the Tzaddikim rose to their feet, and declared the verdict aloud three times in unison, sealing the outcome.

The Shpoler Zayde jumped to his feet with great joy, and called for refreshments to be served. The food restored their strength a bit and they bouyantly drank L'Chayim together, celebrating the victory. Then each Tzaddik left to return to his home town in expectation of the salvation to come.

It was only five days later that the Russian government announced that they would soon be bringing inexpensive wheat and other grains from Siberia over a previously inaccessible route. The price of available grain plunged, as merchants scrambled to cash in before the arrival of the new stock.

Within the month, new supplies were on the market. That whole year, even the family with the most humble of means had plenty to eat.