yorzeit of Rav Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev (1740-1810)
Two Stories, One Tradition?
There were two widows that were chained as agunahs during the time of Rav
Levi Yitzchok of Barditchov. There was no conclusiive evidence of their
husband's passing and so they could not remarry. When the Berditchever Rav
found a way to permit them to remarry he received a rebuke from the eminent
sage Rav Ephraim Zalman Margolias of Broydie who said "Although you may see
using ruach hakodesh that these women can remarry you certainly cannot use
it to rule on a halachic matter!"
"But I did not use ruach hakodesh, I used a logical argument!" protested Rav
Levi Yitzchak, he then presented the complex halachic argument which he had
used to arrive at his ruling. As the two prominent rabbonim and Torah
scholars jousted and dueled using arrays of complex Talmudic logic building
and destroying eachother's edifices of arguments finally Rav Margolias
acceded to the Berditchever's use of logic although he still argued at his
When they had concluded Rav Levi Yitzchak brought both of the deceased
husband's souls back to reveal themselves before Rav Margolias. One of the
souls was silent, however the other cried out saying "How can you let our
wives remarry?!" So saying he began to build his own halachic argument
against the permit, citings numerous sources to back up his claims. Rav
Margolias had known the deceased, and during his lifetime he was not a Torah
scholar, "If during your lifetime you were not a Torah scholar," he asked
the soul, "how did you become so learned now after your passing?"
"When I died, it was al kiddush Hashem, in sanctification of G-d's Divine
Name. Now the gates of Kiddush Hashem and the Heichal HaTorah - adjoin
eachother and when they brought my soul up through there I gained all this
knowledge," the soul explained.
"Why is the other one silent?" Rav Margolios asked. "When we were both
killed, I had in mind that I was giving my life to sanctify G-d's name, my
friend however although he too had that in mind, also had an ulterior motive
thinking that perhaps now that he would be famous as someone who died al
kiddush Hashem, perhaps his orphans would have an easier time with
shidduchim for marriage. Therefore he was punished with one years silence."
(Based on Gut Voch p 173-174)
R' Tal Moshe Zwecker
Director Machon Be'er Mayim Chaim
Chassidic Classics in the English Language
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