Adapted from the L’Chaim Weekly Magazine
The shul began to fill up long before sunset. People crowded in eagerly, despite the fast, to hear the Megillah reading that would soon take place, right after the evening prayer.
A feeling of gaiety and excitement filled the air. Children experimented with their graggers, to see how much noise they made. Some men spoke together quietly. Others took out books of Tehillim and began reciting Psalms.
Tears welled up in the poor woman’s eyes. “Oh no,” she sobbed. “What will I do now?”
Soon Reb Levi Yitzchak, the Rav of Berdichev, would show up to lead the davening. People tried to hold a place for themselves near the front, so they would be able to hear him clearly.
More and more people crowded in. The hour grew late. It was time for the evening prayer, and since the day before Purim is a fast, no one understood, what was the delay.
Why was Reb Levi Yitzchak not there?
In fact, Reb Levi Yitzchak had been on his way to join everyone else in shul, when his secretary told him that a woman wanted to see him.
At a glance, Reb Levi Yitzchak realized that she was very poor. She stood there timidly, holding a chicken in her hand. “E-excuse me, please, Rebbe, I have a question about this chicken. Is it kosher?”
Reb Levi Yitzchak looked at the chicken carefully, then he sighed. No, the chicken could not be eaten. It was not kosher.
Tears welled up in the poor woman’s eyes. “Oh no,” she sobbed. “What will I do now? My husband is sick, and there is no food in the house for the children. I spent my last pennies to buy this chicken. I hoped the soup would help my husband, and fill the stomachs of the children. They are so hungry. Now what will I do?” the woman broke down and wept.
“Do not worry,” said Reb Levi Yitzchak. “G-d is very great. He manages to feed the whole world every day. He will feed you and your family too.”
Then he smiled kindly. “Now you go to shul and listen to the Megillah, and don’t worry about a thing. Purim is a time of miracles. G-d has many ways of taking care of you.”
After the woman left, the Rebbe put on his overcoat, and went quickly to his home. Delicious smells of the Purim meal filled the house. Reb Levi Yitzchak went straight to the kitchen, and began gathering up all the food he could find, fish, chicken, potatoes, soup, vegetables, hamantashen, and other baked goods.
Then he took a large white tablecloth, bundled the whole lot together, and carried it out in his arms.
By now everyone in town had gathered in shul, and so no one saw as the Rav of Berdichev made his way through the streets, till he came to the poor house where the woman lived. The door was not locked and Reb Levi Yitzchak went in.
one saw as Reb Levi Yitzchak made his way to the poor house where the woman
“Who-who is that?” the surprised husband cried from his sickbed.
“G-d has sent you a Purim meal,” the Rebbe replied. Then he quickly set the table neatly and hurried back to shul.
As soon as Reb Levi Yitzchak took his usual place in shul, the evening service began, followed by the reading of the Megillah. Even though the people had all waited so long, and their stomachs gnawed with hunger, nobody left early. Everyone wanted to hear Reb Levi Yitzchak read the Megillah.
They were not disap-pointed. That year the Megillah reading seemed like it was a totally new story, full of meaning that people had never realized before. Somehow, people felt a special sense of inspiration when Reb Levi Yitzchak read the parts about sending presents of food to friends on Purim, and giving charity to the poor.
The message of Ahavas Yisroel, love for another Jew, that these Mitzvos express, seemed to penetrate the hearts of everyone. That was the real meaning of Purim. Upon hearing Reb Levi Yitzchak’s reading of the Megillah, everyone decided to make extra efforts to fulfill these Mitzvos better than ever.
After shul, when Reb Levi Yitzchak’s wife went home, she was startled to see that all the food she had prepared to break the fast was gone.
Oh no! What had happened? Had they been robbed?
“Levik!” she cried. “All the food is missing! Someone took all the food for our Purim meal!”
Reb Levi Yitzchak’s face was glowing with pleasure. The Rebbetzin knew her husband, and understood immediately what must have happened.
“Levik, did you take the food?” she asked.
He did not answer. Then he said, “Don’t worry. G-d is very great. He manages to feed the whole world every day. He will feed us too.”
Since there was nothing to eat, Reb Levi Yitzchak took a book from the shelf and sat down to learn. His wife put up a kettle of water for tea to break their fast. Then she pulled out leftovers from here and there, and scraped together a meal for the festival.
Meanwhile, the poor woman returned to her home and was astonished to find her husband and their little children all excited. The table was decked with food, and delicious aromas filled their poor home.
“What - where?” the woman gasped, lost for words.
“The table was decked with food and the little children began to dance around the table joyously, laughing and singing.”
“I heard someone come in,” her husband explained. “Whoever it was said, ‘Hashem sent you a Purim meal!’ By the time I got here, he was gone. It must have been Eliyahu himself! Can you believe that?” he laughed. “It’s a miracle. G-d remembered us after all. He did not forget. It’s really a Purim miracle.”
The woman, her husband, and the little children all began to laugh and dance around the table, with a joy they had not known in years. With deep gratitude to Hashem, and a sense of profound awe, they ate their Purim meal from Heaven.
The next morning, the little children told their friends about the great miracle that had happened, and how Eliyahu had visited their home. Then the children of the town told their parents. And their parents now understood why Reb Levi Yitzchak had been so late for shul the night before. He had been on a mission for Eliyahu HaNovi.
Taking a hint from their Rebbe, people outdid themselves sending generous presents of food to the poor family, and in sending food and charitable gifts to all the poor of the city.
And of course, they did not forget their own Rebbe, who had given away his own last morsels of food. Everyone knew that he did not like to accept presents, but it’s only Purim once a year, and this year he received so much Shaloch Manos that he had enough for his own meal, and plenty left over to distribute to the poor of the city of Berdichev.