(Courtesy: Yrachmiel Tilles)
As any old timer will tell you, Pinsk and Karlin are so near each other that they can almost be regarded as one town.
During the period that Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev was rav of Pinsk and the surrounding regions (before he moved to Berditchev), there lived in the neighboring town Rabbi Shlomo of Karlin.
One day R. Levi Yitzchak sent a messenger to request that R. Shlomo visit him in Pinsk on a certain day at a specified time. R. Shlomo duly arrived, and for a few hours they sat together, their faces ablaze with holy fire. But they did not exchange a single word. After a long time they both broke out in uproarious laughter. Soon thereafter, R. Shlomo returned to his home in Karlin.
This whole strange scene was witnessed by R. Levi Yitzchak’s attendant, who was so puzzled by it that he asked the rebbe to explain.
“All the Jews of our entire region,” said the tzadik, “were under the threat of a fearful verdict that was being considered in the Heavenly Court. The local gentile aristocracy had been consulting on the imminent expulsion of the Jews. They had therefore decided to call a meeting at which they would all sign a proclamation which would bring this into effect. I prayed with all my might that the evil decree be rescinded. But I received no answer.
“One day I implored with all my heart and soul and might, and I was told from Above that “Shlomo the son of Yuta” would be able to help out in this case, because Eliyahu the Prophet visits him frequently. I therefore asked to have him come here at the exact hour for which that fateful meeting had been called.
“R. Shlomo arrived, and it was then that we saw that every single nobleman there was giving his assent to the proposed decree! We were so seized by terror that we could not utter a word. At that moment, we saw Eliyahu the Prophet walk in and join their meeting in the guise of an elderly squire.
“It turns out that according to their procedures, any single one of them can veto a proposal. Eliyahu took his seat among them, and when the document reached him for his signature, he insisted loudly that he would never agree to such an edict. In fact, he would withhold his signature.
“This shattered their unanimity, and in the fracas that followed between their rivaling factions the document itself was torn to shreds.
“This was such a hilarious sight that we broke out in laughter. Imagine: a whole assemblage of fools allowing an utter stranger to upset their plans!”
[Adapted by Yrachmiel Tilles from the rendition in A Treasury of Chassidic Tales (Artscroll), as translated by our esteemed colleague Uri Kaploun from Sipurei Chasidim by Rabbi S. Y. Zevin.]