(Adapted by Yrachmiel Tilles from “From My Father’s Shabbos Table”)
A well-known preacher once came to Berditchev before Rosh Hashonah and requested permission from the head of the community to preach. “I am a widely-acclaimed preacher,” he said, “and consider myself worthy of preaching in the shul of Rebbe Levi Yitzchok.”
“I would gladly allow you to preach in any other shul. If, however, you wish to speak in Rebbe Levi Yitzchok’s shul, you must ask him for permission.”
The preacher went to the Rebbe and presented his request. “I will grant you permission on condition that I say a few words before your speech,” said the Rebbe.
Word spread quickly that a visiting preacher would be speaking in Rebbe Levi Yitzchok’s shul on Rosh Hashonah and that the Rebbe would speak to the people before-hand. Crowds of people flocked to the shul and listened attentively as the Rebbe made his introduction.
“Master in Heaven, today is the day of judgment. The Satan will come before You to accuse the Jewish people. Do not listen to him, for You have written in Your Torah, ‘One witness shall not suffice to accuse in judgment.’
“This visiting preacher has come to preach in our city. Should his words contain accusations against Your people do not hearken to his words. Do not accept him as a second witness. He is unfit to pass testimony for he has a personal interest in the matter. He is preaching only because he is in need of funds to marry off his daughter.
“However, if his words are commendable to Your people, listen to them, though he is only one witness. Our sages have taught us that while the testimony of a single witness is not sufficient to obligate a person, it is sufficient for a vow to be taken. And, You have made a vow to our forefathers…”
The preacher was at loss for words. The talk he had prepared was filled with fire and brimstone, condemning the people for their many faults. He forfeited his chance to speak and the crowd dispersed.
After Rosh Hashonah, Rebbe Levi Yitzchok himself collected money for the needy preacher and provide him with the funds necessary to marry off his daughter.