(Courtesy: Ruth Gardin)
It was Sivan of 5567/1807, and thousands of joyous Chasidim were anticipating the wedding that would unite two illustrious dynasties. The chatan, Yekusiel-Zalman, was the son of Yosef-Bunim Wallis, who was the son-in-law of the great Rebbe, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev. Yekusiel was about to be wed to Baila, the daughter of Rabbi Dov Ber, (later to be known as) the Mittler Rebbe, who was the eldest son and eventual successor to Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the Baal HaTanya, the first Chabad Rebbe.
The town of Zhlobin was chosen as the setting for the wedding. It was equidistant from the towns of Berditchev and Liadi, and also many Chabad Chasidim resided there. The chupah was set to take place on Friday afternoon, as was the custom in those times, and the festive meal would follow on Friday night.
On the morning of the wedding day, the wife of the Baal HaTanya came in anguish to her husband. She had willingly agreed to prepare the entire Friday night meal, as the custom was that the meals of the first Shabbat after the wedding should be prepared by the kallah’s side, but there was a significant problem. There was no fish available!
How could there be a Shabbat wedding meal be without fish? Furthermore, she had heard that Rabbi LeviYitzchak had a custom to always eat fish at mitzvah and festive meals, about which he was very strict; if there was no fish, he would simply recite Kiddush and HaMotzi and partake of the wine and chalah bread, but would not eat anything of the remainder of the meal.This would surely be unfitting for such a joyous occasion.
Rabbi Shneur Zalman declared that Rabbi Levi Yitzchak himself should be consulted. When the Berditchever heard about the dilemma, he asked in wonder, “Could it be that there will not be fish for Shabbat? Are there no rivers in this town?” The messenger of the Chabad Rebbetzen responded, “The Dnieper River flows nearby, but the river does not have fish.”
Upon hearing this, the Berditchever summoned a horse and buggy and sent a message inviting his mechutan [relative-by-marriage], the Baal HaTanya, to join him at the bank of the river.
When they arrived there, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak removed a handkerchief and waved it over the river, all the while murmuring verses from [the Shabbat song in Aramaic composed by the holy Ari of Tsfat in honor of the Friday night meal] Azamer b’Shvachin. When he reached the words in the seventh stanza, “vinunin im rachashin,” which is Aramaic for fish and fowl, he called them out loud.
Suddenly, schools of fish cane swimming towards them from all directions. People ran to get their nets, and soon their buckets were filled with fish, in honor of the holy Shabbat day.
(Courtesy: Ruth Gardin)