(Courtesy: Mrs. Ruth Gardin)
It was Sivan of 5567/1807, and thousands of joyous Chasidim were anticipating the wedding that would unite two illustrious dynasties. The chassan, Reb Yekusiel Zalman, was the son of Reb Yosef Bunim Wallis, who was the son-in-law of the great Jewish defender, Reb Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev. Reb Yekusiel was soon to be wed to Baila, who was the daughter of Reb Dov Ber, later known as the Mittler Rebbe, who was the son of the Baal HaTanya, Reb Schneur Zalman of Liadi.
The town of Zhlobin was chosen as the setting for the wedding, as many of the Baal HaTanya’s Chasidim resided in Zhlobin, which was also equidistant from the towns of Berditchev and Liadi. The Chupah was going 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 Rebbetzen of the Baal HaTanya had a complaint. While the Rebbetzen was willing to prepare the entire Friday night meal, as the custom was that the meal would be prepared by the kallah’s side, there was one slight problem.
There was no fish available, and what would a Shabbos wedding meal be without fish? Furthermore, the Rebbetzen had heard that Reb Levu Yitzchak had a custom to always eat fish at a Seudas mitzvah, a festive meal, and if there was no fish, he would recite Kiddush and HaMotzi and not partake in the remainder of the meal.
This would surely be unfitting for such a joyous occasion. When Reb Schneur Zalman heard of the dilemma, he declared that Reb Levi Yitzchak himself should be consulted. When Reb Levi Yitzchak heard about the problem, he asked in wonder, “Could it be that there will not be fish for Shabbos? Are there no rivers in this town?” The messenger of the Rebbetzen responded, “the Dnieper River flows nearby, but the river does not have fish.” The Heilegeh Berditchever summoned a horse and buggy and he then sent a message inviting his mechutan, The Baal HaTanya, to join him at the banks of the river.
When they arrived at the river, Reb Levi Yitzchak removed a handkerchief and waved it over the river, all the while murmuring verses from the zemer Azamer b’Shvuchin, the famous zemer of the Arizal that is sung Friday night. Reb Levi Yitzchak then called out the words “vinunin urachashin,” which is Aramaic for fish and meat.
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 Shabbos.