Once in the village of Bober, a group of Chasidim gathered to discuss matters of the spirit and tell inspiring stories late into the night. One of those in attendance offered the following tale:
“I’m going to tell you how I came to be born into this world. My mother was married to a man for ten years, but they were not blessed with children. As is sometimes done, they divorced, in the hope that children would be born from another marriage. After the divorce my mother remarried, but after another ten years of marriage with her second husband, she still had not had children.
“Her second husband was bitterly disappointed and wanted to divorce her, hoping to remarry, and have children with a different wife. My mother, however, refused to accept the divorce, since she knew that the likelihood of her remarrying after this was remote.
“In spite of the law which clearly allows childlessness as a basis for divorce, my mother insisted that they go to a Jewish court.
“The great rabbi who was asked to head the trio of rabbinical judges at this court-hearing was the illustrious Chasid and legal expert, Rabbi Hillel of Paritch. After hearing the particulars of the case, he agreed to head the court, but only on the condition that the court sit in Lubavitch, in the presence of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel (known as the Tzemach Tzedek).
“To everyone’s great surprise, the Rebbe agreed to this request, and the court met in Lubavitch. The day of the proceeding arrived and both sides presented their arguments. The judges listened carefully and then went to confer amongst themselves.
“Finally, Reb Hillel, the chief judge, spoke: ‘It is the opinion of this court that G-d should grant this couple healthy children. In this way, the matter will be resolved to the satisfaction of all concerned.’
“When he heard this verdict, the Tzemach Tzedek smiled broadly. He was heard to say in a quiet voice, ‘Indeed, they should have children.’
“And so,” concluded the Chasid, “here I am!”
Word had spread that Rebbe Tzvi Elimelech of Dinov was gravely ill and that his hours, perhaps minutes, were numbered. His family and disciples crowded around his bed, waiting in trepidation, hoping to hear some last words from his holy lips which would remain with them and guide them in their lives.
As they gazed at his face, they reflected on its expression of profound concentration and assumed that their master was meditating on some sublime spiritual thoughts. How could they have assumed that he would spend his last moments in this world communicating with them?! But just then his eyes opened and traversed the room, focusing on each person there. They saw that his eyes finally fixed on one particular unfamiliar individual who had been standing off in a corner of the room. They pushed him forward so that the Rebbe could see him more easily. Everyone was anxious to see what the Tzadik wanted with this man.
“Reb Shmuel,” the Rebbe was heard to murmur, “what is it that you have come to ask me?”
“Rebbe,” the man said, “it’s about the wool I bought… what should I do about it?”
“Don’t worry, Reb Shmuel,” the Rebbe whispered. “Just keep it until next winter. Then the prices will rise and you will make a nice profit.”
Then, before the eyes of all his family and Chasidim, the Rebbe closed his eyes and his soul departed from his body.
The heartbroken mourners couldn’t stop talking about the Rebbe’s last words. What could the Tzadik have meant by those cryptic words he uttered to the complete stranger who captured his attention in his final moments on earth. The stranger certainly must have been one of the 36 hidden saints in whose merit the world stands. Why, he disappeared as mysteriously as he had appeared! And who could explain the mystical concepts behind the words “Wool,” “next winter,” and “nice profit”? Each Chasid had his own interpretation of the Rebbe’s words.
After a few days, Rabbi David, Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech’s son, heard about the speculation. He called some of the senior Chasidim to him and offered the explanation of his father’s last words:
“There is no mystery at all about my father’s words; there is only the true expression of his profound love for each and every Jew. You never noticed Reb Shmuel, but he used to come often to my father to ask for his advice and blessing on his business decisions. Not too long ago, he purchased a large lot of wool. After he invested almost all his money in the wool, as well as large borrowed sums, prices took a sharp decline. He was worried sick about the possible loss of all of his assets and how he would cover all the debt he incurred borrowing to make the purchase.
“He decided to come to my father at once to ask his advice in this matter, but he had no idea that my father was ill. When he came, he saw a large crowd going into my father’s room, and he just followed the others. But, when Father saw him, he realized that Reb Shmuel had probably come to ask his advice on some matter of concern, and so, he inquired what he needed. For my father, the need of a fellow Jew was his highest priority, and so, even in his last moments, he sought to assure the worried man that all would be well.