“What?!” The startled Tzaddik arose from his chair. “Nearly? You mean to say that you did not transgress?”
“The Rebbe will forgive me,” replied the agunah, “but he knows it quite well. It was through your holy and penetrating eyes that Moshe Chaim was sent home that night, to rescue me. It was thanks to you, Rebbe, that I did not slide all the way down.”
The Tzaddik barely kept his emotions in check.
“Did you tell your husband all of this before he left his home for good?”
“I was too frightened and ashamed to say anything. And what difference would it really have made?”
“A huge one,” said the Tzaddik in a quivering tone. “While our benevolent and merciful Creator credits our heavenly account for the mere thought of performing a mitzvah, as though it was actually carried out, He does not reckon intent to transgress as a done deed.”
When the Tzaddik finally came around to asking the reason for her sudden appearance before him, Soreh’le pointed to the small piece of folded paper that lay on his table. In his preoccupation with his surprise visitor, the Rebbe had hardly taken notice of the customary petitioner’s note.
“I’ve come about a shidduch for my daughter… it’s all there in the kvitel.”
The Apter Rav, perusing the kvitel’s content, exclaimed with incredulity, “You don’t mean to suggest that I propose the illustrious Berel’le Sofer, a dear and close relation of mine who has no shortage of elite shidduchim, as a match for the daughter of Soreh’le the agunah?”
Soreh’le was quick to set things straight. “For the daughter of R. Moshe Chaim, Rebbe – your Moshe Chaim – for a virtuous bas Yisrael who shouldn’t have to bear the brunt of my sins. In truth, Berel’le is a most suitable shidduch for my daughter.”
The agunah unflinchingly went on to elaborate that the issue was by now a work in progress, that Dovid Sofer had already given his consent to the match but had informed the shadchan that he would consult with his Rebbe tonight prior to making anything official.
“All I ask of you, heiliger Tzaddik, is that you take pity on a child of Moshe Chaim and give your approval to the shidduch.”
The Rebbe marveled at the forthrightness of the woman before him who, in stark contrast to the many who came to him to seek his counsel, saw fit to dictate how he should advise others.
Aloud he postulated, “I will concede that the mechutanim are quite compatible, and that a shidduch is min hashamayim [heavenly ordained].”
In the interim, the Rebbe’s chassidim had become increasingly concerned, baffled by their Rav’s delay in proceeding with the Mincha prayer service, especially on the eve of Chanukah.
The Tzaddik found himself engrossed in the event that had just unfolded before him. Instead of directing his energies on correcting the world’s ills through the koach of the mitzvah of the Chanukah light, his focus now centered entirely on how to rebuild a shattered home and repair a splintered family.
The heartrending words of the agunah had had a profound impact on the Tzaddik. Who, after all, could claim never to have entertained a thought or a yearning to sin?
Moreover, who in his mind had not already done so? And the enduring of so much pain and suffering! The Gemara teaches that suffering cleanses a person of sin. And does it not also state that a true penitent is considered to be on higher ground than a Tzaddik? That would actually place the agunah on quite an elevated plane.