Hitbodedut at Night in the Forest

From the book Eliezer Eved Hashem

In the holy books it has been said that when a person is guarding himself in holiness and purity, there is nothing that can harm him, not a dangerous animal or anything else.

The next story happened one of the nights when the Rav went out to the forest to pray for the nation of Israel at chatzot halaila (midnight) together with one of his grandchildren. At one point the Rav requested that his grandson wait for him by the car and he went deep into the forest to be alone with his Creator.

One hour had passed since the Rav had entered the forest. His grandson saw that he was on his way back to the car. But then, the grandson caught his breath, because there was a group of giant wild dogs surrounding the Rav. The black dogs opened their mouths, showing sharp and scary teeth. The Rav’s grandson got scared and ran to hide behind a nearby tree. Suddenly, to his surprise, the Rav stopped walking for a minute. He turned around, and made a gesture to the dogs with his hands, as if he were requesting them to return to the forest. And what happened was wondrous. Not only did they not harm the Rav, but they obeyed the Rav like obedient sheep. They turned around and immediately disappeared deep into the forest.

* * *

On another occasion, those close to the Rav noticed his deep holiness. It was when the Rav was staying in Zimbabwe, Africa. One night the Rav went out with one of his students to the great jungle to be alone with his Creator.

“Kavod Harav”, the student tried to warn him, “the jungle is full of dangerous animals, lions, and tigers that are just waiting to capture and eat someone in the middle of the night. Is this not dangerous? Even the non-Jews who live around here do not get close to this forest?!”

“A person who keeps the mitzvot will not experience bad things!” The Rav told the chassid to calm his fears. During all the time that the Rav was in the forest, no dangerous animals came close to him. After praying alone for awhile, the Rav entered a frigid lake to dip and purify himself before davening Shacharit. Then the chassid froze in fear. Next to where that the Rav was taking his dip was a motionless crocodile. The silence of the forest was a deadly quiet.

“Oy, vavoy!” the heart of the chassid was pounding! He already knew that motionless crocodiles were the ones that can quickly jump on people. He feared for the Rav’s safety. However, to his surprise, the crocodile did not even look towards the Rav. He remained in his place as if he were put there to guard the Rav, until the Rav finished his dip and came out of the water. This is the way of the tzaddikim who keep mitzvot with purity. They are not afraid of any creature in the world. They are only afraid of He whose glory fills all the worlds.

Translated from the book Eliezer Eved Hashem.  To order a copy click here.

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