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"You shall not desecrate My holy Name, rather I should be sanctified among the Children of Israel; I am Hashem Who sanctifies you" (Vayikra 22:32).

Rabbi Chaim Chizkiyahu Medini was a phenomenal Torah scholar. His remarkable work, the Sedei Chemed, is a many-volume encyclopedia of the Talmud and its commentaries. In pre-computer days, to memorize so much information was almost supernatural. The following fantastic story, which I heard from Reb Shalom Shvadron zt"l, enlightens us as to why he was blessed with so much siyata diShemaya (Heavenly assistance).

When Rabbi Medini was a young man, he studied Torah in a Kolel (an advanced Judaic studies program for married men) which was supported by one of the rich men in his hometown. The Kolel consisted of a small group of avrechim (young, married men); all of whom were Torah scholars in their own right; but Reb Chizkiyahu was recognized by all as the brightest among them. Well, not really by all. Actually, there was one avrech among them who suffered from very bad character traits, and he was extremely jealous of the stature attributed to him. He always tried to convince the others that Chizkiyahu was not really as great as people believed. But to no avail. On the contrary, Chizkiyahu's impeccable reputation, both as a scholar and as a pious, devout servant of Hashem, seemed to grow bigger day by day. The envious avrech looked for an opportunity to besmirch his name. One day, he got his chance.

The benefactor of the Kolel used to pray together with the young men whom he supported. He was very proud of his group and of the great privilege which he had to be the one to sponsor them and, accordingly, to share in the merit of all of their learning and service of Hashem. In this world too, he saw manifold blessings in his business dealings, which he attributed to the merit of the avrechim who prayed for his success. He, too, recognized that young Chizkiyahu was the greatest among them and was destined to be one of the great Rabbis of the generation. Consequently, he always bestowed upon him special honors.

One day, the benefactor told his group that he would be gone on business for a while. He asked them to have him in mind in their studies and prayers so that he could be successful and return home as soon as possible. This was the opportunity the jealous avrech was waiting for. One day, he stealthily approached the young maid-servant of the rich man's household, and paid her handsomely to announce that Chizkiyahu had behaved with her in a manner not fitting for any pious Jew, certainly not for a talmid chacham (a Torah scholar). Being a poor girl, she was blinded by the prospect of making a quick buck and succumbed to the temptation. She spread an evil rumor which was designed to besmirch Chizkiyahu's reputation.

Unfortunately, people are very susceptible to rumors, and one can imagine everyone's shock to hear that this "holy" young man was far from the "angel" he purported to be. People began tummeling, and the members of the Kolel were no exception. Not surprisingly, the voice of the perpetrator of the rumor, the jealous avrech, could be heard above everyone else's. He riled people up against the "hypocrite" who had succeeded in fooling everyone but him. He had always known and argued that he was not really what people held him to be. He organized the members of the Kolel to go to their sponsor's wife and demand that she expel Chizkiyahu from the Kolel immediately, in order to save it from the humiliation he had brought upon it. However, the wise woman responded that such a move could not be made by anyone but her husband himself, and they would all have to wait for him to return and deal with the unfortunate situation which just "happened" to occur in his absence.

Most of the avrechim were disappointed that justice had not been done immediately, but the jealous avrech was quite content that he had accomplished his goal. He had undermined Chizkiyahu's standing, and he did not mind waiting a few days or weeks for the final justice to be meted out against him.

All the while, Reb Chizkiyahu remained silent. He was quite aware of the libel which had been aroused against him, although he could not possibly fathom who would do such a despicable thing or why. He was very concerned that he had been framed, not so much for his own honor as for the Honor of Heaven. It was certainly a great chillul Hashem (desecration of Hashem's Name) that people were talking nonstop about the misbehavior of a reputable talmid chacham. Nevertheless, he knew that his denial would go unheeded and perhaps would even enflame his opponents even more. He decided, therefore, to put his trust in Hashem alone, and continued to learn, as if nothing had happened, awaiting the day of their sponsor's return.

That day came soon enough. The benefactor returned home from a very successful business trip and, no sooner had he arrived, when he was visited by the group of avrechim, led, of course, by the jealous avrech himself. They greeted their patron warmly, apologizing for disturbing him so soon but explaining that since there was a burning matter at hand they had no choice but to approach him immediately so that he could deal with it and save his Kolel from the disgrace which one of their members had brought upon it.

The patron was shocked by what he heard, but decided not to act hastily. He went to the Beis Midrash (study hall) which housed his Kolel, walked up front before the Aron Hakodesh (the Holy Ark of the Torah scrolls), and fixed his gaze on the accused young man. Reb Chizkiyahu could feel the man's glare examining him from head to toe, but he just continued to learn in complete devotion and piety. The benefactor stood there for what seemed to be an eternity, all the while not removing his sights from his prize avrech. Everyone held his breath to hear his ruling. Finally it came.

"This young man," he said slowly and deliberately, "is holy and pure. I hereby decree that any avrech who dares to even speak against him any more will be expelled from my Kolel immediately!" Having said that, the righteous ba'al habayis (layman) went home and promptly fired his maidservant.

The jealous avrech realized that his plan had failed, but there was nothing else he could do. He knew that if he tried anything, he risked losing his own source of support. He had invested a lot into a plot which had not succeeded, but now he was totally helpless. He accepted his lot, shirked off the loss of money as a bad investment, and went back to learning. As a matter of fact, everything returned to "business as usual." Well, almost everything. It wasn't long before the maidservant used up the money she had been given by the jealous avrech and, without a job, she soon found her life to be extremely difficult. No one wanted to hire her, since everyone knew that she had been fired by her former boss and no one wanted to "get involved." She returned to the jealous avrech for help but he refused to even speak with her. There was nothing he could do for her.

Desperately, she formulated her only plan for survival. Full of shame, she approached Reb Chizkiyahu late one night, after the other avrechim had left the Kolel. Crying like a baby, she admitted to him that she had been paid by the jealous avrech to tarnish his reputation. But, due to the benefactor's wisdom and piety, it hadn't worked. Now, she said, she was out of a job and could not get any new employment. She was at her wits end.

Reb Chizkiyahu asked her what she wanted from him. She explained that she was willing to go public and tell the entire truth, if he would entreat her former boss on her behalf that he return her to her post. Reb Chizkiyahu smiled to himself. Finally, he understood what had happened. And finally he would be able to exonerate his name which had been so damaged by the wicked publicity the jealous avrech had stirred up against him, for no fault of his own. He thanked Hashem for providing him the opportunity to prove himself totally innocent.

But then he had a second thought. What had always bothered him, more than his own reputation, was the chillul Hashem which had been caused. What would he accomplish in that area by exposing the other avrech? True, people would no longer talk about the terrible things which they had attributed to him, but they would now talk about the terrible things which another talmid chacham had done to slander an innocent colleague purely out of jealousy. It would be the same chillul Hashem!

Reb Chizkiyahu decided what he had to do. He told the woman to hold her lip now and forever and he would go with her to another ba'al habayis in town whom he knew and recommend that he hire her. The "holy and pure" young man did exactly that and the woman was employed once again.

As Reb Chizkiyahu walked out of the man's house, having performed such a great act of complete selflessness, he suddenly felt a surge of supernatural comprehension affect his brain. From then on, he saw phenomenal blessing in his learning, infinitesimally more than ever before. He became one of the greatest Torah scholars, and his classic, Sedei Chemed, is studied around the world.

Many years later, Rabbi Medini was sitting in his study. Deeply engrossed in thought, the rabbi did not notice a student of his, standing before him observing him. Suddenly, the rabbi broke into a big smile. Upon getting his great rabbi's attention, the student asked him if he may know why he had smiled. The rabbi said that he had suddenly remembered an incident in his youth which was vitally instrumental in his success in learning. He subsequently related to him this beautiful story of his self control which paid off great dividends in this world and surely would benefit him greatly in the world-to-come.

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Jerusalem, Israel