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  • Writer's pictureGamliel Beyderman

An Icy River That Still Flows

Just a few days ago, the 19th of Shvat, marked an important day for thousands of people. The common thread between them is their shared lineage, as all of them are descendants of the Tzaddik, The Shpoler Zeide.

A Fateful Bris

In the year 1793, the Shpoler Zayde was in the town of Boguslav, about half-way between Shpole and Kiev. The river Ros divides the town of Boguslav. In this town, on the other side of the river, a son was born to one of the villagers and the Bris (circumcision) was to be on a Friday, the nineteenth day of Shvat. The father of the child invited the Shpoler Zayde to be at the Bris, as Mohel or Sandek.

In those days river travel was accomplished during the winter months by sled and during the summer months by rowboat or ferry. There were periods between winter and spring when ice packs made boat travel impossible, yet there were many spots where the ice was not frozen enough to sustain a sled filled with passengers, making river crossing a dangerous undertaking.

That Friday, the nineteenth of Shvat, happened to be one of those dangerous times to cross the river. The Shpoler Zayde, traveling in a sled, safely crossed the Ros River on his way to the Bris. However, upon his return, the ice broke, endangering the lives of everyone riding in the sled.

At this moment, the Zayde saw, that in Heaven, a terrible decree was proclaimed against him. He cried out to all the Chassidim present: “Whoever wishes to replace me, I promise him ”Olam Haba“ (the world to come)!” Whoever would give his life for the Shpoler Zayde would be guaranteed a place in the world to come.

“I wish to replace the Zayde!”, shouted his “Gabbai” (beadle) Yollek. And so it was; his “Gabbai” Yollek drowned and the Shpoler Zayde was spared.

Yollek is Not in Gan Eden!

That Friday evening, the Zayde did not signal to start the Shabbos services at the scheduled time (It was the Zayde’s custom to pray in a private room within the regular Shul, when he was ready to pray, he would open the door, motion to the assembled to start the services and pray along with the Minyan).

While all the congregants were puzzled at the unusual delay, no one dared disturb the Zayde to find out its cause.After several hours past the regular time for Kabolas Shabbos services, some of the elders finally gathered enough courage. With great reverence, they approached the Zayde’s room, knocked lightly on the door and informed him of the late hour.

“I don’t yet see Yollek in Gan Eden (Paradise)”, the Zayde replied. A while later the Zayde opened the door and said: “Yollek is already in Gan Eden – start the services.

”The following year, the Zayde instructed that all his children, grandchildren and future descendants should make an annual Seuda on the nineteenth day of Shvat, thanking the Almighty for the miracle that saved his life. The Zayde mentioned that no waiters should be hired for the occasion, rather everyone should be personally involved. He also emphasized the importance of inviting poor people to this Seuda.

Until Today

Indeed, members of Dr. Jeffrey Mark Paull’s extended family helped organize annual seudah’s in the Shpoler Zeide’s honor, and many extended family members frequented such events for many years as descendants of the Shpoler Zaide.

When Dr. Jeffrey Mark Paull, upon whose story the One Before Escape Room is based on, was researching his ancestry, he was in doubt as to whether he was truly descended of the Zeide. All he had to begin with was the written word of his aunt Bertha Paull Friedman, which despite its importance, could not be regarded as completely accurate. However, he was determined to ascertain the truth.

After months of hard work he finally hit upon a discovery that would lead to vital evidence. By incredible Divine Providence he discovered that his great-grandfather, Nathan Polansky, happened to have been born in Shpola, in the only year for which birth records still existed.

Dr. Paull got in touch with a translator, who in turn asked him for pictures of his great grandparents gravestones. He sent the pictures, and what was inscribed on those gravestones were veritable treasures. Nathan's gravestone was inscribed with information pertaining to his noble lineage.

“Here is buried an honest man, descendant of the Saba Kadisha of Shpola, and descendant of Pinchas of Karetz.”

This was clear cut proof of Dr. Paull’s connection to this great tzaddik, R’ Aryeh Leib, fondly known as the Shpoler Zeide or Saba Kadisha. Use the discount code ZeideShvat for a 25% discount!

This was no small discovery, for the Shpoler Zeide was truly special, widely recognized for his devotion to his fellow Jews, defending them before the strict judgments of both earth and Heaven. This is seen not only in the stories about him but even in the melodies attributed to him.

We invite you to learn more about the Zeide's legacy in our escape room dedicated to him!

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