10/11/2007

RatRabbi

A few weeks ago, there was a complaint in the nursery school of my son that there are mice in the building. before American readers become horrified, you should know that major construction sites in Israel often cause rodent problems. Their habitats are destroyed, and they look for new places to hang out. The school is right near a construction site, so the appearance of a mouse is not shocking.

Tuesday afternoon, before the doctor's visit that landed me in the hospital, I picked my son up at school. I noticed a picture of an old Jewish looking fellow which was captioned as a 'segulah' against mice and other harmful things. I saw the name, but couldn't get enough of a handle on it to figure out who it is. Later, speaking to a friend who tends to know about this kind of thing. He said that the name of the Rebbe in question is Reb Yeshayaleh Steiner of Kerestirer:

I found some interesting stories about him. For example, here it says:

His picture is believed by many Jews to be an amulet of protection. Many store keepers in Israel have his picture in their stores to keep away mice. In the picture one can see that the Rebbe was facing down. Legend says that once Rabbi Chaim of Sanz placed his hands on Reb Yeshayale's head to bless him. From that point on, Reb Yeshayale never raised his head. He was known as a miracle worker and a great baal chesed. Thousands came to his funeral. At one point during the eulogies, the mail man from the town, who was not Jewish, spoke up in the middle and said "You don't have any idea who this man was. I personally handled his mail, and I know that he himself supported hundreds of poor families throughout Hungary."

HydePark also has a discussion about Reb Yeshayele, including the origins of his reputation for control over the rodent population. Two stories are mentioned: one is that he sent the local mice to the house of some local nobleman who was giving the Jews a hard time. This story includes eyewitness accounts of the mice marching in unison through the city to said nobleman's house. The second story describes how Reb Yeshayaleh promised someone who was sentenced to death for evading conscription would be saved. That night, mice entered the archive and destroyed the record of the guy's crime.

It's interesting that this nursery school, run by Chabad, would put up a picture of a Hungarian Rebbe whose Chasssidus has ties to Satmar, Chabad's nemesis. I guess pest control knows no ideological barriers. I hope they tried other 'segulos' as well, like laying traps.

As one of the HydePark commenters notes, it is easy to disbelieve these stories. Except that when I downloaded the picture to my computer, my mouse froze up!

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