20 Tishrei 5782 / Sunday, September 26, 2021 | Torah Reading: Sukkot
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Rebbe Nachman’s classic story about the jealous Turkish Pasha that tried to sabotage the Sultan’s Jewish Minister teaches that whatever one does has a boomerang effect…


“The Essential Rebbe Nachman”, Part 7

KAPTZIN PASHA, A story by Rebbe Nachman of Breslev
Once there was a Jew at the court of the Sultan of Turkey whom the Sultan loved and esteemed more highly than all his ministers of state. Every day he used to call him to his palace to spend time with him alone. The ministers of state were very jealous of the Jew, and tried to think up ways to discredit him in the eyes of the Sultan and ruin him completely.
Among the ministers was a certain Pasha known as Kaptzin Pasha. He hated the Jew much more than all the other ministers, but he tried to make him think he really loved him. Every day he tried to devise ways to achieve his true desire – to discredit him in the eyes of the Sultan.
One day Kaptzin Pasha approached the Jew and slyly began telling him how he had been with the Sultan…
“And I heard him say with his own mouth how much he loves you. But one thing bothers him. When you speak with him, he cannot stand the bad odor wafting out of your mouth. Of course he can't do without you, so this smell causes him great suffering.”
Kaptzin Pasha continued: “Therefore my advice is that every time you come before the Sultan, you should hold a scented handkerchief in front of your mouth. This way the Sultan will not smell the bad odor coming from your mouth, and you won't fall foul of the Sultan.”
In his innocence the Jew believed what the Pasha had said and decided to follow his advice.
Next the Pasha went to the Sultan and told him that he had heard the Jew talking about his terrible suffering. “…Because every time he speaks with the Sultan, he finds a bad smell emanating from the Sultan's mouth.”
“The Jew has therefore decided,” continued the Pasha, “that when he comes to speak with you, my lord the Sultan, he will hold a scented handkerchief in front of his mouth so as not to smell the bad odor from the Sultan's mouth. The sign that what I am saying is true will be that tomorrow, when he comes to speak with you, you will see with your own eyes that he will be holding a handkerchief over his mouth.”
On hearing this, the Sultan became extremely angry and said to the Pasha, “If I see that you are right, I will utterly destroy him.”
Sure enough, the following day the Jew came to the Sultan holding a handkerchief over his mouth, just as the Pasha had advised him, since he believed what he had been told. Seeing this, the Sultan took it as proof that the Pasha had told him the truth. The Sultan immediately wrote a letter to his Chief Executioner saying: “The person who brings you this letter must be thrown at once into the furnace where they cast those condemned to death by burning.”
The Sultan closed and sealed the letter and said to the Jew, “I would like you to deliver this letter personally to the Chief Executioner in such-and-such a place.”
The Jew took the letter and promised the Sultan he would carry out his instructions. He had no idea what was written in the letter and he went home.
Now this Jew meticulously observed the mitzvah of circumcising Jewish boys. Whenever he was invited to perform a circumcision he would not allow any obstacle to stand in his way, because this mitzvah was very precious in his eyes.
God wanted to save His faithful friend and so He arranged that on the very day that the Jew was supposed to deliver the Sultan's letter to the Chief Executioner, a man came from a certain village to invite the Jewish minister back to the village in order to circumcise his son. Since the Jew never under any circumstances missed an opportunity to perform this mitzvah, he started thinking: “How can I carry out the Sultan's instructions to deliver his letter?”
God arranged that at just that moment the Pasha came towards him. The Jew told the Pasha that he had come from the Sultan, who had given him a letter to deliver to the officer in question. However, today God had sent him the opportunity to perform the mitzvah of circumcision.
“And my custom is never under any circumstances to pass up this mitzvah,” said the Jew. “Therefore I would like to ask you to take the letter and deliver it.”
The Pasha was delighted, because now he would be able to make further accusations against the Jew for not having carried out the Sultan's wishes with respect to the letter. The Pasha took the letter from his hand and delivered it into the hands of the executioner, who immediately seized the Pasha and threw him into the fiery furnace. He was burned up just as he deserved in accordance with the divine law of “measure for measure”.
The Jew knew nothing at all about what had happened to the Pasha. The following day he went again to the Sultan, who was very surprised to see him.
“Have you not yet delivered the letter I gave you for that officer?” he asked.
“My lord the Sultan,” replied the Jew, “I entrusted the letter to Kaptzin Pasha to deliver to the officer, because God sent me an opportunity to perform the mitzvah of circumcision, and it is my custom never to pass up this mitzvah.”
The Sultan realized it was no mere chance that the Pasha, who had tried to discredit the Jew, had been burned to death. The Sultan immediately asked the Jew, “Why do you hold a scented handkerchief over your mouth when you speak to me?”
“The Pasha advised me to do this,” said the Jew, “because he told me that he heard you say you cannot stand the odor from my mouth.”
The Sultan then told the Jew how the Pasha had tried to discredit him. “He said that you cannot stand the odor coming from my mouth!”
The Sultan told the Jew what was written in the letter he had given him, and said to him: “Now I know that God rules on earth and saves His dear ones from all evil. What the Pasha plotted to do to you was done to him, and God repaid his evil to his face.”
From that time on the Jew was more esteemed than ever in the eyes of the Sultan – more than all his other ministers – and he gave him the greatest respect and honor.
(Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum is the director of Azamra. “The Essential Rebbe Nachman” is available for purchase online here)

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