By Rabbi Levi Cunin
Darkness had descended on the small town of Gostynin. All the inhabitants were fast asleep, their doors and shutters closed tightly against the frigid night. For the traveler arriving to the town, this was a most unwelcoming sight. Tired, weak and hungry, he had nowhere to turn, no place to rest his weary head.
Suddenly, from afar, he noticed a light shining in one of the windows. Sighing with relief, he hurried in that direction and knocked on the door, hoping to be allowed to stay for the night. It was the home of the esteemed Rabbi, Reb Yechiel Meir.
A smile lit up the face of the Rabbi as he opened the door. "Shalom" "Welcome!" he called out ushering the stranger inside.
Quiet reigned in the little cottage; all the household members had long since retired for the night. Filled with joy, the host rushed about to serve his guest a glass of warm tea and pastry. However, when the visitor had downed the last of his drink and nary was a crumb left on the plate, Reb Yechiel Meir, perceiving that his guest was still hungry, searched about the house for some more food. To his delight, he found some raw oats and a saucepan of cooking fat. Never having played his hand at cooking before, the host placed it inside the oven and then, with his face wreathed in smiles, served the dish to his guest. While the visitor polished off the food, the host stood by, beaming with pleasure.
When the meal was over, Reb Yechiel hastened to prepare the guest a warm bed, his own, for the little house boasted no spare bed. While the traveler slept soundly, the host pored over his Talmudic volumes all through the night, learning with increased enthusiasm.
In the morning, the traveler awoke from his restful sleep and went to the synagogue. After prayers, in the course of conversation with the townsmen, he discovered that his host was no other than the illustrious Rabbi Yechiel Meir of Gostynin. Utterly ashamed and distressed, he approached the righteous and holy man, to offer his apologies.
"I refuse to accept an apology from you," came the reply.
"But," the traveler protested, "I had no idea whose house it was, or whose bed I'd slept in. Had I known, I would never have put the Rebbe through such troubles."
Rabbi Yechiel Meir remained unfazed, but the traveler, eager to be forgiven, persisted in his explanations.
At last, Reb Yechiel Meir declared, "If you promise to do as I tell you, I will accept your apology."
For a slight moment, the traveler hesitated. Perhaps the holy man had looked into his soul and discerned some sort of reprehensible sin that needed rectification? Would he be able to carry out a strict regimen of repentance that might be required of him?
No matter, he decided, with a shake of his head. If amends needed to be made, he was ready, come what may. As long as the Rebbe would accept his sincere apology, it was worth everything.
"Anything the Rebbe will ask of me, I am ready to fulfill," he solemnly promised.
The rabbi smiled. "Well," he said. "This is my request to you. Every time you pass by the town of Gostynin, you will come to my home and be my guest. For when do I ever get a chance to fulfill the Mitzvah (good deed) of hospitality, as I was able to this time? My townspeople spoil it for me!"By Mirish Kiszner