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Thursday, February 2, 2023 - 11 Shevat 5783
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The Building Competition

When the construction of the new synagogue of the Belzer Rebbe, Reb Sholom, was well underway, the local gentile landowner decided that it was not fitting for a Jewish house of worship to have such prominence. He would show the Jews just what he thought about them and their religion by building a large, imposing church directly opposite their synagogue. He had the plans drawn up and when he was sure that his building would dwarf the Jewish structure, he began construction.

In case his intentions were not clear enough, he sent a message to the Rebbe: "I am the most powerful noble in Belz, comparable to Haman." To that message the Rebbe replied, "May your end be the same as his," and the construction continued on both buildings.

The conflict continued and escalated to the point that the young son of the noble accosted the Rebbe on the street and stuck a piece of pork in the tzadik's face demanding, "Eat this, Jew!" No sooner had the words left his mouth than the boy fell to the ground in a fit of uncontrollable shaking and in a matter of minutes was no longer alive. After that, the landlord was the implacable enemy of Reb Sholom.

As the shul neared completion, the nobleman saw that it would tower over every other structure in the vicinity. He gave orders that a high steeple be constructed on the roof of the church, and so the building "competition" continued from day to day. When Reb Sholom met the nobleman they exchanged words, and Reb Sholom replied, "With G-d's help, you will not be able to overcome me, nor will your building ever see completion."

G-d rules the world, and the word of a tzadik stands, and so, in time, it became public knowledge that the land on which the noble was spitefully constructing his church was not his. In fact, it belonged to a family of orphans who were contending in court for the property rights. The court battle raged on, but in the end, the land was put up for public sale. The nobleman was furious, and he made it known that nothing would prevent him from killing any Jew who dared to bid on the property.

Reb Sholom, however, was not deterred. He lost no time contacting a certain medical doctor in Vienna with whom he was on intimate terms. He requested that the doctor come to Belz for this special auction and purchase the land for whatever sum was necessary. And this the doctor did. Over the following few months, two handsome buildings were constructed at the behest of the Belzer Rebbe on that property.

The nobleman was also undeterred, and although the original property was no longer available, he began construction anew on a different, adjoining street. Once again, the gentile nobleman and the Rebbe were at odds over their construction sites.

Now, the festival of Passover was approaching, and the nobleman saw a good opportunity to get revenge on his rival. He issued a law forbidding the baking of matza in the area of Belz, on the pretext that there was a danger of fire.

Every year, the young students of the Belzer yeshiva were sent to surrounding towns and villages to celebrate the holiday with the Chasidim there who were able to provide them with their holiday needs. This year, though, the Rebbe decided that they would remain in Belz, being confident that he would be able to provide enough matzas for all.

Early one fine spring day, the nobleman decided to take his favorite horse out for a brisk trot. Suddenly the trail seemed too narrow and another rider appeared before him - it was the count of another neighboring town, someone he had never held in much regard.

"Move aside!" he ordered. But the other nobleman took great offense.

"I will not move aside, Sir," he bellowed. An argument quickly flared up and within minutes the landowner from Belz was dead.

That Passover the Rebbe celebrated together with all the Jews of Belz and all the students of the yeshiva - there was matza for all, and they weren't bothered by the arrogant, wicked landlord.



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