by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths
The Russian Czarist government was suspicious of many of the chassidic Rebbe's and open to any charges against them. An accusation was level against Rebbe Yisrael of Ruzhin in the Ukraine, and they promptly imprisoned him, planning to exile him to Siberia.
Craft, boldness and thousands of rubles in bribes enabled the rebbe's chassidim to kidnap the rebbe from his captors and transfer him over the border to Hungary, where he settled in the town of Sadiger.
His chassidim in the Ukraine were of course happy for their rebbe's escape, but also sad for there were strict border controls, and their chances of ever seeing him again were very small.
One chassid had an idea. He was a textile merchant and had business connections in many countries. He came to the Russian government with a proposal. There was a business fair in Vienna where fine fabrics that were not available in Russia would be sold. He would go to Vienna, purchase a large quantity, import them to Russia, pay full customs duty, and sell them to the dress-conscious Russian aristocrats.
"Everyone will profit" he explained. The Russians were eager to make the money, but reluctant to relax the restrictions. "What's the minimum time you need" they asked? "A week" the chassid answered.
Beyond the profit, the chassid planned to visit his rebbe for Shabbos after Vienna. After completing his purchases and shipping them to Russia, he headed to Sadiger. He was an experienced chassid and knew how to appreciate Shabbos with his rebbe. He soaked in the davening, the tish, the teachings of the rebbe. All too soon Shabbos was over.
Before he departed, he met with the rebbe privately. After telling the rebbe about the chassidim of the Ukraine and asking for blessings, he make a special request. "I don't know when, if ever, I will have the opportunity of spending another Shabbos with the rebbe. Could the rebbe give me something, a coin or sacred article, share with me a teaching, or advise me to keep a practice, that will enable me to keep alive the connection between us?"
Rebbe Yisrael of Ruzhin surprised the chassid with an immediate response. "I have a message for you, for all my chassidim in the Ukraine, and in a larger sense, for all Jews...
Despite the difficulties confronting the Jews as present, we have the solace that the overwhelming majority of our people hold true to our Torah heritage. This will not always be the case. An age is coming when those who observe the Torah will be a minority, and most of our people will be unaware of their roots.
And there will be heavenly signs which will appear to lead people away from the Torah. If the prophet Eliyahu would conduct his confrontation with the idolatrous prophets of Baal in that future time, the fire would descend not on the altar built for G-d, but on the altar for Baal.
What will give our people the strength to endure the challenges of that time? Coming together and exchanging stories of tzaddikim, enlightening stories of righteous men. Joining together, in their families, with their friends, and in their communities, and relating stories of tzaddikim will inspire our people and empower them to bring about the coming of Moshiach."
BS"D - בסיעתא דשמיא