S olemnity and earnestness permeated the beis din of the holy gaon, Rav Aryeh Leib Ginzburg, author of the Shaagas Aryeh, in the city of Metz.

It was well known that the gaon considered any din Torah to be like a sharp sword placed at his throat, and even a case involving a few pennies was treated as a life-or-death matter. This fear and awe was contagious — even the litigants would be filled with trepidation, standing reverently as they faced the gaon.

But no one had more awe and devotion than the court’s secretary and the Shaagas Aryeh’s attendant, Reb Leizer, as he humbly and submissively took care of the elder sage (the Shaagas Aryeh was already 70 when he came to Metz in 1765). He would fulfill every one of the Rav’s instructions with alacrity, and he intuitively knew when to stand next to the Rav or when the Rav preferred a private audience with the litigants. He served the Rav his meals and took care of all the Rav’s needs, as well as the needs of his family.

And his remuneration? Although the amount he was paid by the community was barely enough to manage his own household, Reb Leizer wouldn’t take even half a ruble from the Shaagas Aryeh himself, and he would often add, “I wish I had some money to pay the Rav for the unique privilege of attending to him.”

At home each night, Reb Leizer was treated like a king by his devoted wife and only child, Yehoshua’le, who considered him like a Kohein performing the holy service.

ONE MORNING Reb Leizer was not at the Rav’s door to walk him to shul. The Shaagas Aryeh stopped short at the gate and looked around, waiting to see if his dedicated shamash was approaching. He was worried — Reb Leizer was never late. Rain or hail, whether he was feeling well or not, he never once missed accompanying the Rav in the morning. Something must be terribly wrong.

After Shacharis, the Shaagas Aryeh hurried to Reb Leizer’s home. He was greeted by a thick, foreboding silence. Reb Leizer was lying in bed, weak and listless, his wife and son at his bedside.

“Rebbi, I am so very ill,” the devoted attendant whispered as he opened his eyes, tears running down his cheeks. “I asked Yehoshua’le to go to the Rav and inform him, but he refused to leave my bedside.”

The Rav spent an hour at his kind and faithful attendant’s bedside. As he got up to go, wishing his shamash a speedy recovery and blessing him that he get well soon and resume his responsibilities in the beis din, Reb Leizer called him back.

“I know I’m not going to get well.” Reb Leizer didn’t mince words or project false hopes. “No one is saying it, yet my heart tells me so. The Rav knows that I have never asked to be paid for my work, but now I have no choice. I want the Rav to promise me to take care of my son Yehoshua’le, to make sure that he learns with scholarly rabbis who will imbue him with the love of Torah and fear of Heaven.”

The Shaagas Aryeh did not refuse Reb Leizer, who was now lying on his deathbed. “Have no worry, my dear friend,” the Rav said soothingly. “Your son will be like one of my own children. He will share our bread, and will learn Torah with me. I will not leave him until he is fully versed and knowledgeable in all of Gemara and its commentaries.”

A grateful smile lit up Reb Leizer’s sunken face, and his eyes were shining. Now he could leave This World, confident that his precious son would be properly taken care of. (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 668)