Rabbi Hizkiyahu Medini Zatzal • “Author of Sdei Hemed”
Rabbi Hizkiyahu Medini’s books provide an abundance of principles concerning Halachah, both in general and in detail, and reference a great many authors from different eras. He was great in Torah and deeds, and the great authorities of our time cannot make do without his works. We will cite one story that he himself recounted as to the origin of his wisdom.
Rabbi Hizkiyahu once told a friend that in his youth he did not have any particular talents. The sources of wisdom had only opened for him when he was older because of a certain incident.
“When I was a young avrech,” began the Sdei Hemed, “I studied in a kollel financed by a wealthy man, and which was located in his own home. At that time I was not among the most brilliant minds in the kollel, however I learned with great diligence and steadily progressed in my studies. One of the students of this group became jealous and set a trap for me. Every morning a cleaning lady came to work in the Beit Midrash. He bribed her to publicly accuse me of trying to seduce her when she arrived in the Beit Midrash to do her work in the early morning. One day, as soon as this woman arrived in the Beit Midrash, she began to scream and accuse me of disgraceful behavior. Everyone immediately gathered about, and I was accused of hypocrisy and insulted over and over again. It was a tremendous desecration of G-d’s Name. Unable to tolerate such shame, I was forced to flee. The Rosh Kollel did not believe the cleaning lady, and he fired her.
“After a certain time, when the cleaning lady had exhausted all the money that she had made with her accusations, she came to beg my forgiveness for the tremendous wrong that she had done. She promised me that she would publicly recount the truth and state that it was all a plot, that one of the avrechim had given her money to accuse me.
“Given that she had no longer any livelihood, she implored me to do all that I could, once she had cleared my name, to help her get her job back.
“At that moment,” said the Sdei Hemed, “I was confronted with a tremendous dilemma. On one side, I was happy with this unexpected opportunity to see my name cleared of this terrible accusation and to have everything put back in order. I almost agreed to her request, yet at the same time the complete opposite thought came to me. A terrible desecration of G-d’s Name had already occurred, and if the actual story were to become known, there would be yet another one due to the shameful conduct of the avrech. Not only that, but he himself would suffer a terrible fate. Consequently, it was preferable that I continue to bear my shame in silence than to provoke a new scandal. The decision was very hard to make, and my thoughts were jostling against one another in my head as I changed my mind from one minute to the next. Finally, I decided to tell the cleaning lady that I would push myself to speak in her favor, but I absolutely forbid her to tell anybody about the bribe.
“At the time that I took this difficult decision, one that risked endangering my entire future in the world of Torah,” concluded the Sdei Hemed, “I felt the sources of wisdom opening before me. Instead of the damage that my choice should have caused me, I had merited great Heavenly assistance, one that has led me until my present situation.”
Rabbi Hizkiyahu Medini’s Hilloula is on Kislev 24.