Bava Metzia 31a
This unbelievable story appears in many editions of the Sefer Megaleh Amukos .
In the old cemetery in Krakow, Poland, sits an unmarked grave with the following words: “Here is buried the remains of an unknown man – Yagid olov reiaihu (Let his neighbor tell about him).”
Apparently, the “neighbor” in question is in the next grave over, that of the great tzaddik and author of “Megaleh Amukos”, R’ Nosson Nota Shapiro ZT”L,
and the amazing story of this uniqe gravesite goes as follows:
Many years ago, a young man approached the shammes of the Krakow chevra kadisha with a request that he wished to buy the plot and be buried next to the Megaleh Amukos. The young man was unknown to the shammes or the community and so he dismissed the request outright; how could a simple, unknown man be buried next to one of the greatest sages of the generation? But the young man did not give up.
He took the elderly shammes to the side and said conspiratorially, “Do not worry, I can afford to pay whatever you ask!” At first, the shammes wouldn’t hear of it. But then, on impulse, he mentioned a large sum of money and the man instantly agreed. In fact, he pulled the money out of his purse and held it out. The shammes was well on in years and in a moment of weakness, thought to himself, “So what if I took the money? I deserve it after all my hard work. And besides,
I am over eighty, and this young man is not even thirty. By the time he leaves this world, there will certainly be new board members, and at that time, who will be able to get the money back from me?” So he took the money.
It took fifteen years, but as fate would have it, the young man passed away while the old shammes remained alive. The chevra kadisha members, who did not know about the secret deal with the old man, buried him in another part of the cemetery as they would any unknown person in the community, and the old man thought nothing of it.
That night, the younger man appeared in a dream to the old shammes and demanded that he move him to the plot next to the Megaleh Amukos. They had a deal, he accused, and he even paid money for the exclusive right. The shames paid no attention to the dream, but it repeated itself on the next night, and then a third night. On the fourth night, the deceased issued a warning that if the shammes did not move him, he would be summoned up to the Heavenly Court.
At this the old man became afraid, and he told the story to the esteemed Rov of Krakow, R’ Yoel Sirkis ZT”L, also known as the Bach. The Bach rebuked the old man for taking the money, and told him to distribute it to charity for the benefit of the young man’s soul. But he would not consent to bury the young man next to the Megaleh Amukos.
“But what will I do now?” said the old man with fear. The Bach told him to go to the younger man’s grave and inform him that if there was to be a din Torah in court, it would be here - in the Rov’s home - rather than in Heaven.
On the appointed day, the shammes came to the Bach’s house and saw that a partition had been set up in the study.
The Rov and the shammes sat on one side, and from the other side they heard the voice of the dead man as he argued that he had bought the plot next to the Megaleh Amukos and he wanted to be moved there.
“You are unknown to us,” said the Bach. “Begin by telling us, what is your name?”
"I am forbidden to tell you,” said the dead man. No amount of persuasion could get him to disclose his identity. “If so,” said the Bach finally, “How do we know that you are worthy to be buried next to the great tzaddik?
Therefore, if you cannot tell us your true identity, we cannot fulfill your request.” But the dead man would not give in. Finally, the Bach had an idea. “lf your soul is really so great,” he said, “then move yourself to the plot you want!”
The next day when the members of the chevra kadisha entered the cemetery, they found the young man’s grave empty, and next to the Megaleh Amukos they found a new grave which they had not dug. They decided to erect a stone over the grave, but since they did not know the young man’s name, they wrote only the words: "Yagid olov rei’aihu" - “Let his neighbor attest to him.
READ PART 2 HERE