In the times of the Maggid of Mezritch, an unfortunate incident occurred. There was a woman who had a son who had a crazy idea enter his mind.
He decided he must convert to another religion, G-d forbid. He had already gone to the priest to do so. The priest placed him in a locked room in a locked house, so that his relatives should not be able to visit him and try to change his mind to return to Judaism.
The distraught mother of the young man traveled to the Maggid of Mezritch crying uncontrollably and begging the Tzadik to help her son so that her son should not, G-d forbid, convert. The Maggid told her to quickly travel home, so that she may arrive back home in time for Shabbat.
Immediately, he gathered his holy students and began to say words of Torah on the verse, ‘nefesh ki sechta’ – “If a soul (person) sins…” The students were astonished, because this took place on erev Shabbat Kodesh, which was not the usual time for the Maggid to deliver Torah discourses. Again, he gathered his holy students three times that day, and each time, he shared words of Torah on the very same verse into the evening of the holy Shabbat On Shabbat day the same thing repeated itself until he shared Torah thoughts on this verse seven times. At the conclusion of Shabbat, a strong wind raged outdoors in the loud swooshing noise they saw that suddenly a young man appeared.
The young man began to share with them all that transpired with him.
He told them about his crazy thoughts and what he did, when suddenly over Shabbat, he had a change of heart and desired to return to Judaism. But try as he might, he could not leave the house as all the exits were sealed. He decided that no matter what, he must escape. He cried bitterly about what he had done. The feeling to return to his people was so strong that he tried to break down the door. When he was unable to do so, he decided his only recourse was to throw himself out the window come what may. He knew that he could not continue to live in a state of being separated from G-d for another moment.
The minute he leapt out the window, miraculously, a great strong wind swept him up and landed him at the synagogue of the Maggid.
Now the students of the Maggid understood that with the words of Torah which their holy Rebbe said on the verse, “If a person sins..”, he saved the soul of this young man from the clutches of the evil inclination and the impurity he was mired in, to return in full repentance to G-d.
Translated from Sippurei Chassidim on the Torah – Parshat Bamidbar #312 by Rabbi Yosef Zevin a’h
A similar story with some differences:
In this version the story is told by the Alter Rebbe, a student of the Maggid. He told this story to his students when a similar situation happened and needed to be rectified.
Following is the story:
“This happened in the winter of 5629, when I was in Mezritch. Not far from there was a non-Jewish city where a few Jewish families lived. One of the sons of one of the Jewish households who was a G-d fearing and learned young man, suddenly experienced an unfortunate and undesirable folly which took hold of him. He felt impelled to convert, G-d forbid. The reason for this was not that he believed in it, but rather his haughtiness caused him to err. When he went to speak to the priest, his father went with him to try to
dissuade him with different arguments against taking such an erroneous step. When his father saw that all his words were in vain, he picked himself up and traveled to the Maggid of Mezritch.
The father entered the Rebbe’s room and burst into tears. With a broken heart, he cried out, “Rebbe, save my son from conversion!” The Maggid listened carefully to the father’s painful plea. He became engrossed in thought and then raised up his holy head and began to say Torah on the verse, “Nefesh ki secheta umoala maal b’Hashem.. “ Vayikra 5/21 – “If a person sins and acts deceitfully against G-d”. At this point the Alter Rebbe repeated the Torah of the Maggid. (This was to rectify a similar situation by a former brilliant student of his.) He then continued to tell what happened.
When the Maggid finished expounding Torah on this verse, he instructed that a minyan, a quorum of ten of his pupils, should recite Tehillim (Psalms) all night until dawn. “I,” the Alter Rebbe said, “I was one of the ten students who remained awake and recited Tehillim the whole night. And early in the morning, the young man appeared in the synagogue of the Maggid. Not one of the students asked him anything. He remained in Mezritch for some time, had an audience with the Rebbe, the Maggid of Mezritch, and then returned home (a changed person).
For the full story and what happened to the student of the Alter Rebbe, please see Sefer HaToldos Admur HaZakein, Vol 4, pp.334-338.