(Recap: Chaim Katzav, the intimidating kosher butcher of Kiblitch, is dispatched to kill Reb Pinchas, the Breslov teacher – but is inspired to change his ways after hearing Reb Pinchas’ encouraging words.)
With burgeoning hope in his heart and tears in his eyes, Chaim Katzav approached Reb Pinchas.
“Can even I do teshuvah for my sins?” he asked. “I have sinned so terribly against you!”
“Of course you can,” said Reb Pinchas. “Teshuvah (repentance) is always possible. If you follow Rebbe Nachman’s path, you will certainly do teshuvah in his merit.”
“Promise me you are telling the truth!” said Chaim. “I have sinned so greatly – please forgive me!”
It was astounding to see this huge giant of a man prostrating himself before the thin, weakly tzaddik. “I want to do teshuvah!” he cried. “Please, please forgive me!”
Reb Pinchas and his students didn’t understand exactly what Chaim meant. But then Chaim told them how some parents had hired him to kill Reb Pinchas, and how he had been inspired by Rebbe Nachman’s teaching that there was hope for every single Jew. “I want to see the person who dares harm a hair of your head!” he concluded.
The next day, the townsfolk were amazed to see Chaim going to shul on time, his talit and tefilin under his arm. He wept through the entire service. Afterwards, he announced: “I am becoming a Breslover chassid, and I would like to see the person who dares lift a hand against Reb Pinchas or any other Breslover!”
Although there had been incidents in the past, they ceased from that day on.
Breslovers who visited Reb Chaim decades after his astonishing about-face reported that it stayed fresh his entire life. Reb Chaim would cry copiously to God, begging Him to accept his teshuvah. His copy of Likutey Tefilot (Reb Noson’s prayers) was tear-stained and well-used.
People would comment on the shining countenance of Reb Chaim, who spent his days helping others and learning Torah whenever he could. The butcher was never violent with anyone ever again. “Ever since I became a Breslover, I cannot lift my hand to my fellow,” he explained. “Even if I am insulted, I just can’t do it!”
Based on Siach Sarfey Kodesh V:213-214