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The story goes something like ...

A few days after his wedding, a man disappeared without a trace. Many years later, a mysterious man showed up back in town, claiming to be him. He looked different, but he revealed to "his" wife all sorts of private details that presumably only her husband would know. The rabbi took him to the shul and asked him to identify where he used to sit, and he couldn't. The rabbi concluded that this fellow was a charlatan who'd found out all sorts of material about the real husband, but as a crook, never thought to ask about his ritual habits.

I've heard several different names of who was the rabbi in this story. What have you heard, and does anyone have a source?

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IIRC it was the Vilna Gaon but I do not have the source – sabbahillel Jul 19 at 10:31
up vote 4 down vote accepted

I always heard not as a Chassidish story but the GRA

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I'd heard it as the Vilna Gaon too (I believe on a Rabbi Frand tape), but then heard someone else tell the story about a different rabbi, so I was asking around. Should we have a different tag for "litvish story" or "famous rabbi story"? – Shalom Sep 3 '10 at 12:48
Even if it's about the GRA, I'd say this falls into the hasidic-story genre. – Isaac Moses Sep 3 '10 at 14:26
Though it's about the rabbi's wisdom and insight rather than his piety per se. – Shalom Sep 3 '10 at 14:29

I read the story many years ago in one of the "Light Stories" collections, and I think it was about R' Elya Chaim Meisel of Lodz, although I might be conflating it with other stories about him (they've got quite a few in those collections, all showcasing his sagacity at getting to the bottom of difficult cases).

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Thanks Alex. Hence my question. – Shalom Sep 3 '10 at 16:45

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