Sunday, May 29, 2005

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A Baal Shem Tov Story - Following your desires

It's a custom to tell stories of tzaddikim (the righteous sages) during melava malka (the post-Shabbos meal). The custom among hassidim is to tell Baal Shem Tov stories, or stories of other rebbaim (grand rabbi's). Sheva Tov (a good week)...

A Baal Shem Tov story. Many miraculous stories are told about the saintly Baal Shem Tov (literally the Master of the Good Name), who brought the path of hassidus, great insights into kabbalah, and hope to a generation of embattled Jews (teaching that every soul has a immeasurable and special value and every person should be treasured). Are all the miraculous stories the literal truth? Of course not. But could they be, with such a saintly man, literally yes...

Once as The Baal Shem Tov sat with his students on Shabbat, he told them them to shut their eyes and place their arms on each other around the Shabbat table. The Baal Shem Tov then placed his arms on the shoulders of the two students flanking him.

Suddenly, he showed them a startling vision — an ox, seated by a Shabbat table.
Clad in the finest Shabbat garments, the ox was busy gorging itself on the sumptuous Shabbat feast that crowded the table. As the vision disappeared, the disciples looked at the Baal Shem Tov in surprise. What was an ox doing at a Shabbat table?

"You just saw a real person," explained the Baal Shem Tov. "This individual is dressed in the best Shabbat clothes and is seated before a delectable meat dish. Yet, having totally forgotten about the true import of Shabbat, this individual is totally obsessed with relishing every bite of the meat. His desire consumes him, transforming him into the very beast he is bent on eating. Hence, he has become an ox himself...."

The Baal Shem Tov then concluded with his oft-spoken observation: "Man is found where his desire is found."

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