Sunday, February 18, 2007

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A Baal Shem Tov Story: Grand Daughter

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).

So, here is 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...

by Nava at Mystical Paths

Shortly before the Baal Shem Tov left this physical world, his granddaughter, Adel's daughter, came to the him for a blessing.

"Zeide," (grandfather) she begged him, "bless me. I have been married for some time but still have no children." Her beloved grandfather assured her that she would soon give birth to a son. Soon thereafter, she conceived. But before her son was born, the Baal Shem Tov passed away. When the child was born, he was named Yisrael after his illustrious grandfather.

When little Yisrael was only two years old, he fell ill and soon passed away. His mother, beside herself with grief, took the lifeless body to her grandfather's grave. "Is this the child you promised me?" she cried out. She left her baby's body by the Baal Shem Tov's grave and returned to her home, brokenhearted.

On that same day, some people came to visit the grave of their departed Rebbe. They were surprised to find a young child playing by himself near the Baal Shem Tov's grave. "Who would abandoned a child in a cemetery?" they wondered. They brought the child to the nearby village, hoping that someone would be able to identify him. When little Yisrael's mother heard the startling news that a young child had been found at the Baal Shem Tov's grave, she quickly ran to claim her son. She was overjoyed to find him alive and well.

That night the Baal Shem Tov appeared to his granddaughter in a dream. "Why did you have to create such an upset by bringing your child to my grave? You could have simply come alone to tell me of the death of your son. By leaving him in the cemetery you forced me to go searching among thousands of souls to find the right one to return to his body."

And so it was.

The Baal Shem Tov was also able to understand the inner meaning of events, as the following story illustrates.

Once, a childless woman came to the Baal Shem Tov and begged him to give her a blessing for a child. He agreed, and a year later she gave birth to a healthy baby boy.

When her son was 2 years old, she brought him to Mezibuzh to receive a bracha from the Baal Shem Tov. The Rebbe took the baby in his arms and kissed him tenderly before returning him to his mother. As soon as the woman returned home, however, the baby became ill and, within a few days, passed away.

The woman was heartbroken. She returned to the Baal Shem Tov and cried bitterly, "Rebbe, why did you bless me with a son that would only live two years? What type of a blessing is that?"

The Baal Shem Tov answered her with a story:

There once was a king had no children. One of his advisors told him that his dream of having a child would only be fulfilled if the Jews were to beseech their God to grant the king a son.

The king threatened the Jews with expulsion from his kingdom if his wife would not give birth to a son by the end of the year. The Jews, of course, turned to Hashem and begged Him to save them.

A certain holy neshama in heaven heard the cries and offered to be sent down to this world to save the Jews in this kingdom. Within the year, this neshama was sent down in the body of the king's newborn son.

This little child was very special. As soon as he turned two, the queen stopped nursing him and the king began to teach him to read. He advanced so rapidly in his studies that, although his father hired the best tutors, he outgrew them all within a very short amount of time.

The king summoned the priest, who was known far and wide as an extremely wise man, and asked him to tutor his son. Although the priest was willing, he had one request. "Every day," he told the king, "I spend two hours alone in my room. That is when I ascend to heaven. I would like you to forbid your son from entering my room during those two hours."

The king agreed. A few days later, the priest moved into the king's palace. Every day he spent his entire day-except for those two hours-teaching the young prince the wisdom of the world. Within a short time, the prince, too, turned into a wise and knowledgeable young man.

There was one thing, however, that the prince could not understand. What, exactly, did his tutor do during those two hours? Unable to contain his curiosity, he managed to obtain a key to the priest's study and open the door.

The moment the prince saw his teacher, he stood staring in a state of shock He could not believe that it was his teacher, the priest, who was sitting at the table and studying Torah dressed in a tallis and tefillin. The priest, as well, almost fainted from fear. It was only after the prince promised the priest that he would guard his secret that he was finally able to give a sigh of relief.

The prince begged the priest to teach him Torah. After they began to learn together, the prince realized that he had finally discovered the deep wisdom he had always been searching for. His life took on new meaning, and one day he came to the conclusion that he, too, would like to become a Jew.

As soon as the prince came to that decision, he begged his father to allow him to travel and see the world. When he left his father's house, he quietly crossed the border and found a yeshiva where he could continue to study uninterrupted. Within a few months he had converted and spent the rest of his life as a religious Jew, studying Torah and performing mitzvos.

After a long life, the prince passed away and was escorted by the angels directly to the Kisei Hakavod. From there, he was to be taken to the section of Gan Eden that is reserved for the greatest tzaddikim of each generation. Suddenly, a prosecuting angel stood up and said, "For the first two years of his life, this neshama was nursed by a non-Jewish woman."

It was decreed in heaven that before this neshama could ascend to its proper place in Gan Eden, it would have to return to this world and be nursed by a Jewish woman for two full years.

The Baal Shem Tov gently looked at the grieving woman. "And you," he told her, "were chosen to nurse this holy neshama."

The young woman was comforted from the Baal Shem Tov's words.

Posted at Mystical Paths. Read it elsewhere? Stop by the source.


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