|Stories of The Baal Shem Tov: Devarim: A Speedy Journey|
|Written by Bentzion of Medziboz|
“You [also] saw that G•d your L•rd carried you along the road you traveled."(Devarim 1:31) And then there was the time that Reb Michel of Ostropol, a great Torah sage and respected by all, received news that his close friend and colleague Reb Yankel would be making a Bris (circumcision) for his newly born son, on the coming Friday. As Reb Michel and Reb Yankel were as close as brothers, Reb Michel decided that he would attend. Besides being known as a great Torah sage, he was also known to be as fastidious and nervous man. So, as he began to ponder the anticipated trip, he became nervous. “Reb Yankel’s village is a half day’s travel from Ostropol,” he thought. “How will I be able to go the Bris and still have enough time to return home for Shabbos? I know. I will send Reb Yankel a message requesting that he make the Bris as early as possible. Then I can return home to Ostropol in time for Shabbos.” A few days later Reb Michel received a letter from Reb Yankel agreeing to make the Bris early in the morning. Reb Michel traveled to Reb Yankel’s village Thursday morning allowing plenty of time for any delays. He immediately went to the home of Reb Yankel where they warmly greeted each other and celebrated the good news. By early the next morning, preparations for the Bris had been completed so that Reb Michel could return home in time for Shabbos. Suddenly, a wagon full of chassidim pulled up in front of Reb Yankel’s house. It was the Baal Shem Tov and his disciples who had come to participate in the joyous event. Reb Yankel was overjoyed with this unexpected surprise of his Rebbe and the accompanying Chassidim. As it was the custom of the Baal Shem Tov to immerse himself in a mikvah (ritual bath) before morning prayers, the Bris had to be delayed until he returned. The Baal Shem Tov did not rush his immersion, nor his walk to or from the mikvah. The Bris was finally held several hours after the intended starting time. The seudah (meal) took longer than expected as the Chassidim sang song after song, exchanged Torah thoughts and rejoiced. Reb Michel was so overjoyed to be celebrating such a wonderful Simcha (joyous celebration), and in the company of Chassidim, that he forgot the time. When the festivities were finally over, he looked at his watch and saw to his horror that there was less than an hour until candle lighting time for Shabbos. Reb Michel began to panic: “What shall I do?” he thought to himself in despair. As he began to pace the floor, the Baal Shem Tov approached him. “Reb Michel,” he began, “why are you so worried about time? Time is a creation like anything else. If the Almighty has created it for us, then it is to be used to serve Him. Do you think that you have somehow lost time because of our joyous celebration for the sake of the great occasion of a Bris? If I arranged for you to arrive home in time for Shabbos, will you allow me and my Chassidim to be your guests this Shabbos?” “But of course!” exclaimed Reb Michel in a daze. The Baal Shem Tov quickly instructed his Chassidim to climb into their wagon, and sat Reb Michel by his side. The wagon driver Alexei whipped the reins and the horses were off on the road to Ostropol. After fifteen minutes of travel, the Baal Shem Tov turned to the bewildered Reb Michel. “Look, Reb Michel, we’re already approaching Ostropol, and you still have forty five minutes to spare to prepare for the holy Shabbos.” The wagon stopped in front of Reb Michel’s house. Still unsure of what had just transpired, he quickly stepped down from the wagon and welcomed his honored guests into his home. It was a memorable Shabbos, and as of that day, Reb Michel became an ardent Chassid of the Baal Shem Tov. And so it was.
Freely adapted by Tzvi Meir Cohane (Howard M. Cohn, Patent Attorney) from a story found in SHIVCHEI HABESHT as translated in Stories of the BAAL SHEM TOV by Y.Y. Klapholtz and reprinted with the kind permission of the Baal Shem Tov Foundation. Please visit www.baalshemtov.com