|Stories of The Baal Shem Tov: Pikudei|
|Written by Bentzion of Medziboz|
The Torah portion reads, "You shall bring Aaron and his sons near the entrance of the Tent of the Meeting, and immerse them in water (in a mikveh)." Exodus 40:12
And then there was the time, long ago, that Rav Yisrael ben Eliezer (the holy Baal Shem Tov) came to visit one of his most devoted students and followers, Rabbi Yaakov Yosef HaCoahne of Polonnoye (The "Toldot").
At that time, Rabbi Yaakov Yosef had still not actually moved to Polonnoye and lived in another town. But which town? Some say in the holy community of Nemirov, others, the holy community of Shargorod.
In any case, the Baal Shem Tov arrived a few days before the Sabbath. He immediately met with Rabbi Yaakov Yosef (whom he affectionately called Yossele) and they studied and prayed together until the morning before Shabbos.
It became obvious to Rabbi Yaakov Yosef that the Baal Shem Tov had not eaten since he arrived. So he spoke, somewhat cautiously, with his Rebbe.
"Rabbi Yisrael, please eat. You need a lot of strength to guide the followers. And after all, you even instructed me not to fast when you taught me that fasting is melancholy and gloom, and the Shechinah (G·d's presence) does not rest upon sadness but only upon the joy of a mitzvah. Please, eat! It's important!" Rabbi Yaakov Yosef pleaded with his teacher.
The Baal Shem Tov answered, "Reb Yossele, please understand, I'm fasting because there are several great spiritual sparks of the original G-dly light trapped nearby. I've come on a special mission to gather and redeem them. I know that it will be very difficult to redeem these sparks because they are hidden in unsuspecting places. But I can't let any obstacle stand in my way. They are very dangerous and if I cannot redeem them, they have the power and inclination to hurt people. Therefore, in order to strengthen my spirituality so that I can overpower them, I have abstained from food ever since I've arrived."
The Baal Shem Tov continued the fast until the end of Shabbos. After Havdalah (the short service separating the sacred day of Shabbos from the relatively profane weekdays), the Baal Shem HaKodesh finally ate.
After the meal, the Baal Shem called Rabbi Yaakov Yosef aside and said, "It was revealed to me from Heaven that there are two teachers of young children living in a nearby village. Unbeknownst to either of these teachers, they carry the holy sparks that I have come to redeem."
"So how are you going to find these two men?" asked Rabbi Yaakov Yosef.
The Baal Shem Tov answered, "It was decreed in Heaven that the two men would believe themselves to be sick and that they would come to this city to be cured. So ask your servant to wait at the city gate and when the two teachers arrive, have the servant send them to you. I want you to advise them to come to me to be cured. Urge them to first go to the mikveh before seeing me. They will be reluctant to go to the mikveh because they believe themselves to be sick. So tell them that I like people to come to me pure from the mikveh. Also, lend them clothes, such as shirts and coats for the Sabbath, because they are poor.
On the Sabbath arrange that they should dine with some of the other householders and not with you. And Yossele, please point them out to me when they come to the Synagogue on Friday night to pray."
Indeed, the two men came to the city looking for a good doctor to cure them of their mysterious ailments. They were escorted to Rabbi Yaakov Yosef's where he met them, told them about the Baal Shem Tov, lent them clothes and arranged Shabbos lodging and meals. That night, when the two teachers entered the shule, Rabbi Yosef informed the Baal Shem Tov, "Rebbe, that's them."
Shabbos was seemingly peaceful and uneventful. After Havdalah, the Baal Shem Tov was filled with joy.
The two teachers came to the house of Rabbi Yaakov Yosef. They too were filled with joy. Their illnesses were gone. Some time during Shabbos, their mysterious illnesses had totally vanished. They were once again returned to their excellent health. However, they still wanted to meet with the Baal Shem Tov. They informed Rabbi Yaakov Yosef that they followed his instructions and had just returned from the Mikveh.
He said to them: "Come with me," and the two men and Rabbi Yaakov Yosef entered into the presence of the Baal Shem Tov.
"Rabbi Israel, here are the two teachers that I told you about. Until today, both of them had an ailment that no one could diagnose."
The Baal Shem Tov chuckled with great happiness and said, "I'm so happy to hear that you were, should I dare to say 'Miraculously healed', Baruch HaShem (Blessed be the Name). Do you know I was also a teacher of young children? My heart goes with you to teach the children. Now young men, may you be blessed for the rest of your days. Reb Yossele, please let my teacher friends keep the clothes they received from you as gifts and bid them farewell."
The two teachers left the Baal Shem Tov in a state of awe. They knew something happened but didn't quite know how or why. Gratitude filled their hearts.
And so it was.
Freely adapted by Tzvi Meir HaCohane (Howard M. Cohn, Patent Attorney) from a story found in Shivchei HaBesht, translated in In Praise of the BAAL SHEM TOV by Ben-Amos and Mintz and reprinted with the kind permission of the Baal Shem Tov Foundation. Please visit www.baalshemtov.com
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