Thursday, December 3, 2009

Tales of the Baal Shem Tov


And then there was the time that the Baal Shem Tov called his closest disciples, "Friends, I'm going to show you something that you've never seen before. Just be sure to stay close to me next Sabbath."

The disciples were so excited that they could hardly wait for the next Sabbath to arrive.

Shabbos finally came and they stayed close to the Baal Shem Tov during the prayers, as instructed. When the prayers were coming to a close, they noticed that the Baal Shem Tov was staring at the furthermost corner of the Synagogue. Intrigued, they looked over, but didn't see anything unusual. Just a very poor, simple looking Jewish man praying. But, upon closer inspection, they realized he was praying with great intensity and joy.

The prayers ended and the Baal Shem Tov motioned his disciples to follow him as he left the synagogue. They went outside into the cool night air and began walking down a nondescript dirt road, their path illuminated by the moonlight. After a few minutes they stopped at a house. It was not so much a house as it was a hovel. They realized that this must be the home of the poor Jew they had seen at the Synagogue.

The Baal Shem Tov motioned his disciples to come closer. They stood in silence at the front door, and heard the following conversation that took place between the poor Jew and his wife.

"Good Shabbos, my dear wife," he greeted her joyfully, his face breaking into a wide smile.

"And a good Shabbos to you, my scholarly husband," she replied with a soft laugh.

Soon they could hear the husband singing Shalom Aleichem (Peace to you), and Ashet Chayil to his wife. When he was finished singing, he turned to his wife and asked her to bring in wine for Kiddush. But the couple was so poor that there was no money for wine. So instead, she placed two small Challos on the Sabbath table and said, "My dear, we don't have wine so please make Kiddush over the Challah."

"Okay then, we'll make Kiddush over the Challah. I'm sure it will taste as delicious as the most special, fragrant wine.

After Kiddush in Jewish households on Friday night, it is customary for there to be four courses served. So the husband proceeded to ask his wife to begin the meal. "My dear, please serve the fish course."

His wife stood up and crossed to the other side of their one room house, and returned bearing a platter of cooked beans. She placed a spoonful of beans on each of their plates and said, "May it be G-d's Will that these beans taste like a delicious fish."

As they ate the beans, their faces shone with delight.

After singing a few Shabbos melodies, the husband said, "Thank G-d we have everything we need to celebrate the holy Sabbath. So let's have the soup course."

They both took another spoonful of beans. "Umm, what a wonderful Sabbath soup," they remarked to each other.

Then they had a third spoonful of beans for the meat dish and a fourth spoonful as dessert.

"Come, sweet wife, let us dance to celebrate the Holy Shabbos." So they got up, danced around their Shabbos table and laughed and laughed."

"Now, it is quite obvious that the fish wasn't fish. And the meat wasn't meat. They were eating beans. Were these people crazy, deluded? Had lack of food driven away their common sense?

It would have been easy to doubt what happened if you hadn't witnessed the aforementioned scene. But the disciples of the Baal Shem Tov were there. And, as they stood outside the little house that was illuminated with Shabbos candlelight, they began to feel a warm glow well up within themselves. An inescapable joy that made them want to sing and dance, and praise G-d.

The Baal Shem Tov whispered, "You are each experiencing Shabbos joy like the joy this holy couple have been feeling. You should know that it is not the simple food that they tasted, but the Shabbos itself."

And so it was.

Freely adapted by Tzvi Meir Cohn (Howard M. Cohn, Patent Attrorney) from a Story translated in STORIES OF THE BAAL SHEM TOV by Y.Y. Klapholtz.

interesting tidbits about shabbos

Little sayings about Shabbos. Maybe you have never heard these before.

By keeping the Shabbat according to the halacha you will feel an additional spiritual power within your soul.(Reishit Hochmah)

To fully experience Shabbat, the ideal would be for you to never cease to be aware that it is shabbat.(Hanhagot Tzaddikim, p.36)

Reb Eleazar of Kretchnif would say many times softly on shabbos with great feeling, "holy Shabbos.... holy Shabbos" over and over.(Raza d'Uvda,p.28)

Rabbi Mordechai of Neshkiz was quite careful not to speak any profane words on Shabbat, and would strongly caution others about this as well.(Zichron l'Rishonim, P.105)

The Rebbe of Tzanz said as follows:
It is a great Tikkun (rectification) for the soul on the night of shabbat when you [ stay up late into the night and ]sing songs and praises to Hashem. (Rabbeninu ha-Kodesh mi-Tzanz, p.221)

Reb Nachman said to sing Zemiros and other Shabbat songs. He said, "Do not pay attention to any obstacles. Others may be sitting at the table and not seem to have any desire to sing. Strengthen yourself and sing with joy. Conduct the Shabbat table in a happy mood. The main thing is Shabbat joy!! (Reb Nachman's wisdom p.301)

The holy Reb Chayim of Kosov, every holy Shabbat night it was his custom to lead dancing among those who sat as guests at his table.(Even Stiya, p.48)

The Chassidim of Tush say the whole entire Psalms as they enter Shabbat.

It was the custom of the holy Rebbetzin (wife) of Rabbi Dovid of Tchortkov to say the whole sefer Tehillim the night of Shabbat. (Tiferet Adam, p.11)

Of Reb Meir of Kolishin, it is said:
His way was to stay awake all night of Shabbat and occupy himself with Torah and the service of Hashem.(Tiferet Banim Avotam, p.223)

The main time for the giving of Tziddaka is Erev Shabbat and Erev Yom Tov. (Derech Chayim, 3,4)
In the merit of tziddaka our Rabbi's say, you can see Hashem's face.

We are given an extra soul for Shabbat!!!!

i missed my shabbos meal- amazing story

Here is an absolutely amazing story of a Jew in Belgium. I just read this story in last weeks Mishpacha newspaper.

The writer, David Daman, says he heard the story from the Chabad rabbi, Rabbi Shabsai Slovtitski (sp?).

One Sunday, the rabbis approached by a "secular" jew who had just recently accepted upon himself to start keeping the mitzvos (that being the case, I don't know why it calls him secular, but maybe he appeared so). The fellow says to Rabbi Slovtitzki that he needs to do teshuva.

"What happened? Teshuva for what?" The rabbi asks.. the strange answer is that he skipped the morning shabbos meal, and for that he has to do teshuva.

The fellow tells the rabbi how it came to be that he skipped the shabbos meal. He is the owner of a successful jewelry store located in the main strip of the jewelry section in Antwerp. Most customers come shopping in the area over the weekend, and Friday - Saturday were his biggest days for sales. As soon as he decided to start keeping shabbos, as he was becoming more religious, he knew he would be giving up the busiest day of the week for his business.

One shabbos, after just a few weeks of keeping shabbos, he had an idea that he would go down to see his store after davening. not open it and do business, chas v'shalom - just to go look and see what is happening.

When he got to his store, he saw the store to the right was doing a brisk business, and the store to the left was also full. He started to feel regret for all the business he is missing out on. He is making calculations in his head how much he is losing by not opening his store.

This Jew, who had just started keeping shabbos, is debating in his mind what to do. Open or not open the store? go or don't go? He then realized that staying there another moment and he will likely give in and open the store, he turned around and ran away as fast as he could. He got home, he didn't see anything - not his wife, kids the meal waiting for him, nothing other than the long line of customers he was missing out on. All those customers who only would be there today and would not return tomorrow.

The fellow continues relating his story to the rabbi.. He says he didn't know what to do. He had this debate raging in his head, and he knew that at any moment he could lose and decide to go back and open his store. He says he had no choice but to take the following action: he opened his cabinet, took out a bottle of strong vodka, drank the whole bottle, and collapsed in bed. When he woke up, Shabbos was already over.

Rabbi, he cried, I need to do teshuva because I missed the shabbos meal.

Rabbi Slovtitsky said, when relating the story to Daman, that he did not know what to say to the man. He cried as he realized that he did not know who really needed to do teshuva. The simple fellow who is a tzaddik or us? What is more important in heaven? My shabbos meal with song and divrei torah or the drunken sleep of that man.

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