THE HOLY SABBATH BEANS
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.