Weekly Chasidic Story #1073-42

French Wine

An man appeared to the Baal Shem Tov in a dream. "My soul cannot rest; my son, who lives in Paris, does not follow the Torah way of life."

Connection: The Weekly Reading of Pinchas gives details on the daily, weekly, monthly and holiday offerings on the altar, all of which had to be accompanied by kosher wine libations.

French Wine


An important man once appeared to the Baal Shem Tov in a dream. "I have no peace in this World of the Hereafter. My soul cannot rest, for my son, who lives in Paris, does not follow the Torah way of life."

On the following day the Baal Shem Tov set out for Paris to see what he could do. When he arrived in the city, it was already nighttime. The horses stopped of their own accord before a large mansion. The Baal Shem Tov told his attendant to knock upon the gate.

"This is no hotel," said the gatekeeper angrily, ordering them to go on.

The Baal Shem Tov told his attendant to knock again until finally the master and his wife were awakened by the tumult. When the good woman saw the dignified features and regal bearing of the Baal Shem Tov seated in the carriage, she begged her husband to let him stay with them.
"We have such a large house with so many empty rooms and no children to fill them. Let us at least take in this man and let him stay for as long as he desires."

The master finally gave in to his wife's request and a room was prepared for the Baal Shem Tov.
The next day the Baal Shem Tov told his attendant to spread the word that a miracle worker had come to town. That very day people began streaming to the mansion, requesting an audience with the Baal Shem Tov.

When the mistress of the house noticed all the activity centered around her guest she inquired of the visitors what they wished. They told her why they had come, each with his personal request, and entrusted her with their donation for charity. The good woman handled all the financial transactions of her important guest and realized that between the monies coming in from donations, and the monies being distributed to the poor and needy, when all was said and done there was none left for the Baal Shem Tov.

Then, when the results of the miracle worker's potions and advice soon filtered back, the woman was convinced that her guest was indeed a holy man possessed of wondrous powers. She began pleading with her husband that he approach the Baal Shem Tov on her behalf.

"We have been married for so many years and have not been blessed with children. This holy man will surely be able to help us."

Much against his will, the husband finally agreed to speak to his guest.

"What kind of business do you own?" asked the Baal Shem Tov when his host finally came to him.

"I have a wine distillery," came the reply.

"Do you produce any kosher wine?"


"Well, then," said the Baal Shem Tov, "when the next harvest is ready, make some kosher wine and bring it to Mezhibuz. You will make a handsome profit."

The wine manufacturer laughed to himself, for he made a very profitable business without producing kosher wine. He just shrugged his shoulders and said that the harvest was still a long time off and he would see. Then he mentioned his personal request, his desire for children.
The Baal Shem Tov gave the man several medicines for his wife and told him that next year at this time she would give birth to a son. The wine merchant had little hope for these medicines as his wife had already consulted the most famous doctors without results.

The Baal Shem Tov bade his hosts farewell and left. The woman took the potions that he had given her and in three months' time found herself with child.

When the wine merchant saw that the rabbi's blessing had come true, he decided to make the kosher wine after all and to bring it to Mezhibuz. He would then take the opportunity to invite the Baal Shem Tov to the brit which would surely take place in the near future.

When the wine was ready, he loaded the barrels into several wagons and set forth for his destination. He traveled for several days and eventually found himself in a deep forest. Night fell and the merchant wished to stop for the night. He jumped off the wagon and went to seek some house or shelter. But the driver had not noticed his master get off and continued driving on.

Suddenly the driver realized that his master was not inside and began shouting for him. He went back part of the way, calling his master all the while, but could find no trace of him. After an extensive search he decided to return home. When the mistress of the house heard that her husband was lost she hurried back to the forest to seek him but was forced to return home empty handed and disappointed.

The master's search for shelter was rewarded. He spied a light and walked towards it. He found a group of men within a small shack, many of whom he recognized as Paris acquaintances, seated around a table playing cards. He joined them, staking all his money on the game. He lost it all.

His acquaintances suggested that he take one last fling and put up his clothes as stakes against the money he had lost. He lost this last game also and was seized by his creditors. They stripped him of his clothing, heedless of his cries for mercy. He begged them to let him keep his clothes until he returned home for others but they just threw him out of the hut in his undignified state.

The merchant wandered around helplessly in his white underclothing. Suddenly he spied a shepherd from afar. He ran towards him to seek help, but the shepherd could not distinguish the living form in the dimness of the dawn and thought that he was seeing a ghost. The merchant pursued the fleeing shepherd until he caught up with him by his cottage. When the shepherd saw that his pursuer was indeed flesh and blood he invited him in and refreshed him with food and drink. The merchant then said that he had been attacked by a band of robbers who had stripped him of his very clothes. He was naturally ashamed to admit that he had lost everything at cards. The shepherd had pity upon the man and gave him some clothing.

The merchant thus began a half year of wandering which had a considerable effect on him. As he began frequenting synagogues and Torah study-halls, his respect and desire for Torah knowledge grew all the while. The man eventually became a chasid of the Baal Shem Tov during this period, and once went to spend a Shabbos with him.

He sat down at the table with the other chasidim and no one paid him any particular attention. The Baal Shem Tov offered his guest a drink of wine but the man was suddenly taken aback. The label on the bottle testified that this was the very brand that he produced in Paris and was therefore unkosher wine.

The Baal Shem Tov laughed at his guest's consternation and reassured him, "I know who you are. This is your wine, isn't it? Well, have no qualms, for this is the special wine that I asked you to make and bring to me. Your wagons are situated just a little way out of Mezhibuz. Now go and sell the wine and return home to your wife who is about to give birth to a son."

The man gladly followed the Baal Shem Tov's advice and was soon reunited with his wife. As predicted by The Baal Shem Tov, she gave birth to a son. The wine merchant became a G-d fearing observant Jew and Torah scholar in Paris.

Source: Lightly edited and supplemented by Yerachmiel Tilles from the English edition of Tales of the Baal Shem Tov (vol. 2, pp.. 216-221) by Y. Y. Klapholtz, as translated by Sheindel Weinbach.

Biographical notes:
Rabbi Yisrael ben Eliezer [of blessed memory: 18 Elul 5458 - 6 Sivan 5520 (Aug. 1698 - May 1760 C.E.)], the Baal Shem Tov ["Master of the Good Name"-often referred to as "the Besht" for short], a unique and seminal figure in Jewish history, revealed his identity as an exceptionally holy person, on his 36th birthday, 18 Elul 5494 (1734 C.E.), and made the until-then underground Chasidic movement public. He wrote no books, although many works claim to contain his teachings. One available in English is the excellent annotated translation of Tzava'at Harivash, published by Kehos.

Connection: The Weekly Reading of Pinchas gives details on the daily, weekly, monthly and holiday offerings on the altar, all of which had to be accompanied by kosher wine libations.


Yerachmiel Tilles is co-founder and associate director of Ascent-of-Safed, and chief editor of this website (and of KabbalaOnline.org). He has hundreds of published stories to his credit, and many have been translated into other languages. He tells them live at Ascent nearly every Saturday night.

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