Weekly Chasidic Story #1081 (s5778-50/ 16 Elul 5778)

Three Brothers

On Friday, the Baal Shem Tov announced that it was imperative that he pray all the prayers of the holy Sabbath at the home of the dying Reb Dovid.

Connection: Seasonal -- Elul 18 (this year: Tues. night - Wed., Aug. 29-30) is the 320th anniversary of the birth of the Besht.

Three Brothers

In a small village deep in the Carpathian Mountains, there lived three learned, G-d-fearing brothers: Reb Chaim, Reb Yaakov and Reb Dovid. Reb Chaim and Reb Yaakov were devoted followers of the Baal Shem Tov but Reb Dovid was a "mitnagid" - one strongly opposed to the customs and teachings of the fledgling Chassidic movement.

Whenever the Baal Shem Tov visited the village, he always asked Reb Chaim and Reb Yaakov as to the physical and spiritual welfare of their brother. The two brothers found it quite curious that the Baal Shem Tov always inquired about the wellbeing of Reb Dovid. After all, it was well known that Reb Dovid had spoken demeaningly about their Rebbe.

Once, the Baal Shem Tov arrived at the village on a Thursday. Before he even encountered Reb Chaim and Reb Yaakov, he inquired about Reb Dovid from the other town folk. "So how is my adversary Reb Dovid?" he asked.

The villagers thought that the Baal Shem Tov would be pleased with the news: "Reb Dovid is on his deathbed and has lost the power of speech."

The Baal Shem Tov was visibly distraught at the news and went immediately to the home of the two brothers Reb Chaim and Reb Yaakov. He told them that it was urgent that he pay a visit to their dying brother. The two brothers were a little upset and confused at their Rebbe's request. "Rebbe, it might be better if you don't visit him right now," they said.

The Baal Shem Tov accepted their advice, but the next morning, Friday, the eve of the holy Shabbat, he told the two brothers that it was imperative that he pray at the home of their critically ill brother on the Shabbat.

"Rebbe," they implored him, "even if he was healthy, he would certainly not let you pray at his house."

Notwithstanding, the Baal Shem Tov insisted. The two brothers, not about to get involved in trying to fathom the hidden intentions of their holy master, a known miracle maker, devoted their efforts to arranging for the Baal Shem Tov to use a small room in their sick brother's house for prayers and study over the Shabbat, and to have a Holy Ark and a Torah scroll brought there for the morning minyan.

The Baal Shem Tov prayed the Sabbath Evening prayers in this small room. The following morning, he prolonged Shacharit, the Shabbat morning prayers until nearly two o'clock in the afternoon. When they reached the time to read from the Torah scroll, the Baal Shem Tov delayed. It seemed as if he was waiting for something to occur. Just then, they heard a terrible, deep groan from the dying Reb Dovid.

The Baal Shem called out to Reb Dovid's two brothers, "Let us go in to visit your sick brother together." When they entered the room, the Baal Shem Tov pulled over a chair to sit next to the suffering invalid.

Reb Dovid's crying mother sat nearby reciting Tehilim (Psalms). She leaned over to her son and whispered "Dovid'll, a holy rabbi is here to visit you." But Reb Dovid didn't move. She took her son's hand and placed it in the Baal Shem Tov's hand.

The Baal Shem Tov gazed at him with a furrowed brow. "Reb Dovid, I understand that you know how to study Talmud?"

But Reb Dovid lay motionless. The Baal Shem Tov repeated the same question several times, but Reb Dovid remained silent. Finally, the Baal Shem Tov raised his voice: "Where are your manners? I am asking you a question!?"

The pale Reb Dovid slowly opened his sunken eyes and looked at the Baal Shem Tov. "Yes," he whispered, "I have studied Gemara."

The Baal Shem Tov then asked, "In which tractate does one of the sages ask another, 'Are your sufferings welcome to you?'"

Reb Dovid replied: "In the tractate Berachot ('Blessings'). "

"And what is answered there?" continued the Baal Shem Tov.

"Neither they nor their reward," he slowly answered.

The Baal Shem Tov then asked, "Reb Dovid, are your sufferings welcome to you?"

Reb Dovid answered: "Neither they nor their reward."

"Give me your other hand," commanded the Baal Shem Tov.

Reb Dovid slowly raised his other hand, and the Baal Shem helped him sit up. "Now place your feet on the floor, stand up, dress yourself slowly and wash your hands."

Amazingly, Reb Dovid was able to follow all four of the Baal Shem Tov's instructions. Hour by hour he slowly regained his strength. Later, he prayed the Musaf ('additional' Shabbat) prayer and, with the help of G-d, he made a full recovery.

As to whether Reb Dovid became a follower of the Baal Shem Tov, we don't know. *

* Editor's note: I suspect that he didn't, despite the miracle; otherwise, it almost for sure would have been passed down in the story.

Source: Adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from the rendition of Tzvi-Meir HaCohane (Howard M. Cohn. Patent Attorney) on //baalshemtov.com. for Neviot

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.

Seasonal -- Elul 18 (this year: Tues. night - Wed., Aug. 28-29) is the 320th anniversary of the birth of the Besht.


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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