# #448 (s5766-38 / 25 Sivan 5766)

The Bed of Spices

When the Baal Shem Tov arrived, the doors of the study house were locked.

The Bed of Spices

It was the custom of the Baal Shem Tov to extend his third Shabbat meal until it was well into the night, thus prolonging the holiness of the day. But one week he made an exception to his usual practice and concluded Shabbat immediately at nightfall. He said the havdala prayer separating the Sabbath from the rest of the week, and at once made arrangements to set off on a journey. His coachman harnessed the horses, and as soon as the Baal Shem Tov mounted the carriage, the horses set off at great speed. Where was the Baal Shem Tov rushing, and why was it important enough to alter his normal Shabbat routine?

It was still night when the carriage bearing the Baal Shem Tov pulled up outside the study house "Chachmei Kloiz" in the city of Brody. Inside, a secret meeting had been convened with the object of placing a cherem, an order of excommunication, on the Baal Shem Tov and his followers. The selected invitees had been sworn to secrecy to assure that no news of the plan would reach anyone outside of the group. The leader of the Brody assembly was the famous Rabbi Moshe Ostrer, a scholar of great renown.

By the time the Baal Shem Tov arrived, the doors of the study house were locked with a guard posted outside barring anyone uninvited from trying to enter. The Baal Shem Tov approached the doorman and entreated him to open the doors, but to no avail, since he had no invitation. Finally, the Baal Shem Tov said to the guard, "Please, go inside, and tell those gathered that someone wishes to enter, and if they refuse, they are putting their own lives in danger."

The shaken doorman went inside and conveyed the message to the distinguished assembly. A murmur circulated through the crowd. Who, they asked, is this stranger who makes such a dire threat? The doorman relayed the response of the stranger: "Tell them I am Yisroel Baal Shem Tov, and that I have come just now from Medzibozh. I wish to be admitted before them so that they can judge me in person."

The shocked participants allowed him to enter, and he began speaking: "There are two hundred and fifty participants here tonight. Your plot to excommunicate me has caused the curse of Korach's rebels to be brought against you, and you have been sentenced to perish as they did." Several of those present quickly stood and counted the men in the room; true to his word, there were two hundred and fifty people present. The hushed crowd sensed the power of the Baal Shem Tov and understood the profound error of their intentions; they begged for his forgiveness, which he readily gave.

Next, as a gesture of apology, their leader, Reb Moshe Ostrer, rose and presented the Baal Shem Tov with a copy of his new commentary, Arugat Habosem, which had not yet been released for general distribution. The Baal Shem Tov accepted the book, flipped through the pages, kissed it, and announced: "I see that your work contains pure truth from the beginning to the end. It is because your soul was empowered by the spirit of King Solomon that your writing is so close to its source."

Reb Moshe was astounded; could anyone really absorb an entire volume just from quickly ruffling through its pages? But then the Baal Shem continued, saying, "The entire Song of Songs is explained in your volume, except for your title words, 'arugat habosem' ['bed of spices' - 5:13]. Those words are not commented upon."
The author objected, "That is absolutely not so. I most certainly did include an explanation of those words!"

"Show it to me, then," challenged the Baal Shem Tov.
Reb Moshe took the book and looked where he knew it to be, but to his surprise, the explanation was missing, apparently lost in a printing error.

The assembled group no longer harbored any doubt that the Baal Shem Tov was a tzadik. They rose to accompany him to his carriage, grateful to have been saved from a grievous mistake.
[Adapted by Yrachmiel Tilles from the rendition on www.lchaimweekly.org]

Biographical note:
Rabbi Yisrael ben Eliezer (18 Elul 1698 - 6 Sivan 1760), the Baal Shem Tov ["master of the good Name"], a unique and seminal figure in Jewish history, revealed the Chassidic movement and his own identity as an exceptionally holy person, on his 36th birthday, 18 Elul 1734. He wrote no books, although many claim to contain his teachings. One available in English is the excellent annotated translation of Tzava'at Harivash, published by Kehos.

Yrachmiel Tilles is co-founder and associate director of Ascent-of-Safed, and editor of Ascent Quarterly and the AscentOfSafed.com and KabbalaOnline.org websites. He has hundreds of published stories to his credit.

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