Weekly Chasidic Story #1030 (s5777-49) 13 Elul 5777
From the desk of Yerachmiel Tilles: email@example.com
The Divorce Solution
About a half a year after the wedding, the young wife lost her sanity. Since
she was not in a mental state to legally accept a bill of divorce, her husband
was unable to remarry. Her father approached the Baal Shem Tov and asked
for his advice and a blessing for her recovery.
Connection: Seasonal - the 257th yahrzeit of Rabbi Yisrael ben Eliezer,
the Baal Shem Tov.
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The Divorce Solution
In 1740, the Baal Shem Tov came to visit the city of Slutsk. Many of the
local inhabitants came to greet him. Among them was the aged scholar, Rabbi Uri
Nosson Nata, who as a youth was known as the ilui of Karinik, near Brisk.
His son, Shlomo, who had initially been educated at home by his father, left home
at the age of fourteen to seek the scholarly environment of Yeshivas - first in
Vilna, then in Jorodna, and then in Cracow. There he had met a prominent scholar,
Rabbi Menachem Aryeh, who was one of the hidden righteous. Reb Menachem accepted
him as his disciple in the study of chassidut on condition that their connection
is kept secret.
At the age of twenty-two, Shlomo returned to his childhood home in Slutsk. His
father was overjoyed with his progress in learning, and arranged a marriage with
the daughter of the leaseholder of an inn, Reb Eliyahu Moshe, who lived in a nearby
Aabout a half a year after their marriage, however, the young wife tragically,
lost her sanity. Since she was not in a mental state to legally accept a bill
of divorce, Reb Shlomo was unable to remarry.
During the Baal Shem Tov's visit to Slutsk, Shlomo's father, Uri Noson Nata,
described their sad situation to him and asked for his advice and blessing.
Soon thereafter, the unfortunate young woman's father, Eliyahu Moshe, also approached
the Baal Shem Tov and asked for his advice and a blessing for her recovery.
Later the same day, the Baal Shem Tov invited both fathers to meet with him
together. He politely asked if either of them bore a grudge against the other.
The bridegroom's father, Reb Uri Nosson Nata, had nothing but praise for his
mechutan (relative by marriage), the bride's father. He extolled that despite
the pressure of business, the innkeeper fixed times for the study of Torah,
maintained a hospitable house that was open to all comers, supported Talmudic
scholars generously, and maintained his son-in-law in the most respectable manner.
Since Shlomo had been mentioned, his father-in-law, Eliyahu Moshe, now spoke
most highly of his noble character. He was clearly proud of his son-in-law who,
in addition to his assiduous study schedule, always found time on weekdays to
conduct study circles for the simple farming folk who lived round about, teaching
them Chumash with Rashi's commentary, and the moral lessons of Ayn Yaakov; and
on Shabbos he would read for them from the Midrash and the Ethics of the Fathers.
While teaching, he imbued them with a brotherly love for each other, explaining
to them that no man's profit ever came at the expense of that which Divine Providence
had destined for another. In a word, he was well loved by the villagers from
all around, and they all were praying that his young wife would be restored
to complete health, and that he would return to teach them as in happier times.
The Baal Shem Tov listened carefully to both fathers, and then said: "With
G·d's help, I will be able to help the young woman return to complete
health and restore her mind to its original clarity - but only on one condition:
That when this happens the young couple not live together, and when several
days have passed, and she is in a fit state according to the Torah Law to accept
a Get (rabbinically sanctioned document of divorce), she accepts it from
her husband with a willing heart."
The two fathers were stunned! Rabbi Uri Nosson Nata proposed various legal objections
to such a divorce, and Reb Eliyahu Moshe argued that his daughter would be grieved
by such a procedure, since she respected her husband highly. He was certain
that his son-in-law would likewise be distressed. He himself was prepared to
contribute an enormous sum to charity - in the merit of which he begged the
Baal Shem Tov to pray for her recovery, but to allow the young couple to rejoin
each other in the love and harmony to which they were accustomed. The Baal Shem
Tov answered unequivocally - that if they did not agree to the condition that
he had stipulated, he would not be able to help them.
A few days later, they called on the Baal Shem Tov together with the young husband,
and told him that they accepted his condition - though of course they could
not guarantee that his stricken wife would agree. Upon hearing their reply,
the Baal Shem Tov instructed Reb Eliyahu Moshe to immediately go home and tell
his sick, ailing daughter that the Baal Shem Tov had come to Slutsk and had
requested for her to come to speak with him about an important matter.
Hearing that, the two fathers looked at each other in amazement.
"But Rebbe, for the last six years," Eliyahu Moshe protested, "she
has not uttered a syllable! She just sits between the stove and the wall, and
can barely be fed. In a word, my poor daughter is utterly out of her mind. How
can I possibly explain to her your request?"
The Baal Shem Tov did not reply.
Making his way homeward with a heavy heart, Eliyahu Moshe remarked to his mechutan
that if the Baal Shem Tov had seen the state in which his daughter was to be
found, he would not have spoken as he had. Uri Nosson Nata, in turn, sighed
in sympathy from the depths of his heart for everyone suffering from this matter.
Not so his son, Shlomo. Before his marriage, when he had been a disciple of
Rabbi Menachem Aryeh, he had been introduced to teachings of the Baal Shem Tov.
Now that he had met him in person, and had heard his teachings, he became attached
to him with all his heart. He therefore told his father-in-law that he thought
they should follow the instructions of the Baal Shem Tov implicitly. Reb Uri
Nosson Nata added that since they had already accepted the far more difficult
condition of their daughter being crazy, they should certainly proceed to carry
out the instruction that they attempt to speak to the young woman.
Opening the door to his house, Reb Eliyahu Moshe found his daughter sitting
in her accustomed corner behind the stove. He told his wife all that the Baal
Shem Tov had said, adding that he was widely reputed as a miracle worker.
To their amazement, their daughter suddenly rose from her. She approached her
mother and father quietly, and in a voice they had not heard for six years,
asked who was this person who worked wonders. They told her that the man about
whom they were speaking was called the Baal Shem Tov, a renowned tzadik. She
answered that before hearing any more, she first wanted to immerse herself in
a mikveh for purification.
After going to the mikveh, the young woman began eating, speaking and sleeping
as if completely normal, though she felt very weak. On the third day, she had
a high fever and in her delirium spoke about the Baal Shem Tov. When her father
heard her crying and asking to be taken to the wonder-worker, he was suddenly
reminded of what the surprising sudden turn of events made him forget - that
the Baal Shem Tov had asked to see her. He told her of the Baal Shem Tov's request
and she was visibly happy to receive the message. On the very next day, accompanied
her parents, she made the journey to Slutsk.
Reb Shlomo soon heard of his wife's recovery, for his father-in-law had sent
a special messenger with the news. He now began to speak with his father about
the principles of chassidus taught by the Baal Shem Tov. He explained the emphasis
which the Baal Shem Tov gave to the mystical teachings of the Kabbalah; the
workings of Divine Providence not only for man, but regarding all created things,
even the inanimate; the intrinsic holiness and worth of even the simplest fellow
Jew; the importance and obligation of Ahavas Yisrael; serving G·d with
a joyful heart; and so on.
The aged scholar pondered these matters all day and throughout the following
night. On the next day, he set out to tell the Baal Shem Tov what his son had
told him of his teachings, and added that he desired to become his disciple.
At the same meeting, he told the Baal Shem Tov of the good news that had just
reached his son. The Baal Shem Tov replied that on that same day the young woman
was again unwell, but that when her father would carry out his mission she would
recover and come to see him.
When the young woman and her parents arrived at Slutsk, she and her husband
entered the room of the Baal Shem Tov. He told them that they would have to
divorce. With bitter tears, the unfortunate young woman told the Baal Shem Tov
how highly she respected her husband for his refined character. If, however
he decreed that they should divorce, he must surely know that she was unworthy
of such a righteous husband, and felt it her duty to comply. Shlomo, likewise
moved, told the Baal Shem Tov that his wife exemplified all the noble attributes
by which the Sages define a good wife. If, however, the Baal Shem Tov ordered
that they divorce, he too would be obey.
The Baal Shem Tov arranged to see them in four days; he would then arrange the
legalities required by Jewish Law.
For the next three days the young couple and their parents fasted and prayed.
On the fourth day, with heavy hearts, they made their way to the tzadik. They
found a Rav, a scribe and two witnesses already waiting. The Baal Shem Tov asked
them if they agreed wholeheartedly to the divorce. They answered that they believed
that whatever the Baal Shem Tov told them would be for the best, and since they
loved each other, each of them was willing to proceed with the divorce -- for
the benefit of the other.
The Baal Shem Tov retired to another room and stayed there for some time.
When he returned he related the following: "Six years ago a threat of terrible
suffering hung over your lives because of accusations of the Heavenly prosecuting
angel. The Heavenly court's verdict was that you should both undergo the troubles
that you have experienced these last six years. But now that you have shown
great faith in my words, to the extent that you were both willing to proceed
with a divorce, this very faith has freed you from the decree of the Heavenly
court. The charge against you has been annulled. Live on happily together as
man and wife. You have my blessing that your home be filled with sons, daughters
and many grandchildren, and that you both live to a ripe old age."
The young couple remained in Slutsk for three years. They then lived in several
major Jewish communities, until they moved to Liozna as chasidim of Rabbi Shneur-Zalman,
the founder of the Chabad dynasty. In 1796 they settled in Eretz Yisrael, where
they lived for fifteen years until Shlomo passed away at age 99.
Source: Edited and supplemented by Yerachmiel Tilles from the adaption by Tzvi-Meir
Cohn on his website //baalshemtov.com of a story in A Treasury of Chassidic
Tales by S. Y. Zevin, as translated by Uri Kaploun.
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
Connection: Seasonal-Chai (18th) Elul is the anniversary
of the birthday of the Baal Shem Tov in 1698, and of Rabbi Shneur-Zalman of
Chabad (also mentioned at the end of the above story) in 1745.
I realized it was a careless
thing to do the second I did it. I closed the laptop I use at home while its
plug was lying on the keyboard - not hard, mind you - but that unusual cracking
noise didn't sound good. I turned it on and the screen was totally shattered
inside, displaying digital abstract art. I couldn't believe it broke.
It's Elul, I told
myself. I'm not going to let myself get all upset about this. It's obvious
the Almighty is sending me a message about my overuse of the computer.
I shlepped my home laptop
to work so I could give it to the computer support team who service the Aish
HaTorah offices. Our office manager wasn't encouraging. "Getting a new
screen is very expensive. It might not pay to fix it."
The computer technician
called me right away. "How old is your laptop?"
"Two or three years
old. But it's a perfectly good computer."
"It's not worth fixing.
A new screen is going to cost you between 1500 to 2000 shekels. You can get
a new laptop in the U.S. for that price."
"What! Are you sure
it's going to cost that much? Can I first get a quote and then I'll decide what
"Sure, but the quote
will cost you 300 NIS if you don't fix it."
This is absurd,
I thought to myself.
"Let me think about
it and I'll get back to you."
Then I remembered this
computer technician, a chasidic woman, who once paid a house call and fixed
our computer that got hit with a virus. She was intelligent and affordable.
I called her to see what she could offer.
"It'll cost you 450
NIS. I can come by tonight to pick it up."
I was incredulous (second
time that day). She drove over 9 PM that night in her beat up car and I handed
her the goods.
9 AM the next morning she
called to tell me it's ready. "When can I drop it off?" she asked.
It was too good to be true.
I have a rule that I use, especially when it comes to some of the more fantastical
submissions to Aish.com that come my way, that if it's too good to be true,
it probably is. In this case, though, it was an exception. My laptop was gleaming
with its new screen, it cost less than a quarter of the original quote, I got
it back in one day, delivery included, and I helped support a mother of many
children (they were all packed into the car when she dropped it off) who I'm
sure needed the business more than the professional company who services the
I was relieved that I didn't
listen to the "expert advice" to buy a new laptop, something I momentarily
considered, and just fixed the one I had. Perhaps this is the message I'm supposed
to get during this period of Elul: Just fix it. Don't discard the problem. Don't
avoid dealing with the issue at hand. It's easy to despair when thinking about
all the issues you need to fix in your life as you gear up for Rosh Hashanah.
How can I possibly create a whole new me? Confronting the problem is just too
costly and difficult. It seems impossible to change.
All that negative self-talk
is just a distraction designed to get us to run away from dealing with our real
Don't listen to that voice.
Fix the problem instead. Confront the challenge head on and with some honesty
and a sincere desire to repair it, you'll be surprised to discover one or two
very doable steps that could really make a difference and are not as hard as
you initially thought.
Just fix it.
Source: Rabbi Nechemia Coopersmith is the chief editor of www.Aish.com,
one of the world's largest Judaism websites, which emanates from Jerusalem,
where he lives with his wife and children. He is also the author of Shmooze:
A Guide to Thought-Provoking Discussion on Essential Jewish Issues. AND, he
provided me with lots of good advice to help start up www.KabbalaOnline.org
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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