Weekly Chasidic Story #703 (s5771-37 / 13 Iyar 5771)

The Whisper Cure

Since his disturbed daughter was not well enough to travel, he hoped to persuade the Baal Shem Tov to journey home with him.

Connection: Seasonal - Lag B'Omer


The Whisper Cure

In the town of Plitz, a wealthy resident stood in his aristocratic house, broken-hearted and depressed. His beautiful, good natured, intelligent, beloved only daughter was seized by severe mental illness, and life in the home had become virtually unbearable for the whole family.

This sad event occurred during the early years after the Baal Shem Tov first became revealed (in the end of 5494 [1734] at age 36) as an inspired holy man. Word of his wonders and miracles had already spread throughout that region of Eastern Europe, and the rich man hoped that the Besht (acronym of Baal Shem Tov) would somehow be able to rescue his daughter from her bewildering plight.

Because of her situation, she would not be able to travel with him to the Besht, so he decided he would go alone and do everything in his power to get the Besht to come with him.

At that time the Besht was staying in Talust, the village of his birth. He had returned there to visit his mother. The villagers respected him greatly and delighted in his residing among them, all the more so as they realized that many difficulties in village affairs had already been resolved as a result of his wondrous presence.

The wealthy Jew arrived in his ornate carriage and requested the Baal Shem Tov to make the long journey with him back to Plitz, to try to cure his daughter. The Besht agreed.

Word spread quickly in Talust of the Baal Shem Tov 's imminent departure. Delegations of upset Talusters came to the Besht and pleaded with him not to leave. How can the tzadik give preference to the healing of a solitary individual over the welfare of an entire village?

The Besht responded gently that he wasn't going in order to help just one person, but for the benefit of many. But he added no explanation to his words.

Early the next morning the Besht boarded the carriage together with his host. The coachman urged the horses on. All three were sure that before the end of the day they would reach their destination. However, various unforeseen problems arose which slowed their trip considerably. Darkness descended and thickened about them until they were forced to pursue lodging for the night in the nearest village, which was Pistine.

As soon as they arrived and saw the sad faces of the locals, they knew a serious problem must have overtaken the population. The rich man halted the carriage so that he could query a passerby as to what was going on.

The man responded that the village was part of the domain of a certain poritz (titled landowner, most often a Count), an evil man who hated Jews and made every effort to oppress the ones in his jurisdiction. Now he had unleashed a new horror.

It turned out that the nobleman's daughter had suddenly gone insane, and her father immediately concluded that it must be because the Jewish population ----who he knew hated him--had prayed for it to happen to her. He informed the Jewish leaders that if she didn't recover within three days, he would expel the entire community from his lands, after first seizing all of their property, of course.

The wealthy Jewish visitor was spiritually sensitive enough to realize immediately that the Hand of G-d was directing all of these events-the two mental illnesses, the obstacle to their travels and the forced overnight stay, his involvement with the Baal Shem Tov-in order to relieve and succor the oppressed Jewish community. He asked several people to inform the Jewish leadership that he was accompanied to their town by none other than the great Baal Shem Tov himself, the famous doer of wonders.

The unexpected good news raised their spirits and lifted their hopes. They hurried to the Besht to ask him to somehow cure their landlord's daughter. When he agreed to their request, they ran to the Count to inform him that a great and holy man had arrived in their humble village and that they knew he would be able to cure the ailing daughter.

The Count ridiculed their suggestion. The best of doctors had already thoroughly examined her, and pronounced that it was forbidden to give her any form of medicine, because in her bizarre state they couldn't be sure that the treatment wouldn't damage her further. It was certain they would not permit any potions to be administered to her by someone, a stranger, who wasn't even a doctor.

They dutifully reported the nobleman's response to the Besht. He instructed them to return to the Count and tell him that he, the Baal Shem Tov, Master of the Good Name, would heal the girl without any medicine or potions, but simply by whispering in her ear.

To this the Count agreed, albeit with a large dose of skepticism.

The Besht came to the castle accompanied by the rich man of Plitz and the leaders of the Pistine Jewish community. He politely asked that the disturbed girl be brought into a room that had no [idolatrous] statues or images. He also directed that they tie her to her chair so that she could not run off.

After his requests were fulfilled, the Besht entered the room, opened the holy book he had brought with him, the Talmudic tractate called Me'ilah [17b], and began to read aloud the story featuring Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai.

The Roman emperor once decreed upon the Jews of Israel that they would no longer be permitted to observe the commandments of the Torah, such as Shabbat and circumcision. The Sages immediately appointed a delegation to travel overseas to Rome to try and nullify the decree. They also appointed Rabbi Shimon to be its leader, because he was "accustomed to miracles."

Rabbi Shimon boarded the ship. At that same time the Al-mighty arranged for an evil spirit to enter the Caesar's daughter and drive her insane. The name of this demon was Ben Tamilyon. The princess began to scream incessantly: "Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai should come and heal me!"

Shortly thereafter, Rabbi Shimon and his delegation arrived in Rome. Upon learning his identity, the Roman soldiers immediately escorted him to Caesar's Palace, so that he should heal the princess.

Rabbi Shimon entered her chambers and called out, "Get out from her, Ben Tamilyon, get out from her!" The spirit did so and the princess was instantly cured.

The emperor couldn't stop thanking and praising Rabbi Shimon. Finally he said to him, "Please, sir, go into all the royal rooms and treasuries, and with my blessing take for yourself whatever you most desire."

Rabbi Shimon accepted with alacrity and went from room to room, carefully searching. Finally he found what he was looking for: the scroll in which was engraved the decree against the Jews and their religion. He took it, showed his selection to the Caesar, and ripped it up. Shortly thereafter he departed to return to Israel.

As the Besht completed this Talmudic passage, he turned to face the Count, who had been staring at him in amazement the entire time.

"Are you prepared to swear that after your daughter is cured you will no longer persecute the Jews in your domain, but will treat them well and to their benefit?"

Nothing was more important to the landlord than the welfare of his precious only daughter. He agreed, and promptly swore on his own life and that of his daughter's. The Baal Shem Tov then turned towards the deranged daughter and whispered in her ear, "Just as Rabbi Shimon decreed on the invading spirit that it must depart from the daughter of the Emperor, so I, Israel Baal Shem Tov ben Eliezer, decree upon the spirit here that it depart from the daughter of the Count. And may the One who healed the daughter of the Caesar of Rome heal also the daughter of this nobleman."

Utter silence pervaded the chamber. The Baal Shem Tov signaled for the restraining ropes to be removed from the landlord's daughter. The tension in the room sharpened. But then the girl rose and began to speak, and it was immediately clear that she had returned to normalcy!

The Jews of Pistine laughed and cheered for the great miracle; their rabbis declared it to be an official day of thanksgiving and singing the Hallel prayer.

The rich man from Plitz could not conceal his astonishment. He right away sat down and composed a letter to Reb Ephraim, the president of the Jewish community in Talust. He filled it with praise of the Al-mighty for His kindness and His supervision of the unusual chain of events, and for the extraordinary wonders performed through the Baal Shem Tov, who was clearly the tzadik of their generation.

He also wrote that only now could be understood the Besht's mysterious words before his departure from Talust: "It is not for the sake of an individual I am leaving you, but for the good of the many." By "the many," he clearly meant the entire Jewish population of Pistine, who had been rescued from poverty and banishment by his intervention.

The next day the Besht travelled with the rich man to Plitz. Many Jews from Pistine escorted them all the way there.

Upon entering his host's home, the Besht immediately turned to an eastern wall and began to pray. In his prayers he requested intensely that the sick daughter be cured. When he stepped back from his prayer, he found her already completely healthy, with her parents and all the other members of the household amazed and delighted.

The wealthy father immediately set out on another trip to Tolust. This time it was in order to return the Besht, now even more famous and praised as a bringer of salvations to the Jewish people, to the loving embrace of his mother and hometown.

[Source: Translated-adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from the Hebrew weekly, Sichat HaShavua, #1166. You may distribute this e-mail as long as full attribution is given, including Ascent's email and internet addresses.
Yerachmiel Tilles is director of www.ascentofsafed.com and www.KabbalaOnline.org . He has hundreds of published stories to his credit, and many have been translated into other languages. His weekly mailing of chasidic/kabbalist stories (700+ !) goes to thousands of subscribers.
Connection: Seasonal - Lag B'Omer

Biographic notes:
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.

Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, one of the most important sages in Jewish history, lived over 1800 years ago. Teachings in his name abound throughout the Mishnah, Gemorrah, and Midrashim, while the Zohar, the primary source text of Kabbalah, is built around Rabbi Shimon's revelations to his inner circle of disciples. During the hours before his passing, on Lag b'Omer [this year: Sat. nite-Sun, May 22], he disclosed the "most sublime" secrets of Torah, in order to ensure that the day would always be an occasion for great joy, untouched by sadness because of the Omer period and mourning for him. The seminal importance of the Zohar in Jewish thought and the annual pilgrimage to Meron on Lag b"Omer are testimonies to his success.


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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