The Baal Shem Tov Saves A Town

In honor of my dear father’s a’h birthday 3rd Cheshvan, whose MM stories are the inspiration for these stories.

The Baal Shem Tov would visit a certain village annually where he would be the guest of a certain rich man who lived in this city.

Once, the Baal Shem Tov suddenly appeared in this village on erev Shabbos, not at his regular time. He immediately went to the shul where he planned to spend Shabbos. The rich man, when he heard the Baal Shem Tov was in town, came running to the shul and asked the Baal Shem Tov to please honor him with his presence as was his usual custom. However the Baal Shem Tov told him that this time he will be staying in shul for Shabbos.

All the inhabitants of the city gathered in the shul to see the Baal Shem Tov.  Right after Kabbolas Shabbos and maariv, the Baal Shem Tov told all the people to remain in shul and recite Tehillim. Close to midnight, he asked for seudas Shabbos and told the people that they could go home to have their Shabbbos meal, but should return to shul after the meal. When they returned they began to say Tehillim once again. This continued through the night until daybreak. Soon thereafter they davened Shacharis. After the Shabbos davening, the Baal Shem Tov turned to the rich man and said to him:

“Now we can go to have the Shabbos meal at your home.”

Following Kiddush, when everyone was gathered around the table enjoying the simcha of Shabbos, a Gentile entered the house and asked for a drink of whiskey. The Baal Shem Tov said to give it to him. He then turned to the goy and asked him to tell what he knows.

The goy began:

“Yesterday, towards evening, the poritz, the landlord of this area, gathered all the farmers from around here, and gave them all sorts of weapons, that they should go and destroy the Jews in the village. All night they remained waiting for the order. Early morning there arrived a horse and wagon with a minister, who went in to see the poritz. He remained with him for a while. Afterwards, the poritz came out and told all the villagers to disperse and go home.”

The goy left and the Baal Shem Tov continued the story:

“The poritz is very wealthy. Since he did not need the money, he was not in a rush to sell the produce of his fields. He haggled over the prices offered him without coming to a business conclusion. Thus was accumulated in his silos, produce from a number of years, until they began to rot.

Jew haters blamed the Jews and influenced the poritz to believe that they were keeping the buyers from him. The anger of the poritz was aroused until he decided to destroy all the Jews from his provinces.

“I had no other alternative, but to bring him a dead friend from his youth. The poritz learned together with him in the same school in the capital city. Since they lived far away from each other, the poritz did not know that its already some forty years since he died.

When he came to the poritz, he asked him, ‘what are the villagers doing here armed to the hilt?’

He answered him that they came to take revenge on the Jews who are hostile to him. Because of them my produce is rotting in the storehouses. The minister said to him:

‘What are you talking about? I do business with the Jews all the time, and they are straight and honest people. Try tomorrow, after their Sabbath, to call the Jews. They will sell all your produce for you, even what has already rotted.’

At this point the poritz told the non Jews to leave the square and go home.”

When this story was told by the Tzadik of Sadigore, the son of the holy Ruzhiner*, he asked:

“Why did the Baal Shem Tov have to bother himself to come to this village to accomplish this? He could have done the same from his own place! But,” he continued, “this is what the Baal Shem Tov said:

‘If I am successful in this mission, good; and if not, G-d forbid, I want to be with my brethren together.’”

From Sippurei Chassidim on Torah by Rabbi Y Zevin # 232.

*The holy, R’ Yisroel of Ruzhin (1796- 1850) was a grandson of the ‘Malach’, the son of the Mezritcher Maggid, a contemporary of the Alter Rebbe. His yahrzeit was 3rd of Cheshvan. At the exact time of his passing, the Tzemach Tzedek who was in the city of Lubavitch, ripped his clothing saying, the holy Ruzhiner passed away.

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