Once, in the early days of the tzadik Reb Meir Hagadol* (the grandfather of the well-known tzadik R’ Meir of Premishlan), he came to a certain city. During his stay there, he was invited to a seudat mitzvah (a mitzvah meal) in honor of the brit milah (circumcision) of one of his followers.
The Rabbi of the city was an opponent of the Baal Shem Tov**. He, too, came to the meal and sat at the head of the table. Reb Meir sat on the side, towards the end of the table. The Chassidim surrounded him to listen to his every word. This occurred on Rosh Chodesh and R’ Meir told his Chassidim to sing the song of the day ‘Borchi nafshi’. (My soul, Bless the L-rd – Tehillim chapter104 recited following the Hallel on Rosh Chodesh.)
The Rabbi, seeing this, became angry at Reb Meir, because he was acting in the manner of the Baal Shem Tov. He began saying words of Torah and included negative things about Reb Meir and the Baal Shem Tov.
Following bentching (the grace after the meal), the Rabbi had some time to think about what he said earlier. He understood that what he had done was not appropriate and decided to try to appease Reb Meir. He stood up from his place and walked over to where Reb Meir was sitting and sat down next to him. Turning to him, he said:
“Reb Meir, the world says that you know how to learn, so please say a dvar Torah (words of Torah). With this he hoped to appease him. Reb Meir answered him:
“We will speak about inyana deyoma (what applies to today) from the song Borchi nafshi which we just sang in honor of Rosh Chodesh.” He began to explain verse 23 using a play on words:
“‘Yeitzei adam lefaalo v’leavodoso adei orev’, (Then man goes out to his work, to his labor until evening). A person needs first to improve his work with himself and then comes adei orev, he can improve his arevus – that all the Jewish people are areivim zeh bazeh (responsible one for another); however as long as he has not improved himself, he cannot help others and guide them in Torah and G-d’s ways.”
(Adei orev means till evening, however, the word orev also means responsibility, as in ‘kol Yisroel areivimze baze’- all Jews are responsible for one another.)
These words entered the heart of the Rabbi and he begged Reb Meir to prepare for him a path to do teshuva (repent). He asked him to guide him in avodat Hashem (the service of G-d).
When Reb Meir saw the sincerity of the Rabbi, he told him that the only answer for him was to travel to the Baal Shem Tov himself. The Rabbi agreed and soon thereafter both of them left the city and went to the Baal Shem Tov.
The Rabbi became attached to the Baal Shem Tov and an ardent Chasid.
From Sippurei Chassidim by Rabbi Zevin
A gut voch and a freilichen chodesh and a gut yor!
*Grand Rabbi Meir Hagadol of Premishlan 1703-1773 was a disciple of the holy Baal Shem Tov. He was a descendant of Hillel the Elder. He began the Chassidic dynasty of Premishlan which continues till today.
**Baal Shem Tov – Reb Yisroel the son of Rabbi Eliezer who became known as the Baal Shem Tov or the Besht for short. He was born on Chai Elul – the 18th of this month of Elul in 1698 and passed away on Shavuot in the year 1760. He is the founder of the Chassidic movement and worked hard to uplift and help his people physically and spiritually.
2 thoughts on “Reb Meir Hagadol And The Baal Shem Tov”
Hello! I just would like to offer you a huge thumbs up for your excellent information you have here on this post. I’ll be coming back to your blog for more soon.
Thank you so much @AmadoBlunkall for your wonderful comment, we love hearing from readers like you!