Weekly Chasidic Story #707 (s5771-41 / 11 Sivan 5771)

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Rabbi Dovid Leikes, one of the greatest chasidim of the Baal Shem Tov, asked several followers of the Chernobyler, “Do you have perfect faith in your Rebbe?”


Connection: Seasonal — We are still in the ‘Days of Completion” for the Festival of Shavuot, which was the yahrzeit of the Baal Shem Tov


Once, Rabbi Dovid Leikes, one of the main chasidim in the Chevrayah Kadisha [“holy fellowship”–special inner circle of disciples of the Baal Shem Tov], was speaking with several followers of his son-in-law, Rabbi Mottel, the Chernobyler Rebbe. “Do you have perfect faith in your Rebbe?” he asked them.

None of the men responded.

After a pause Reb Dovid persisted, “So? Nu?” Finally, one of the Chernobyl adherents responded with, “Who can say he has perfect faith?”

Reb Dovid nodded and continued. “My friends, let me tell you a story about faith. Once, several of us in the Fellowship spent a Shabbos at an inn with the Besht [acronym for ‘Baal Shem Tov’]. As was his custom, the Third Meal went late into the night, while the Rebbe told us of the mystical insights he had received while meditating, praying, and studying Torah during that Shabbos.

“When he finished speaking, we recited the ‘Blessings for After a Meal,’ and then the Evening Prayer followed byHavdalah [the ceremony for transition from Shabbat to weekday]. Immediately afterwards we sat down together with the Baal Shem Tov for Melaveh Malka [the Saturday Night mitzvah meal].

“After a few minutes, the Baal Shem Tov turned to me and said, ‘Reb Dovid, reach into your pocket and take out agulden [a valuable gold coin], please, and buy us some mead [honey wine] from the inn keeper.’

“I was still wearing my Shabbos clothes and of course I never carry money on Shabbos. Yet, without thought or hesitation, I reached into my pocket to take out a gulden, as my Rebbe had requested. And – the most amazing thing happened! I found a gulden in my pocket!”

The disciples of Reb Mottel Chernobyler, after hearing this story, commented to Reb Dovid, “You know, that is really not so amazing. It’s just another miracle story about the Besht.”

“Yes, I suppose that is so,” said Reb Dovid. “But I did not tell you the story in order to show that the Baal Shem Tov does miracles. My point is that my faith in my Rebbe was so great that I didn’t even think to question his request. I just reached into my pocket for the money. That it was there is secondary!”

Source: Adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from the rendition of Tzvi-Meir HaCohane on baalshemtov.com, based on a letter from the Rav of Medzibush as translated in Stories of the Baal Shem Tov by Y.Y. Klapholtz.

Connection: Seasonal — We are still in the ‘Days of Completion” for the Festival of Shavuot, which was the yahrzeit of the Baal Shem Tov.

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 Mordechai (“Mottel”) of Chernobyl [1770 – 20 Iyar 1837], successor to his father, Rabbi Nachum, was the son-in-law of Rabbi Aharon the Great of Karlin and subsequently of Rabbi David Seirkes. His eight sons all became major Chasidic leaders.



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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