Weekly Chasidic Story #826 (s5774-04 / 18 Tishrei 5774)

Repercussions of Wine and Dance

Simchat Torah with the Wife of the Baal Shem Tov and his Daughter.

Connection: Seasonal — SIMCHAT TORAH




ONE YEAR on Simchat Torah, in Mezibuz, the inner circle of the most advanced students* of the Baal Shem Tovwere dancing into the night with great joy and consuming large quantities of wine. The wife of the Baal Shem Tov, Leah-Rachel, was concerned that there would not be enough wine left for Kiddush the next day and Havdalah in the evening at the end of the festival. She went over to her husband and said,

“I think you should tell them to please stop drinking so much. Otherwise they will keep dancing and drinking, drinking and dancing, until won’t have any wine left for Kiddush and Havdalah.”

The Baal Shem Tov’s face lit up with a smile. He replied, “Good point! Therefore, you can go tell them to stop. They will listen and go home.”

The Rebbetzin turned to go to the nearby room where the chasidim were dancing and celebrating. She opened the door…and froze in the entrance in shock. Her husband’s followers were merrily dancing in a tight circle. She saw flames of fire surrounding them and hovering over them like a wedding canopy!

She didn’t take another step towards them or utter a single word. Instead she turned around, went down to the cellar of their house, took as much wine as she could carry and silently placed it on the table of the enthusiastically dancing Chasidim.

A DIFFERENT YEAR on Simchat Torah the same scene repeated itself: the close chasidim of the Baal Shem Tov were dancing in a circle with great joy and excitement, surrounded by bright flames of fire. Surely the Shechina–the Divine Presence-was dancing with them!

Then, at the height of the ecstasy, the shoelaces of one of the disciples tore. He was severely distressed. No longer could he continue dancing with his companions and to be a part of this exalted Simchat Torah celebration.

At that time, the only daughter of the Baal Shem Tov, Udel, had been standing off to the side, enjoying the joyful spirit and dedicated dancing of the Chasidim.

Udel was already married, but without children. She quietly approached the chasid with the broken laces and said softly to him, “If you promise me that I will give birth to a son this year, I will provide you with a good pair of shoes to continue dancing with.”

The chasid was in a quandary. How could he make such a promise? On the other hand, how could he give up being part of such an exalted Simchat Torah celebration?

He did not delay too long and gave her the promise she asked for. That year she gave birth to a son, The holy Rebbe Reb Baruch of Medzibuz, who grew up to be one of the most important Chasidic leaders in the third generation.


* Editor’s note:
Within six years [from his initial revelation of the Chasidic movement in 1734], the Baal Shem Tov had drawn sixty select disciples into his inner circle. His leadership was firm, confident and systematic. His very presence demanded obedience. His disciples, all accomplished scholars and saintly individuals, aroused reverence and respect wherever they went. Some possessed ruach hakodesh [“divine inspiration” – a reduced form of prophecy], and had even merited seeing Elijah the Prophet. Having attained lofty spiritual levels, select students could even communicate directly with Heaven, relaying questions and receiving explicit answers.
[Though the Baal Shem Tov had sixty select disciples, the names of only twenty-four are found scattered among his letters: 1) Rabbi Boruch of Kaminka*; 2) Rabbi Dovid Lahkes*; 3) Rabbi Dovid Furkas*; 4) Rabbi Dovid of Mikolayev*; 5) Rabbi Dovid of Kolmia; 6) Rabbi DovBer* (later to succeeded the Baal Shem Tov, becoming known as the Maggid of Mezritch); 7) Rabbi Zev Wolf Kitzes*; 8) Rabbi Yehuda Leib Pyastinner*; 9) Rabbi Yaakov Yosef of Polonnoye; 10) Rabbi Yitzchak of Drohobitz; 11) Rabbi Yeshaya of Yanov; 12) Rabbi Chaim Hakohen Rapaport, Rabbi of Lvov and author of many scholarly works (including Shaalut uTeshuvot Rabbi Chaim Hakohen); 13) Rabbi Chaim of Krasna; 14) Rabbi Meir Nargolis, the Rabbi of Ostrow (author of Shaalot u’Teshuvot Meir Netivim); 15) Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Be’er 16) Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Premishlan; 17) Rabbi Moshe of Kitov; 18) Rabbi Moshe of Daalin; 19) Rabbi Nachman of Horodenka*; 20) Rabbi Nachman of Kossov; 21) Rabbi Pinchas of Koritz; 22) Rabbi Tzvi Hirsh, the Baal Shem Tov’s personal scribe; 23) Rabbi shmuel of Kaminka; 24) Rabbi Shimshon of Anipoli*. (the nine starred names + Rabbi Kehot [a 25th!?] were the minyan selected by the Baal Shem Tov to be present at his bedside when he passed away.-Y.T.)]
Sources: Translated, freely adapted and supplemented by Yerachmiel Tilles from Sipurei Chasidim – Moadim by Rabbi S. Y. Zevin. The “editor’s note” I copied from “The Great Mission: the Life & Story of Rabbi Yisrael Baal Shem Tov” by Rabbi Eli Friedman (Kehot).

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.

Udel, the only daughter of the Baal Shem Tov (in addition to his one son), married one of her father’s disciples, Rabbi Yechiel Ashkenazi. Their children were Rabbi Moshe Chaim Ephraim of Sudylkov, author of the major Chassidic work, Degel Machne Ephraim; Rabbi Baruch of Mezhibuzh, one of the leading rebbes of his generation; and Feiga, mother of Rabbi Nachman of Bretzlov.


Yerachmiel Tilles is co-founder and associate director of Ascent-of-Safed, and chief editor of this website (and of 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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