Weekly Chasidic Story #814 (s5773-43 / 24 Tammuz 5773)
Towers of Gold and palaces of Diamonds
The Baal Shem Tov was enjoying his Shabbat afternoon nap, when suddenly in his sleep he emitted a mighty cry that jolted his wife from her nap.
Connection: Weekly reading – daughters of Tzelafhad (see Rashi on 27:1)
In mid-afternoon of Shabbos Shuva (The Shabbat between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur), in the year 1755, Rabbi Yisrael ben Eliezer, the Baal Shem Tov, was napping in his bed enjoying his Sabbath rest. Suddenly, while still asleep, he emitted a mighty cry that jolted his wife from her nap.
“Yisrael, Yisrael! Wake up! What’s wrong?”
The Baal Shem Tov sat up with a start, and then sighed with relief. “Thank G·d you woke me! Another moment, and I wouldn’t have awoken at all!”
“What are you saying?” gasped the Rebbetzin. “And why did you scream out in your sleep?”
The Baal Shem Tov composed himself and said, “First ask my attendant to go to those of my close chasidim who are inMezibuz this Shabbos and ask them to come to me in the Beis Medrash (Study Hall). He knows where to find them. Then I’ll explain to you while I am waiting for them.”
When they were all assembled, the Baal Shem Tov related the following:
“Each Shabbos, when I recite the silent Musaf prayer, my soul ascends to the heavenly worlds. There I listen to the Torah being studied in the Yeshiva above, and I am later able to transmit part of what I have heard to you, my chasidim, during ‘Shalosh Seudos’ (the Third Shabbat Meal, at the end of the day).
“I have always yearned to encounter there my close friend, the great tzadik, Rabbi Nachman Kassover, who passed on to the World of Truth yerars ago, but I have been unable to find him.
“Today, as my soul ascended, I soared to heavenly realms that I had never visited before. I saw towers of gold and palaces of diamonds. The sounds of Torah burst forth from within. As I entered, the souls within shone with brilliance and beauty, each one occupied in the study of the holy Torah. I asked one soul: ‘To whom belongs this glory? “Who is your Rosh HaYeshiva?’
“‘Our Torah study is in the honor of the chosen of G-d, Rabbi Nachman of Kassover,’ the soul responded.
“‘And where is his hallowed place?’ I asked.
One of the holy souls led me to Rabbi Nachman’s chamber. There I saw old companion aglow with fire and glory, surrounded by numerous other souls. His countenance shone like the sun. He was dressed in white, his tallis covering his holy head.
I humbly approached, and asked, “Reb Nachman, I have been searching for you for quite some time. Who are all the souls I see around you?’
“My dear Reb Yisrael,” he answered, “these souls belong to those to whom I showed the path of truth and righteousness while on earth. Some were righteous men who had transgressed, and others were evildoers whom I was able to guide to the path of repentance. It is these souls who praise and extol the Creator of All Things.”
“My dear Reb Yisrael,” he continued, “Do you wish to remain here with me? You can simply relinquish your body. You will not even have to experience the pangs of death. These righteous souls will take you to your eternal resting place. The decision is yours.”
“How I was tempted to remain in the heavenly realms! But I could not decide. I went back and forth in my mind. On one hand, I desired to be buried in Eretz Yisrael, for a soul buried in the Holy Land ascends higher than one buried outside its holy boundaries.
When I spoke this desire, Reb Nachman revealed to me, “Your fate is not to be buried in the Holy land, but in the land where you were born. I cannot disclose the reason, but if you decide to remain here with me, I will be then able to reveal to you this and many, many other secrets.”
Then my thoughts turned to those whom I would leave behind. Could I leave loved ones, my holy wife and my dear children? My students? My chasidim? Could I leave them without directions and without guidelines for the future?
I decided I could not. Each person has his purpose to fulfill on earth, and I felt that I had not yet completed my assigned avodah (service).
I told my beloved Reb Nachman that I was not yet the time for me to leave the physical world. He did not agree. He begged, cajoled, over and over until I could stand it no longer, and screamed with all my might.”
“That scream woke my wife from her sleep, and she woke me just in time. I could not have withstood Rabbi Nachman’s urgings any longer. Thank G-d, she enabled my soul to return to its rightful place in my physical body.”
Source: Adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from the rendition of his friend, Tzvi Meir HaCohane (Howard M. Cohn, Patent Attorney), on his website, //BaalShemTov.com.
Connection: In honor of Mrs. Shulamit Tilles of Tzefat and Mrs. Shira Weinstein of Beitar, who will be spending this Shabbat in Mezibuz, home and burial site of the Baal Shem Tov, in the Ukraine.
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 Kehot.
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.