This might come out a little late… Sorry ‘bout that. Having a bit of trouble here – the entire story deleted and I had to rewrite it!
This story is about the Baal Shem Tov, founder of Chassidus.
The Baal Shem Tov – a.k.a. the Besht – gave out to each of his chassidim (followers) a special mission, which he foresaw as his task in life. He told one man to go around telling stories of him – the Besht. “You will know when your mission is achieved.”
Shortly thereafter, the Baal Shem Tov passed away, and the chassid, named Yankel, happily and diligently went from town to town telling stories of the Baal Shem Tov.
Ten years later… One day, while in an inn, a man told him that there was a rich Jew in Vitebsk that would give ten rubles to anyone that would tell him a story of the Baal Shem Tov. Yankel, needing the money and wanting to tell a story, of course, was very excited and went there straight away.
Arriving at a beautiful mansion, he asked for the owner – we’ll call him Shlomo. Shlomo heard that there was a chossid that would tell him a story of the Besht. Ecstatic, he ran to the door to greet him, and invited him for lunch.
It was Friday afternoon, and everyone was preparing for Shabbos, he nevertheless invited everyone to come and hear Yankel’s stories.
Yankel stood up, and opened his mouth to speak, and… he drew blank. Yankel groped for words. His eyebrows creased… for the life of his, he could not remember a single story!
Embarrassed, he apologized and got ready to bentch (say the after-meal blessings) and leave. Shlomo begged him to stay, excusing him saying that ‘He is jet-lag, he will surely remember by tonight.’
Shlomo invited everyone to come back for the Shabbos meal, and everyone went on their way.
After davening (prayers), everyone came back to the mansion for the meal, waiting expectantly for the story.
After Shlomo’s servants served the soup, he motioned for Yankel to speak.
Yankel stood up smiling, eager to tell, when… Yankel’s face grew red, and nearly ran to his room. Shlomo once again pleaded with him to sit with them for the rest of the meal, and excused him, saying, “He is tired, he will surely remember by morning.”
Once again, Shabbos morning by breakfast, he could not remember.
By the Shabbos seuda (meal), he couldn’t think of one story.
Yankel waited on pins and needles for Shabbos to end so he can leave. The minute Shabbos was over and havdallah (Shabbos ending ceremony) was made, he fled to his room and readied to leave.
Shlomo saw where he was heading and chased after him, begging for him to stay the night.
Yankel relented, and they went to sit down for melave malka (meal after Shabbos).
And, inevitably, Yankel did not remember.
By Sunday morning, Shlomo could not ask him to stay any longer, and, hugging Chaim hard, he bid a tearful farewell to him.
Less then a mile away… CLICK! He remembered a story!!
He ordered the wagon driver to about-face and go straight back to the mansion. Arriving, he found Shlomo standing at the exact place he left him, looking sad.
Hearing the rumble of the wagon, Shlomo looked up, and behold! There was Yankel again! He rushed to the wagon, opened the door, and pulled Yankel out. “DID YOU REMEMBER?” He nearly shouted.
The look on Yankel’s face said it all. Not bothering to close the wagon door, he accompanied Yankel back into the house, sat down on the couch, and without a word, waited. And this is what he said…
“One time, me and a few friends of mine were called by the Besht to go on a journey. We hopped into the wagon, and we felt the wagon fly in the air. Seconds later, we arrived in a town, and… silence. Quiet. The town was empty. Stores were closed, the streets were deserted. What is happening, we wondered. The Besht told us to follow him. We walked after him, and soon enough came to what appeared to be the Jewish Ghetto.
Here too, there was complete quiet. But a different quiet. A fearful quiet. All the doors were double and triple locked, with wood and who-knows-what blocking them. We began to knock on the doors to find a place to stay – it was right before Shabbos. No one opened. We finally came to one house where the man opened the door. Looking around, he let us in and locked the door immediately thereafter.
“Breathing heavily, he sat down on a chair, and motioned for us to find a seat. Then he explained: “There is a bishop here that hates the Jews. Today, he made a rally, and he will give one of his ‘heartwarming’ speeches, and… of course, we know what happens after these rallies. Mobs. We are frightened.” We just stared.
“The man finished his explanation, and the Baal Shem Tov turned to me and told me to run to the bishop, and tell him that the Rebbe wants to see him now.
A bit surprise, but not questioning, I went right away to the bishop. I whispered Shema Yisroel twice, then walked up to the podium and tugged at the bishops robe. I quietly told him that the holy Besht wants to see him.
The bishops face turned white, and he shoved him away. “Not now, not now! Tell him I’ll come later! Go away!”
“Convinced that I have completed my shlichus, I went back to the Besht. The Besht forcefully responded that I should go right back and insist that he come!
I went right back, and whispered to the bishop that he must come. The bishop thought for a moment, then said, “Fine, let him come to me.” Miraculously, no one saw anything of this.
“I again went back to relay the message. And once again, the Besht told me to go right back and tell him he needs to see him Now, in this house, and later is too late.
“I raced back to the square and mounted the podium. ‘The Rebbe wants to see you right now! Later is too late!’
This time the bishop began to really shake. He turned and proclaimed to the crowd, “I’m received a message from G-d – I must be alone!” And he followed me to the where we were staying.
“I told the Rebbe that he has arrived, and he told me to make sure he removes his crosses before he comes in. The bishop did so, and the moment he walked in, he began to sob. As he cried, the Besht quietly explained that he was a Jewish orphan, and was taught to be a priest and to hate Jews.
“When he finished weeping, the Baal Shem Tov pulled him into a private room.
One hour… Two hours… Three hours… My friends and I were itching to hear what was going on. They finally came out of the room, left the house, and disappeared. We never knew what became of him.”
And with a satisfied sigh, Yankel finished his story.
Shlomo put his head down on the couch. Tears of joy streamed down his face. He pulled himself together, and with a small smile he said, “Would you like to hear the other half of the story?”
Yankel nodded eagerly, puzzled.
“There was an orphaned Jewish boy. Since no one taught him what’s right and wrong, he became a wild boy. The community, thinking he was a bad boy at heart and feeling responsibility over him, punished him and embarrassed him, trying to tame him. He was taken into a monastery and was taught to hate Jews. He became a bishop.
“Yankel, dear Yankel, that boy was me. That bishop was me. The Baal Shem Tov told me in that room to repent. I tearfully asked him how I would know I was forgiven. He told me that when someone would tell me this story, I would know I was forgiven.
“I traveled around from town to town, listening and waiting for this story, but no one said this one.
I now know I am forgiven.
Hope you enjoyed!
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