Thursday, January 7, 2010

story about our holy master, the Baal Shem Tov

The Zohar HaKodesh, the book of Jewish mysticsm, says something very deep. In your mind you are either happy or you are sad. Your soul can be both sad and happy at the same time. The soul is crying and laughing at the same time. Sitting and dancing, sleeping and awake. The soul is one.

There are all kinds of music in the world. The kind of music that can make you both cry and laugh at the same time reaches this oneness within you. If it affects you only in one way, then it hasn't reached very deep. It is still in your mind, not your soul. Sometimes you meet people and they touch this oneness in your soul. Then it is both crying and laughing, utmost sadness, utmost joy.

This is a story about our holy master, the Baal Shem Tov. The Baal started the whole Chassidic movement about two hundred years ago. One of his top pupils, Reb Dovid Leikes, started out on the road to be with his master, the holy Baal Shem Tov for Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year. But, now, the craziest things happened. Now normally, it takes just one day to go from the town where Reb Dovidel lived, to Mezhibuzh, where the Baal Shem Tov is, but this time everything that could go wrong, went wrong. Every few minutes one of the horses got stuck in the mud, or the wheel fell off, or the whole wagon turned over. Nebekh! Finally Dovidel is just two miles away from Mezhibuzh and he has exactly twenty minutes to make it there before Yom Kippur. "Barukh HaShem, Thank G-d! I'll still make it to Mezhibuzh if I don't waste any more time. It should have taken just one day and I've been on the road for three days already. Gevalt! He was crying, begging the horses, "Please, please don't make any trouble now. Let's get to Mezhibuzh before the sun sets." With that, a little village appears and out of nowhere nine people come out and block the road in front of him. The horses come screeching to a halt. One of the people walks up, and tells Dovidel, "We are nine of us living in this village here. We need one more person to make ten people for our minyan."

Maybe some of you know, we need ten people for certain prayers. Do you know why ten is such a special number? It is the first number that needs two digits, yet it is still a single number. Ten isn't like two, three, four, five. Ten is a unit, a very deep kind of unit. The number ten is like the world. It is so much and yet it is one. The first number that begins to reveal the multiple nature of G-d's Oneness is ten. So we need ten before we can pray together in a group.

So the ten people were begging Dovidel, "You are our tenth man. Please stop and stay with us here in our village for Yom Kippur." He says, "Are you crazy? I've been on the road for three days already. I must be with my holy master, the Baal Shem Tov of Mezhibuzh for Yom Kippur. Please don't be brogez, angry, with me, but please, don't ask me for such favors." Saying that, Reb Dovidel gave the horses a zetz, and off they were, leaving the nine villagers in the dust. So Dovidel got to Mezhibuzh just in time for Yom Kippur.

In Mezhibuzh by Kol Nidrei everyone stands in line to wish the Holy Baal Shem Tov a good yom tov and to receive the Rebbe's blessings. But when Dovidel's turn comes, already the Baal Shem Tov is looking at the person behind him in line. "Perhaps he didn't see me", thought Reb Dovidel. And the davening in Mezhibuzh that Yom Kippur was mamash to high heaven, gevalt. So Yom Tov is over and all the Hasidim line up again to get brakhos from the Baal Shem. But when Reb Dovidl's turn comes, again, the Baal Shem Tov's attention is somehow diverted elsewhere. Nebekh! Its Succos already, and if it wasn't obvious before, it's obvious now. Now Reb Dovid Leikes knows that the Baal Shem Tov is ignoring him. Simchas Torah passes, Yom Tov is over. It's time to leave Mezibuzh. Reb Dovid is in tears. So he grabs hold of the Baal Shem just as he is about to leave the Beis Medresh, "Please Rebbe, please, tell me, what did I do?" So the Holy Baal Shem answers him, "Don't you realize? Your soul was waiting for hundreds, for thousands of years to pray together with those nine people. How can I fix your neshama now ?! Oiy ! "

We are all together and we'll never know how long we were all waiting to be together. We never know. Meaning to say that you don't know how much your soul live in this world depends on one evening, on one hour, of praying with nine other people. You never know. You might think, "Oh, I'm going to Yerushalayim. I'll be praying by the Holy Wall. What a special, holy place." Obviously, Reb Dovid Leikes thought, "I'm going to Mezhebuzh to be with the Baal Shem. There, there is real davening. What in the world am I doing praying here in a village I never knew existed before, with these nine creeps?" But we never know. That is what the Baal Shem Tov told Dovidel. That is what the Holy Baal Shem Tov is telling you, me, all of us...

What is the miracle of the last day of Pesach? At the Red Sea, G-d is fixing how we connect back with one another. So today is Reb Dovidel Leikes' yahrzeit.

So let me pray, from my heart to your heart, if we meet someone, it is only because we have to. So let it be strong...

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