# 356 (s5764-50) 15 Elul
A Simple But Good Inscription
"I expected regular angels," apologized
the Baal Shem Tov to the tzadik Rabbi Yitzchak of Drohovitch,
"not angels of fire."
A Simple But Good Inscription
It came to the attention of the tzadik,
Rabbi Yitzchak of Drohovitch, that Rabbi Yisrael, the Baal
Shem Tov ("Master of the Good Name"] was employing
very powerful kameyos (amulets, often inscribed with the mystical
names of G-d), and accomplishing healings and other miracles. Rabbi
Yitzchak was extremely displeased at the use of the holy names, and
he uttered the phrase, "He who makes use of the [the power of]
holy names shall pass away." Immediately, the amulets, which
had up to then been so effective, became totally useless.
Complaints about the inefficacy of his amulets reached the Baal Shem
Tov's ears, and when he investigated, he discovered that R. Yitzchak's
words had rendered them useless. So the Baal Shem Tov exerted his
tremendous powers of concentration and caused R. Yitzchak to become
confused as to which day of the week it was. At the time, R. Yitzchak
was traveling and when he arrived in Medziboz, the town of the Baal
Shem Tov, on Friday afternoon, he mistakenly thought it was Thursday.
Being in no particular hurry, he prayed, had a bite to eat and lay
down for a nap.
When he awoke, he was shocked to find the entire staff of the inn
preparing for the holy Sabbath. "What is going on?" he inquired.
"Why are you already prepared for Shabbat, when it's only Thursday
"No, you are mistaken, it is almost Shabbat," everyone assured
him. But R. Yitzchak wouldn't believe them. Only when he went outside
and saw the street filled with Jews running this way and that to finish
their last-minute preparations for the holy day did he conclude that
it was indeed Shabbat eve.
R. Yitzchak hurried back to the inn to quickly ready himself for the
holy day, but his preparations were interrupted by a visitor - none
other than the Baal Shem Tov himself!
"I beg of you to join me for Shabbat," the Baal Shem Tov
implored, but R. Yitzchak declined, saying that the innkeeper had
already prepared for him.
"Don't worry," said the Baal Shem Tov. "I have already
spoken to the innkeeper, and he forgives your change in plans."
"But, I am accustomed on Shabbat to eat until I am completely
satiated," R. Yitzchak objected. "I'm afraid you won't have
enough food for me."
"Don't worry at all; I have prepared a lot of food," the
Baal Shem Tov assured him. Finally, R. Yitzchak ran out of excuses,
and had no choice but to accept the Baal Shem Tov's invitation.
When R. Yitzchak said he was accustomed to eat huge amounts, he wasn't
exaggerating, for he fasted the entire week, from Shabbat to Shabbat.
At the Shabbat meal he had an enormous silver platter, engraved with
G-d's name, upon which he heaped food. Every week, after he recited
the kiddush, he placed the laden platter before him and devoured
everything served at each course.
When he finished the portion of food set before him at the Baal Shem
Tov's Shabbat table, he reprimanded the Baal Shem Tov, saying, "You
promised to serve me enough to fill myself, but I am still hungry
and there is no food available!"
"I am truly sorry," replied the Baal Shem Tov. "I expected
angels, but I did not anticipate serafim ("fiery angels"
-- spiritual beings that "consume" everything in their path)!"
When the Sabbath ended, the Baal Shem Tov approached his guest and
asked, "Why have you seen fit to remove the efficacy from my
"It is forbidden to make use of the holy names of G-d in such
a manner," R. Yitzchak replied.
"You are mistaken, for I do not use the holy names. All I write
in my amulets is my own name - Yisroel ben Sara."
R. Yitzchak was shocked; he found such a statement difficult to believe.
It was only when the Baal Shem Tov opened one of the amulets and showed
it to R. Yitzchak that the tzadik could believe that such extraordinary
healings and other miracles could result from amulets that did not
contain the holy names of G-d. He was so overwhelmed by this discovery
that he at once restored the potency to the kameyos, saying,
"Alm-ghty G-d, if such wonders can come from the name of this
man alone, why should You mind?"
[Adapted by Yrachmiel Tilles from the rendition of his friend Tzvi
Meir Cohn on www.baalshemtov.com]
Rabbi Yisrael, 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 passed away on the
festival of Shavuot in 1760. 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.
An ongoing online translation of Sefer Baal Shem Tov can be
found on www.baalshemtov.com.
Rabbi Yitzchak of Drohovitch-a leading kabbalist in his generation
and father of R. Yechiel Michel Zlotchov (1731-1786), became a major
disciple of the Baal Shem Tov. He first went to the Besht as
a boy with his father.
is co-founder and associate director of Ascent-of-Safed, and editor of Ascent
Quarterly and the AscentOfSafed.com and KabbalaOnline.org websites. He has hundreds
of published stories to his credit.