Weekly Chasidic Story #1382 (5784-39) 26 Iyar 5784 (June 3, 2024)

"The Baal Shem Tov's Miraculous Visit to Berlin"

The innkeeper riding with the Baal Shem Tov was deeply concerned. It was already impossible that they could reach Berlin, a journey of 700 miles, in time for Shabbat.

Connection: Why this week? The Baal Shem Tov's yahrzeit is on the first day of Shavuot, which is on Tuesday night-Wednesday, June 11-12.

Story in PDF format for more convenient printing



The innkeeper could not believe his ears. The stranger who had stopped by his inn last night with his followers insisted that he intended to spend the coming Shabbos in Berlin.

"But that city is hundreds of miles away! How can you possibly make it?"

The Baal Shem Tov had not revealed his identity, all he had said was that as a traveling darshan ('preacher' - guest speaker in synagogues), he wished to be present at the wedding of a certain wealthy person which was to take place that Friday in Berlin.

"I have excellent horses," The BeShT insisted. "I have no doubts of reaching there by Shabbos."

"Very well, then, can I come along with you? I have to be in Berlin too."

The innkeeper actually had to be in a city some twenty miles from Berlin but thought this an excellent opportunity to get a ride. Besides, he was quite curious to see how close his guest would actually get to the German city.

When the following day dawned the innkeeper was up and about, making bustling preparations for his voyage. The Baal Shem Tov, however took his time. He prayed leisurely and then was served a nice breakfast.

"Why are you not hurrying?" the innkeeper asked in concern. "You will never reach your destination in time for Shabbos."

"Never fear," his guest calmly assured the man. "We will reach Berlin by tomorrow, please G-d."

The innkeeper looked at his guest in amazement and thought, "He seems so sure of himself. I must go along and see what happens."

As it happened, the Besht did not leave until that evening when he finally called together the chasdim accompanying him and the innkeeper. They set forth, traveling all that night; the passengers all fell asleep, of course.

When the morning sun shone upon the world, the innkeeper could see that they had arrived at their destination. His surprise was beyond description. [1]

The Baal Shem Tov made his quarters some distance from the rich man's home. At twelve o'clock that day the city was in an uproar. The kallah (bride) had suddenly fainted and lay unconscious. Nothing could revive her. All the noted doctors of the city had tried their best, in vain. A crowd of curious spectators surrounded the house, attracting the visiting innkeeper as well.

When he learned the cause of all the commotion the innkeeper spoke up, "I think I know someone who might be able to help the girl."

He began to tell of the miraculous journey in which he had participated. "This darshan," he continued. "claims that he can perform medical wonders as well. I would suggest asking him to come here."

The rich man himself went to the hotel where the Baal Shem Tov was staying. He pleaded for him to come and see what could be done for his bride. To his dismay, the Besht commanded the household staff,

"Prepare the shrouds according to your custom." He turned to the distraught man with further instructions, "Go and order a grave dug. Take along separately the wedding garments which the kallah was to have worn."

Soon the funeral procession was making its way to the cemetery. 'Place the coffin with the bride into the grave," the rebbe instructed.

Then he called two strong men from among the spectators. "Come and stand by the grave," he said. "When you see any change in the girl's face, you are to remove her at once from the grave." He leaned over the body and stood thus bent over, for a quarter of an hour.

Suddenly her face assumed a rosy hue. In an instant the two men lifted her out of the grave. "Lead her immediately to the chupah (wedding canopy)!" the Besht further instructed.

The bride was dressed up in the clothes that had been provided and taken directly to her house where the wedding ceremony was held without delay. At the request of the chatan (bridegroom), the Baal Shem Tov agreed to officiate at the ceremony. At the end, as the young bride lifted her veil to drink the wine, she suddenly took a closer unobstructed look at the rabbi in front of her.

"This is the man who saved me from death!" she exclaimed in surprise.

After the chupah, the bride told the entire story. The rich man, a widower, had taken his niece into his home when she had become orphaned. In the course of time his wife had sickened. As she lay on her deathbed, she had one final request: that her husband refrain from marrying the niece, for she was jealous. She made both her husband and his niece give their word and hand not to marry after her death.

Despite their promise, the two eventually decided to get married. On her wedding day, the kallah was visited by the deceased woman who intended to murder her.

"I had to hold a din Torah (a Rabbinical Court case)," the Besht explained, "between those two litigants. I found the chatan and kallah to be innocent for they only gave their promises to ease the first wife's departure from this world. So, when I was standing in concentration over the young girl's grave, I rebuked the spirit of her aunt, telling her that the bride must not be prevented from going to the chupah."

"That was the voice I heard while I lay in the grave," the kallah spoke now, "and this was the first face I saw when I removed my veil."

The Baal Shem Tov remained there for that Shabbos. When he left Berlin on Sunday, he was accompanied by a huge crowd of admirers who wished to escort him on his way.

Source: Excerpted and modified by R. Yerachmiel Tilles from "Tales of the Baal Shem Tov" (vol. 5, first story) by Yisroel-Yaakov Klapholz, as translated by Sheindel Weinbach. Based on the Hebrew book, Hachezyonos.

Why this week? The Baal Shem Tov's yahrzeit is on the first day of Shavuot, which is on Tuesday night-Wednesday, June 11-12.

Compiler's Note: Were you expecting a more Shavuot connected story? Don't be upset; you will receive one in your email on Sunday or Monday.
ALSO: there will be an audio and a video for Shavuot on this Saturday Night's WhatApp group posting. Check it out one time.

Biographical note:
Rabbi Yisrael ben Eliezer [of blessed memory: 18 Elul 5458- 6 Sivan 5520 (Aug. 1698 - May 1760)], the Baal Shem Tov ["Master of the Good Name"-often referred to as "the Besht" for short], a unique and seminal figure in Jewish history, revealed his identity as an exceptionally holy person, on his 36th birthday, 18 Elul 5494 (1734), and made the until-then underground Chasidic movement public. He wrote no books, although many works claim to contain his teachings. One available in English is the excellent annotated translation of Tzava'at Harivash, published by Kehos.

Footnote [1] Even in today's automobiles, the trip from western Ukraine (Kiev) to Berlin is a drive of more than 12 hours.

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.

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