Baruch Hashem

Shabbos Stories for Parshas Pinchus
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One Blessing That Went On and On and On
 
Eight year old Elchanan Betzalel Chadash was very sick and he didn't have much chance to live. In the early nineteen hundreds in backward Czarist Russia it was common to bury children. Indeed, his parents had already buried several. But this time they decided to 'bother' the Rebbe for a blessing before it was too late. 
 
They went to the Rebbe Resha'b (Rebbe Shalom Dov Ber, the Fifth Chabad-Lubavitcher Rebbe) and poured out their hearts. 
 
Elchanan Betzalel was their only son, several other children had passed away on them and now the doctors had given up on him as well.  Were the doctors right G‑d forbid?! Was there a chance?! They begged the Rebbe to do a miracle. 
 
The Rebbe looked at them calmly and told them not to worry. "Add the name 'Alter' to his existing name and, with G‑d's help, he will recover and live a long, healthy and happy life." 
 
It didn't really make sense, a normal person probably would have paid no attention; why couldn't the Rebbe just make the child healthy? How can a name change get rid of disease? But Mr. Chadash and his wife believed in the Rebbe and in miracles. After all, if it weren't for leaders and miracles how could the Jews still exist after 2,000 years of persecution? 
 
They changed the child's name and almost immediately little Alter Elchanan began to improve until a few weeks later he was completely healthy. 
 
But trouble is always around the corner for the 'Chosen' people. When World War Two broke out Alter Elchanan who, unfortunately, was perhaps too healthy for his own good, was drafted into the Red Army. 
 
The first month or two he managed to send an occasional letter home but after that the letters stopped coming. 
 
Then the Germans attacked Russia and war began taking horrible proportions, over 20 million Russians some ten million of which were soldiers were killed! But despite this ocean of death Alter Elchanan's parents had faith.  The Rebbe had promised long life and the Rebbe was never wrong. 
 
So despite the monstrously rising casualty figures, Mr. and Mrs. Chadash were certain that either their son would return or at least they would receive a message as to his whereabouts. But it didn't happen. Even after the war ended they heard nothing. 
 
Everyone they talked to about it told them to just forget it and accept reality. There were millions of soldiers unaccounted for; blown up, burned or buried with no trace, and he was probably one! If they hadn't heard from him now it was certain that they never would. They began to have serious doubts. 
 
If there only was a way to ask the son of the Rebbe Resha'b, the Rayat'z (Rebbe Yosef Yitzchak who became Rebbe after his father's passing in 1920). But he had been expelled from Russia in 1928 and now lived in New York (founding Chabad outreach Judaism) where it was impossible to contact him from behind the iron curtain. 
 
In fact, the Iron Curtain was so impervious that when one of Elchanan's four sisters did manage to escape from Russia in the confusion just after the war in 1946, contact the Rebbe's office in Brooklyn at the first possible opportunity and receive the Rebbe's reply that her brother would certainly return home, she couldn't relay the news to her worried parents in Russia! Communication was closed hermetically!
 
Meanwhile things did not improve. The years passed and still no sign was heard from Alter Elchanan.  If it hadn't been for the Rebbe's promises, his parents would probably have died from broken hearts long ago. 
 
Then, one night in 1953, after almost thirteen years of doubt, there was an ominous, official sounding knock on their door that froze their blood. 
 
They had heard about how the government informed the families of the dead and this was probably it. Mr. Chadash braced himself, his wife covered her mouth to keep from crying, he opened the door and there stood a middle aged man with shining eyes - it was Elchanan!! 
 
They embraced him and wept for joy! Where had he been for so long?! Why hadn't he contacted them?
 
After they all calmed down he sat them down and told them what had happened all these thirteen years. 
 
In the first months after the Germans surprise-attacked Russia, the Red Army was in such total disorder that tens of thousands of their soldiers fell into Nazi captivity and he was one of them. He was put to labor in a German prisoner of war camp. 
 
The work was heavy and almost non-stop, the food was sparse, disease was rampant and the Germans were cruel taskmasters. But the thing that worried him most was that he had heard and even seen evidence that the Nazis were killing Jews. He was sure that if they discovered he was Jewish they would kill him on the spot. 
 
Luckily the other Russian soldiers didn't give him away but it was only a matter of time. Especially when the Nazis made them all strip and shower! He lived in constant fear! 
 
But miraculously the three or four times that one of them did become suspicious, unexplainably, just in the nick of time, he got transferred to another camp where no one knew him. And so it continued until one day they woke up to find that Germans ran away! They lost the war! The Americans freed tens of thousands of Russian soldiers from the concentration camps and Betzalel, as he began to call himself, suddenly had a change for the good! 
 
The Americans, having heard of the suffering of the Jews, had special orders to treat them even better than the others. So Betzalel found himself in a special camp for Jews in occupied Berlin, with more privacy and better food… kosher as well, than everyone else. 
 
He got to know the others Jews there and they tried to convince him that there was nothing for them in him, rather he should join them and make Aliah to Israel. It was a great idea, and a great opportunity, but he refused. He wanted to return to Russia and find his parents. He told the others of the blessing of the Rebbe and that if his parents were still alive they surely were waiting for him. 
 
But he was in for a terrible surprise. He voluntarily asked to be moved to the camp of released Russian P.O.W.s soldiers that were waiting to be taken back to the "Motherland'. 
 
But when the Russians came to take their soldiers home he was called into special interrogation and told to relate everything that happened to him in captivity. He spoke slowly, every word was written down by a stenographer, he supposed, for evidence against the Germans. But it wasn't so. 
 
When he finished, the Russian officer questioning him lit a cigarette, blew smoke in his face, suddenly extinguished it, leaned forward and yelled. "How can it be that you, a Jew, could possibly survive the Germans for four years? Ehhh? Jew is written all over your face!  Well I'll tell you how! Because you gave them information, that's how! Other than that there is no explanation!! You are a traitor!" 
 
Poor Betzalel, he tried to protest, to reason with them. He had fought and suffered for Russia! What secrets?? He was a simple soldier! He didn't know any secrets! He wanted to go home, his parents were waiting! 
 
But it all fell on deaf ears. He was arrested, put in one of a seemingly unending line of cattle cars with thousands of other prisoners and the train began moving. Ten days later the doors opened and he found himself in sub-zero Siberia. Hundreds died on the way and hundreds more in the first few freezing months, but somehow he survived. The blessing of the Rebbe was always echoing somewhere in his mind. 
 
He was 'tried' and sentenced to fifteen years at hard labor. Thousands succumbed to the elements and perished (Stalin killed some 20 million Russians in this way) but miraculously he lasted eight years of back-breaking labor and all the time he was there he managed to keep most of the Commandments; put on Tefillin, keep kosher and even Shabbat and the holidays when possible. 
 
Then, in 1953 Stalin suddenly died and his successor Khrushchev ordered the release of tens of thousands of political prisoners; and he, Alter Elchanan Betzalel Chadash, was among them. 
 
The Rebbes' blessings and prophecies were fulfilled in the fullest sense of the word. Elchanan Betzalel lived to the ripe age of eighty three and saw generations learning Torah and living Chassidic lives! 
 
A Bar Mitzvah about 50 Years Late
 
And 35,000 Feet High
 
For most people long distance flights are a boring necessity of life but for me flights are often the ideal opportunity to put Tefillin (Two small black leather boxes containing four Torah parchments that are fastened to the head and to the arm by long black leather straps) on Jews.
Tefillin on ElAl.jpg
All I have to do is take out my Tefillin, get out of my seat and go down the aisle asking Jewish men if they want to put them on.  And I never cease to be amazed at how many of them happily do so.

I have been doing this for about twenty years and have many unusual stories to tell but one of the most unforgettable occurred just recently.

It was a flight from Israel to New York on El Al. I began at the back of the plane with my Tefillin and worked my way forward with fairly good results; some fifteen men agreed to put them on so far and that was only one half of the plane.

That was when I met Jacob. He was sitting in the aisle seat five rows from the front, next to two sleeping passengers. He was reading a magazine and, although he was neatly dressed, he looked unmistakably like someone from the previous generation; short, compact, well into his seventies, clean shaven, bald-headed with an open shirt and a golden 'chai' pendant dangling from his neck on a thin gold chain.

He noticed me standing over him, looked up from the magazine and I did what I had done to all the other passengers before him: I held out the Tefillin and asked him if he would like to put them on.

But he didn't say a word. He just kept looking at me blankly, almost as though he didn't understand English, so I repeated the question in Hebrew but still no reaction. He just stared like a zombie.

At this point I just wanted to walk away; maybe he wasn't normal, or maybe he wasn't Jewish (both of which did certainly not seem to be the case) but I figured I'd give it one more chance anyway, so I asked him in Russian (I know about ten words) te' chochesh s'dielat Mitzva?

But when he didn't react to that either, I just kept smiling, nodded bye bye and turned to continue to the next row.

Suddenly he said in English with a strong European accent, "I'm not going to put on Tefillin!  I'm not going to do it!  No way!" 

But it was as though he was speaking to himself as well as to me.

I turned to him. He continued, "Nothing against you Rabbi, but I'm not putting them on.  You can ask anyone in Holon (city in central Israel), where I live.  Even the chief Rabbi there they will tell you who Yaakov P is.  Why the Rabbi, when he sees me on the street he crosses the street to shake my hand.  I help people. That's right.  I help people - a lot of people.  But I'm not putting on Tefillin! Not me! After what I saw in the camps, in Auschwitz in Birkenau I made a vow I would never put on Tefillin again. Never!

He said it with such conviction that I began to see in his eyes what he must have been through and, to tell the truth, it was a bit too much for me to take.

I just tried to keep smiling as tears began to form in my eyes, told him that I didn't mean to upset him and wished him a good trip. "Nothing personal" he assured me once again. We shook hands, I went on to the next person who stood up and happily put on Tefillin and I forgot the whole episode.

Finally I got to the front row where there was sitting an elderly couple.

I asked them if they were Jewish and when the answer was affirmative I asked the man if he would like to put on Tefillin.

He immediately smiled and said "No thanks" and then turned to his wife, smiled and added, "I think the last time I did that was when I was bar Mitzva! About sixty years ago."

She looked at me, looked at him, then at the Tefillin and finally at him again and said, "So why don't you do it now again, Max."

I added jokingly, "after all, you don't have anything better to do, right? And it doesn't cost any money!"

He shook his head no a few times more and looked at his wife again. She tilted her head to the side and raised her eyebrows as though to say 'why not' and finally he stood up, feigning defeat, and said, "All right, what do I have to do?"

Moments later he had finished and was removing the Tefillin and thanking me profusely. It was the first time in sixty years he did it and he liked it!

Suddenly his wife said, "Hey! Why don't you put on Jake! Did you ask Jake? Did you see him? He's sitting back there.  Oh! Here he is!"

I didn't know exactly who they were talking about until Jacob, the holocaust survivor that had refused me earlier, appeared behind them.

"Oh, hi Jake!" she said, "Hey, do you know what Max just did?"  she said motioning to her husband. "This Rabbi just put Tefillins on him and he liked it!  Why don't you do it too?!"

Then she turned to me as to introduce us. "Rabbi, this is Jake, he and us went through the camps together.  We're good friends."

Meanwhile Jake was in an inner turmoil mumbling to himself, "I'm not going to do it!  Tefillin? Max put 'em on ehh? But not me, not me!! Why should I? I'm not doing it! Tefillin?"

"Come on!" She said to him with a smile, "Forget all that! Look, Max enjoyed it what do you care? Look at this nice Rabbi. Do it for him!" 

"Sure,' I butted in "After all, I came all the way from Kfar Chabad just to put Tefillin on you!"

Jake was really churning inside now, "But I said I'd never do it! Never! I made a vow!" He said a bit louder.

It was the moment of truth. He looked at the Tefillin as though he wished they'd go away, but they didn't.  He kept staring until finally he spoke quietly not taking his eyes off the Tefillin as he stuck out his arm and said.... "Alright," 

I put the Tefillin on him, gave him the page with the 'Shema Yisroel' prayer on it and tried not to look at his face as he began to read. 

Sure enough, after a few seconds I heard him whining and sniffling a bit as he haltingly read the ancient Hebrew words until finally he was silently sobbing away.

Meanwhile his friends just stood there and didn't seem effected at all; they had been crying for sixty years and were 'used' to it.

He took out a handkerchief, blew his nose, motioned for me to remove the Tefillin and when they were off the lady looked at her husband and at Jake and said. "Today was like a bar-Mitzva.  I think you should be happy!" And she looked at me.

I got the hint and began singing a well-known lively tune called "Am Yisroel Chai" (which means 'The Jewish people are alive') and took the hands of the two 'bar-mitzva boys' and began dancing while she clapped her hands to the rhythm.

There was hardly room to move but we bounced around at the front of the plane accompanied by the drone of the motors for about a half-minute at until Max stopped and gave me a warm handshake and Jake gave me a hug and a kiss.
 
Its A Sign For You Too!

A very successful businessman, a Chabad Chassid by the name of Rabbi Chaim Gutnick who lived in Sydney Australia, was invited by the small Jewish community of "Adalide" to serve as their Cantor for the High Holy Days.

Rabbi Gutnick was in a dilema. True, he had a pleasant voice, but he also had four small children at home, and had no desire of becoming a Rabbi or a Cantor. "They have a few months, let them find someone else." He thought to himself.

Two weeks later he was surprised to see in his mailbox a letter from the Lubavitcher Rebbe, addressed to him.

The Rebbe wrote that he was disappointed to hear that Rabbi Gutnick refused the Adalide community. The Rebbe advised him to accept the offer, and not to forget the Egyptian Jews there.

(The community in Adalide got Rabbi Gutnick's name from the head Rabbi of Sydney, who also advised them to write the Lubavitch Rebbe if Rabbi Gutnick refused.)

Needless to say, he took the job.

When he arrived in Adalide the morning before Rosh Hashanah, the first thing he did after getting settled in, was to go the Synagogue to meet everyone and get acquainted with the place.

After everyone had left, he sat down in the back of the quiet Synagogue, opened a Torah book and began learning. No one was in the building except him and the caretaker. A perfect preparation for Rosh HaShanah.

About two hours later he heard the door open, and turned to see a middle-aged woman entering. She approached, apologized for the intrusion, and explained that although she herself was not Jewish, there was a Jewish girl outside who wants to know were the holiest place is in the Synagogue?

He pointed to the Ark in the front of the room, she thanked him, went outside, and returned seconds later escorting a blind girl of about fifteen years old.

She led her silently down the aisle toward the Ark, and when they reached the front of the room, the girl fell to her knees put her head in her hands and began weeping.

woman crying.jpg"Please G‑d, send me a sign. Please, send me a sign. If you are there, and you hear me, send a sign!!"

After a few minutes she stood up, dried her eyes on her dress sleeve, and was escorted by her companion back out of the Synagogue.

Rabbi Gutnick was frozen from the incident. The room seemed a hundred times more silent than before, until the caretaker happened to enter.

"Oh, it must be one of those Egyptian Jews" he said to Rabbi Gutnick after he heard the story. "Nothing to get excited about. A small group of them arrived a while ago, but they don't seem to want to have anything to do with us. No big loss if you ask me. We tried to be friendly but they just keep to themselves."

Suddenly the Rebbe’s words flashed in his mind "Egyptian Jews". He ran outside to see if she was still there, but there was no trace.

The next evening Rabbi Gutnick led the Rosh Hashanah services, and after they were finished, the Synagogue president requested of him that they stand by the door and bless everyone as they exited. The only people that didn't file past, were a group that sat silently in the back corner waiting for everyone, including the Rabbis to leave.

"Oh, those are the Egyptian Jews," whispered the president when he noticed how Rabbi Gutnick was staring. "If I were you, I'd forget about them. Let's go."

The next day, after the morning prayers, Rabbi Gutnick didn’t wait for them to come to him. He walked over to where they were sitting, shook their hands and happily wished them all a happy and holy New Year. "And please wish the blind girl a good new year from me also."

Seven days later, the evening before Yom Kippur, the phone rang in Rabbi Gutnick’s hotel room.

"Hello, are you the Rabbi?" said the voice on the other end, "I am the blind girl. I want to...." suddenly the phone was cut off.

When she didn't call back he phoned the president, somehow he got her name, address, and phone number and Rabbi Gutnick called her back.

"Yes?" A man answered, "Who is it please?"

"Hello, this is Rabbi Gutnick and...." As soon as he said his name, the phone hung up.

So he decided to take things into his own hands. Although it was already late in the evening, he called a taxi, and a half hour later he was knocking at the blind girl's door.

When it opened he put his foot in, and insisted that they let him enter saying that he took a taxi, and had an important message for them. And it worked! They invited him in, and they all sat down together in the front room.

When Rabbi Gutnick explained what had happened, and how the Lubavitcher Rebbe told him to visit the Egyptian Jews in Adeline, they were stunned speechless; they had never heard of this Rabbi, how could he have heard of them? And who were they that he should even think about them?

But the girl began weeping and whispering, "This is my sign! Thank you G‑d!"

After several minutes, her mother, with tears welling up in her eyes, broke the silence and told the following story.

"We fled from Egypt about a year ago, and almost as soon as we arrived in Australia, my husband and I found work here in Adalide. The only problem was finding a school for Betty. You see she is blind, and the only school we could find for her in this area is run by priests.

"At first it wasn't so bad" her father continued. "Tuition was low, Betty was making good progress, and...well Rabbi, we are almost not observant at all, so we really didn't care, as long as she was learning."

"But then things changed,” her mother continued. "They began suggesting, and then demanding, that she change her religion and become a Catholic."

"I'm a Jew", Betty said with tears streaming from her colorless eyes, "And something inside me says it's wrong to stop being a Jew. I don’t even know what a Jew is! But I'll never stop being a Jew, even if they kill me."

"Then one day they said that she should stop coming to school," her mother continued. "And if she wanted to be so stubborn she shouldn't come back."

"That's when my parents started pressuring me" whimpered Betty. "They said that I had to do what the priests wanted. And that’s when I really got confused."

"But what can we do?" Said her weeping mother.

"You can't just sit around in the house!!" said her father "Of course we don't want you to stop being Jewish!! But we aren't so religious anyway and it's for your own good! For your own good!”

"So one day last week when my parents were at work" Betty continued, "I asked the neighbor, and she took me to the Synagogue. I just had to pray to G‑d to send me a sign what I should do."

"Then, the miracle happened! A few days later, my relatives told me that you asked about me in the Synagogue after the New Year's prayers. They were all laughing about it, but I was so excited I could hardly move. And then, believe me, it was not easy to get your phone number and call you."

At that point even Rabbi Gutnick was not succeeding in holding back his tears.

He dried his eyes, picked up the phone and called the president again. "You must come now to the blind girl's home, we have to get her connected with Yiddishkiet!"

"What!!?? It’s twelve midnight!!" Shouted the president over the phone. "Listen Rabbi Gutnick. You're a good Cantor, but I'm not coming to talk to anyone at twelve midnight, I'm already in my pajamas!!"

"So come in your pajamas," he answered. "You can come any way you want, but if you aren't here soon, you can find a replacement for Yom Kippur." A half hour later he arrived in the girl's house, and in no time they had a list of ten telephone numbers to call after the Holiday, to set her up with a complete Jewish education.

The story had a happy ending; the president found a place for Betty, and her relatives strengthened both their Judaism and connection to the community.

The next time that Rabbi Gutnick was in "Yechidut" (private audience with the Rebbe) The Rebbe told him,

"That "sign" was for you also! It's a sign that you should leave the business world, and devote yourself completely to becoming a Rabbi."

 
The Wandering Storyteller

The founder of Chassidism, Rabbi Israel Baal Shem, (called the Baal Shem Tov or "the Besht" for short) was well-versed in the secrets of the Torah and of creation. But also knew the greatest secret of all: what each man’s purpose is in this world.

Those who believed this completely and followed his directives were called his Chassidim.

To each of his Chassidim the Besht revealed his task in life, and to one, who is the hero of our story, he instructed to become a wandering storyteller. He should travel from town to town and from village to village and tell people stories about…. the Baal Shem Tov.

“You will know when your mission is achieved” the Besht added.

Shortly thereafter the Besht passed on to his eternal rest. For the next ten years, the chassid diligently and joyously carried out his assignment, wandering from town to town telling the "Baal Shem Tov stories" he had witnessed or heard about.

One day, someone told him that there was a rich Jew in Vitebsk who actually paid money for such stories: ten rubles (at that time a huge amount) for every new one and five for those he had already heard, plus traveling expenses. It was a two-day journey but to our hero it seemed like minutes. He knew many stories and he really needed the money!

When he arrived at the rich man’s plush home it was already late Thursday evening and he was so tired from the road that he only wanted to sleep, but there would always be tomorrow.

But he woke late Friday and by the time he finished praying it was already time to get ready for Shabbat; but there would be Shabbat.

Unfortunately that evening at the Shabbat dinner, try as he could, he just couldn’t remember any stories, not even one. He thought that after a good night’s rest his mind would be sharper, but it wasn’t. And the next day it was the same story: he would begin a story and suddenly his mind would go completely blank.

He thought that perhaps he was going mad. No matter what he did had no results. He even remained for another two days but it was obvious something very strange was going on: he who knew hundreds of stories about his great teacher, having witnessed many of them himself, and having told and retold them countless times over the years, could not remember anything! He had forgotten everything: he had no other choice than to shamefacedly give up.

The wealthy man was very disappointed but against all hope he accompanied the chassid in the carriage ride to the train, perhaps at the last moment some story would pop into his mind … but it didn’t.

They got out of the carriage and walked to the station where the rich man bought the chassid’s train ticket, slipped a few silver coins in his pocket so he wouldn’t feel completely broken, and escorted him to the train.

Then, as he put his foot on the first step going up to the car he remembered … “A story!!! I Remember a STORY!" he shouted.

“Come, come back to my carriage,” said the rich man excitedly, “Please, let’s not waste a moment!" They returned, entered, sat facing one another and the chassid began:

“Once the Baal Shem took ten Chassidim (I was one of them) and told them to get in his carriage shortly before Shabbat. They didn’t ask any questions, being used to such ‘journeys’. They entered and sat down and, as usual, they immediately felt as though the carriage was flying in the air and moments later landed.

“They got out and found that they were in a place they had never seen before. It was a large empty town square that was completely deserted. Even the stores were all closed, and off to one side stood a stage or pulpit, that looked recently built, surrounded by several large crosses and flaming torches as though there was about to be some sort of large outdoor Church ceremony.

“The Besht told them to follow him as he quickly left the square, walked quickly through some winding streets, and in just minutes went through the gates of what was obviously the Jewish Ghetto. He stopped before one of the houses and began pounding on the door until a small peep hole opened up and someone frantically whispered from inside.

“‘Are you mad?! What are you doing out there?!" Several bolts and locks clicked and slid until the door opened and the owner frantically motioned for all of them to enter, slamming it shut behind them.

“‘Tonight is one of their terrible holidays! The worst of the worst!!’ he said short of breath as he was re-closing the bolts and locks as fast as possible. 'You’re lucky I let you in! In another few minutes the entire town square is going to be filled with bloodthirsty Jew-haters from all around, and the devil himself, Bishop Thaddeus, yemach shmo (may his name be blotted out), will give his annual Easter speech. It’s full of venom against us. Come, follow me we will make place for you in our underground shelter. Come! We mustn’t waste an instant! Before they start going wild.’”

“But the Besht turned to one of his pupils and calmly said. ‘Go back to the square, and when the bishop begins to speak, go up to the stage, pull on his robe, and tell him that I wish to speak to him urgently.’

“The owner of the house was shocked! He watched in wide-eyed astonishment as the chassid actually began to re-open the bolts, open the door and slip outside. He didn’t know if he should lock them again or not, he’d never seen anything like it in his life! It was like seeing someone walk into a burning furnace!

“The chassid, once outside, made his way back through the winding streets till he reached the Square. It was already filled with thousands of people and more were silently arriving from all sides. A strange cold silence hung in the air and it was beginning to get dark.

“The bishop strode to the front of the stage as from nowhere and stood imposingly before the crowd in his bright crimson robes and high pointed red hat. The torchlight danced weirdly in his eyes and made the huge golden cross hanging around his neck gleam diabolically. To make matters worse the fires and huge crosses surrounding the stage reminded the chassid of the stories he had heard of the Inquisition. But he pushed all these thoughts from his mind, waited for the bishop to begin, closed his eyes for a moment, whispered “Shma Yisroel……” and, with his head down, began gently pushing his way to the podium.

“Amazingly no one even noticed him. They were so transfixed on the bishop that they just moved out of the way and before he knew it he reached the front. He took a deep breath, said another ‘Shma Yisroel’, grabbed the robe of the bishop and pulled twice.

“The bishop was just beginning his tirade when he felt the tug at his garment and looked down. He was startled, outraged, his face became livid with anger, but before he could utter a sound the chassid looked him in the eyes and said: ‘My master and teacher, Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, wishes to see you, and he says you should come urgently’.

“Suddenly the bishop’s face became pale and his eyes opened wide as though he was afraid. ‘Not now!’ he whispered after a few seconds of confusion. ‘Tell him that I can’t come now. Later! Tell him later. Go away!’

“Miraculously, the entire crowd was all still standing like statues as though hypnotized and noticed none of this. So the chassid backed his way out, and returned alone to the Besht, convinced that he had fulfilled his mission.

“But the Besht wasn’t pleased, ‘Go back and tell the bishop that if he doesn’t come now it will be too late’.

“Without hesitation the chassid turned and did as he was told. He left the house, returned to the Town Square, pushed his way through the crowd, and pulled on the bishop’s robe just as before..

“But this time when the bishop heard the Besht’s message, he was really stunned. He took a few steps back, put his head in his hands and then, turning his face to heaven he yelled to the crowd. ‘I’m receiving a message from the Lord!! I must be alone!’

“He motioned the chassid to leave, watched him as he walked toward the Jewish section and then he himself descended from the back of the stage and headed in that direction holding his hat under his arm.

Minutes later he was standing with the chassid before the house in the Jewish quarter. ‘Tell him to remove his crosses before he enters,’ said the Besht from inside. The bishop did so and as he entered the house and saw the face of the Holy man he fell to the floor and began weeping like a baby!

“The Baal Shem turned to the others and explained. ‘This man was born a Jew. He even had a Bar Mitzvah. But shortly thereafter he was lured to the Church and eventually became the anti-Semite he is today. I saw in heaven that now was a propitious time to bring him to his senses.’

“After the bishop stopped weeping the Besht told him to stand and follow him into a side room where they closed the door and spoke for several minutes. No one knows what they said in there, but after a while the bishop came out dressed in different clothes, left the house and no one has seen him since. And that is the end of the story.”

The chassid looked at the rich man and saw that he was smiling with contentment; he liked the story. He liked it so much that he put his hand over his eyes and tears began rolling down his face, he was crying, weeping from sheer happiness.

“That is the story I’ve been waiting for,” he said.

He dried his eyes, looked at the chassid and continued. “I am the bishop in your story. The Baal Shem Tov told me in that side room to live a life of repentance until someone came and told me my own story. Now I know my prayers have been accepted by G‑d.”

Its MY Money
 
Years ago, the Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel was entirely dependent on the generosity of its brethren in the Diaspora. To that end, special emissaries would travel throughout Europe collecting donations, visiting local Jews and soliciting funds.

One time an emissary arrived in a certain city and was given a warm welcome. All of the townspeople came to the synagogue to hear him deliver his appeal. At the end of the speech, a prominent member of the local community volunteered to accompany him on his rounds from house to house.

The two men walked through the Jewish section knocking on doors and asking for donations. Not one family refused to contribute. The contributions varied according to financial circumstance, but everyone was happy to give at least something. Then the emissary noticed that they had skipped a mansion, and asked his companion why. "It would be a waste of effort," he was told. "The man who lives there is miser. He has never given even a penny to charity."

"But we have to try," the emissary insisted. "Who knows? Maybe our words will penetrate his heart."

They knocked on the door, which was opened by the wealthy miser himself. "Good day!" the emissary said cheerfully. "May we speak with you for a minute?"

"You may certainly speak, but if you've come for a donation of money you're wasting your time," the miser said dryly.

But the emissary would not give up. "You're obviously a wealthy man. Don't you want to help support the poor and hungry Jews of the Holy Land? Everyone else in town is contributing generously."

"My money belongs to me," the miser declared sharply. "I worked very hard for it, and saved every penny. I refuse to give the fruit of my labors to someone who didn't expend the effort."

The emissary looked at him with pity in his eyes. "You're right, it's your money and your decision," he conceded. But before he left he added under his breath, "It looks as if you're going to be the third."

The miser closed the door with the emissary's words echoing in his ears. What did he mean? A whole day he couldn't get the comment out of his head, and that night he tossed and turned in bed. "It looks as if you're going to be the third." The third what? He had to find out.

The next day the miser searched the city until he found the emissary from Israel. "I must know," he pleaded with him. "What did you mean when you said that I would be the third?"
The emissary smiled. "Yesterday I honored your principle of not giving away any of your hard-earned money. So how can you expect me to share my wisdom with you for nothing? I also worked very hard to acquire it."

The miser acknowledged that he was right, and agreed to pay for the answer. The emissary insisted on a sum three times what he usually asked of the rich, and the transaction was made.

"Now I will tell you a story," the emissary began. "Many years ago there lived a very wealthy man who was as stingy as he was rich. He was even miserly when it came to himself. He even refused to marry, lest a wife and children drain his finances.

"The man worked very hard his whole life and eventually amassed a fortune. Before he passed away, he instructed the Burial Society to bury him with all his money. Even after death he refused to part from his riches.

"His final wishes were carried out, and not one cent remained above ground. When the grave was filled, the angel in charge of the deceased came to accompany him to the Heavenly Court.

"'Did you study Torah?' the man was asked. 'No,' was his reply, 'I was a businessman.'

"'Then certainly you supported those who did with your charity. Tell us,' the judges urged him, 'which good deeds did you perform with all your money?'

"'Look, there's nothing to talk about,' the man answered. 'I brought all my money with me. Do whatever you want with it.'

"'You don't understand,' they explained. 'Here money has no value. The currency is mitzvot-commandments.' The man's fate hung in the balance.
"After much discussion the judges realized that there was only one precedent in history, when the wealthy, rebellious Korach had been swallowed up by the earth with all his riches. In the end it was decided that the miser, who had also been buried with all his money, should be sent to keep him company. The lonely Korach would no doubt be delighted.

"But it's very hard to spend such a long time with even two people," the emissary continued. "I'm sure that Korach and his friend are very bored by now, and would welcome a third conversationalist into their group. When I met you I thought to myself, 'Who knows? Maybe their boredom will soon be alleviated. But now that you've given me your donation, I think that Korach and his friend will have to wait a while longer."

From that day on the former miser was always the first to contribute to every charitable cause that came his way.

                            MOSHIACH MATTERS

Many years before the destruction of the First Temple, Josiah, the last of Jerusalem's righteous kings, hid the ark in a mazelike system of chambers and vaults that King Solomon had constructed under the Temple building. The ark is still buried there, beneath the site of the Holy of Holies. When Moshiach comes, it will surface.