12 Shvat 5781 / Monday, January 25, 2021 | Torah Reading: Beshalah
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Rabbi Adam’s Son    

Rabbi Adam’s Son

Adam’s father had instructed him to go to Okup and find a very pious, devout person named Yisrael the son of Eliezer who kept his deep faith and piety completely hidden…


“The Baal Shem Tov – Early Years”, Part 7

In the last episode, our still young Yisraelic worked as the shamash (custodian) in a little synagogue in the holy community of Okup, where he had been born. Time passed Yisrael spent his time learning Torah in private, without anyone knowing.
One bright sunny morning, a stranger turned up at the synagogue in Okup - a handsome young man - to join the people in the morning prayers. As he looked distinguished and learned, all came over at once to welcome him. The eldest man amongst them asked him who he was.
"The son of Rabbi Adam Baal Shem," he answered.
And they looked at him in awe. They all knew that his father, who had passed away recently, had been one of the holiest of men of the generation. Without another word, they gave him a place of honor at the eastern wall of the synagogue, near the holy Ark.
From his bundle of belongings, the young man took out a pair of tefillin (phylacteries) and put them on in preparation for the morning prayers. Everyone couldn't help but notice that he didn't take out a tallis (prayer shawl) - which could only mean that he was not married. The Jews of Okup began whispering among themselves.
After the prayers, one of the men began talking to the eldest among them: "You have a daughter to marry off. Why not ask this young man to marry her? You are wealthy enough to give him everything he needs so that he can sit and study Torah. And where will you get a better husband for your daughter than the son of Rabbi Adam Baal Shem?"
The village elder agreed and invited the young visitor to his home for breakfast. After introducing him to his family and daughter, he presented the plan to him. Rabbi Adam's son thought it over, and agreed. He knew that he would have to stay in Okup for quite a while. For his father had instructed him to go to Okup and find a very pious, devout person named Yisrael the son of Eliezer who kept his deep faith and piety hidden, so that no one knew of it. Once he found this Yisrael the son of Eliezer, he was to hand over to him all the secret, hidden writings that Rabbi Adam had prepared in his lifetime.
There was one condition that the young man made: He would marry the village elder's daughter, but so great was his desire to study Torah that after the marriage, the family must agree to his spending the majority of his time in the little synagogue learning the Holy Torah. There, they must bring him his meals, and he would often sleep there. Of course, he would always be at home for Shabbos, Yom Tov and other important times. By the end of the conversation, the agreement was made and the wedding plans were started.
Within a week, the young man was always studying in the little synagogue. His meals were brought him from the home of his father-in-law; and he was always ready and glad to share them with Yisrael, the young caretaker. All day long he stayed there, immersed in his studies, and so he continued far into the night, long after everyone else in Okup was asleep. Only at midnight did he put out his candle and lie down on a bench in the back, to sleep till morning.
One night, however, he had trouble sleeping. He dozed off, but woke again soon. As he opened his eyes he saw that somewhere in the synagogue a candle was burning. Certain that he had put out his own candle, he rose in curiosity to see where the light was coming from - and in the anteroom, he saw the young shammash, Yisraelic, sitting by a lit candle, studying from a large volume of Talmud.
"It certainly was strange," he thought, "since Yisraelic never seemed interested in Torah study. Why was he poring over that volume now?"
Suddenly an idea jumped into his mind: "Could it be that this was the Yisrael the son of Eliezer, whom he had come to Okup to find? Was he the person who was secretly so devout and religious that he alone was worthy to receive the secret writings of his father, Rabbi Adam Baal Shem?
He silently returned to his bench to go back to sleep with his mind made up: Starting the next day, he would keep an eye out to see just what sort of person this young Yisraelic, the shammash, was.
The next day he did as planned, and he noticed that all day the young caretaker was busy cleaning the little synagogue and bringing water from the well, so that those who came to pray or study could wash their hands and drink when thirsty.
Not once during the day did Yisraelic even glance at a volume of Torah.
At midnight, Rabbi Adam's son took one page of his father's writings on the table in the ante-room where he had seen Yisraelic studying. He blew out his candle and lay down on the bench, as if to sleep. But he remained very much awake, waiting. After about a half-hour, a glow of light told him that Yisraelic had lit his candle in the anteroom. Without a sound, he approached and saw the boy Yisraelic sitting and studying the written page that he had left on the table.
So intense was Yisrael's concentration, so deeply involved was he in his study, that he was no longer aware of anything around him.
Suddenly he looked around, startled - for there was Rabbi Adam's son, standing over him. In a flash he moved, trying to put out the candle and hide the page of writing. Rabbi Adam's son seized his hand, however, and stopped him. "Yisrael, my son," he said with a smile, "it is no use. I know your secret. Your father's name was Eliezer, was it not?" And when the boy nodded he continued, "I swear to you that I will not reveal your secret to anyone."
He sat down and put his hand about Israel's shoulder. "Do you know," he asked, "why I came to Okup? My father sent me to find you and give you his secret writings. Now let us sit here and begin studying them together. No one else will ever know. I will be your teacher, until you understand enough to learn the writings by yourself."
So they sat there side by side, the young caretaker of the synagogue and the son of Rabbi Adam Baal Shem Tov. And a heavenly echo whispered, "Behold how good and pleasant it is when brothers sit together"…
To be continued…
Tzvi Meir Cohn attended Yeshiva Hadar Hatorah in Crown Heights, Brooklyn after completing his university studies in Engineering and Law. While studying at the Yeshiva, he discovered a deep connection to the stories and teachings of the Baal Shem Tov. His many books about the Baal Shem Tov can be found in the Breslev Store. He can be contacted at howard@cohnpatents.com.

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