13 Shvat 5781 / Tuesday, January 26, 2021 | Torah Reading: Beshalah
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Vayeitzei: The Three Brothers    

Vayeitzei: The Three Brothers

The Baal Shem Tov repeated the same question several times, but Reb Dovid remained silent. Finally, the Baal Shem Tov raised his voice...


Parshat Vayeitzei
"Yaakov stepped forward and rolled the rock off the mouth of the well effortlessly showing his great strength.”    Bereishit 29:10
* * *
In a small village deep in the Carpathian Mountains, there lived three learned, G-d-fearing brothers Reb Chaim, Reb Yaakov and Reb Dovid. Reb Chaim and Reb Yaakov were devoted followers of the Baal Shem Tov but Reb Dovid was a “mitnagid” – one strongly opposed to the customs and teachings of the chassidim.
Whenever the Baal Shem Tov visited the village, he always asked Reb Chaim and Reb Yaakov as to the welfare of their brother, both physically and spiritually.
The two brothers found it quite curious that the Baal Shem Tov always inquired about the wellbeing of Reb Dovid. After all, it was well known that Reb Dovid had spoken in a derogatory way about their Rebbe.
Once, the Baal Shem Tov arrived at the village on a Thursday. Before he even encountered Reb Chaim and Reb Yaakov, he inquired about Reb Dovid’s wellbeing from the other townsfolk. “So how is my adversary, Reb Dovid?” he asked.
The villagers thought that the Baal Shem Tov would be pleased with the news: “Reb Dovid is on his deathbed and has lost the power of speech.”
But the Baal Shem Tov was distraught at the news and went immediately to the home two brothers Reb Chaim and Reb Yaakov. The Baal Shem Tov told them that it was urgent that he pay a visit to their dying brother. The two brothers were a little upset and confused at their Rebbe’s request. “Rebbe it might be better if you don’t visit him right now,” they said.
The very next day, Friday, the eve of the holy Sabbath, the Baal Shem Tov told the two brothers that it was imperative that he pray at the home of their ill brother on the holy Sabbath.
“Rebbe,” they implored him, “even if he was healthy, he would certainly not let you pray at his house.”
But the Baal Shem Tov insisted. The two brothers were not about to get involved in “Rebbesheh maysehs” (the workings of holy men), so they arranged for the Baal Shem Tov to use a small room in their sick brother’s house for prayers and study over the Sabbath, and they arranged to have a Holy Ark and a Torah scroll brought there. In this small room, the Baal Shem Tov prayed Minchah and Maariv on Friday, the holy Sabbath Eve, and the following morning he prayed the Sabbath Shacharit prayer.
In the morning, he prolonged his prayers until two o’clock in the afternoon. Before reading the Torah, he paused as if waiting for something to occur. Just then, he heard a terrible, deep groan from the dying Reb Dovid. The Baal Shem called Reb Dovid’s two brothers. “Let us all go into visit your sick brother together.” They entered the room and the Baal Shem Tov sat next to the dying Reb Dovid. Reb Dovid’s crying mother sat nearby reciting Tehillim (Psalms). She leaned over to her son and whispered “Dovid’ll...a holy rabbi is here to visit you.” But Reb Dovid didn’t move. She took her son’s hand and placed it in the Baal Shem Tov’s hand. The Baal Shem Tov gazed at him with a furrowed brow. “Reb Dovid, I understand that you study Talmud?”
But Reb Dovid lay motionless. The Baal Shem Tov repeated the same question several times, but Reb Dovid remained silent. Finally, the Baal Shem Tov raised his voice: “Where are your manners? I am asking you a question!?”
The pale Reb Dovid slowly opened his sunken eyes and looked at The Baal Shem Tov. “Yes” he whispered, “I have studied Gemara.”
The Baal Shem Tov then asked: “In which tractate does it state “Are your sufferings welcome to you?” Reb Dovid replied: “In the tractate Berachot.”
“And what is said there?” continued the Baal Shem Tov.
“Neither they nor their reward,” he slowly answered.
The Baal Shem Tov then asked “Reb Dovid, are your sufferings welcome to you?”
Reb Dovid answered: “Neither they nor their reward.”
The Baal Shem Tov then said: “Give me your other hand.” Reb Dovid slowly raised his other hand, and the the Baal Shem helped him sit up. “Now place your feet on the floor, sit up, dress yourself slowly and wash your hands.”
Amazingly, Reb Dovid followed all of the Baal Shem Tov’s instructions. He slowly regained his strength hour by hour.
Later, he prayed the Musaf prayer and with the help of God, he made a full recovery.
As to whether Reb Dovid became a follower of the Baal Shem Tov, we don’t know.
And so it was.
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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