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Yitro: The Stocking Maker    

Yitro: The Stocking Maker

The host looked out the window at the man as he continued walking down the road. "Oh, that's just Reb Dovid, the stocking maker...


Parshat Yitro
"Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Serve six days and do all your work." (Shemot 20:8-9)
Although the Almighty specifically commanded us not to work on the Sabbath (20:10), this Commandment was introduced with the verse containing the commandment to 'serve' and 'do all your work.' That means, the preparation for the Sabbath is to serve, which denotes serving God. Serving God means worshipping at the proper times and setting aside set periods of Torah study. By doing this service, God promises that we will be blessed with success in all our work to earn a livelihood. (MeAm Lo'ez)
* * *
In the town of Anapol, in the Carpathian Mountains, there lived a simple tradesman named Reb Dovid. For his livelihood, he made men's stockings. Each day he prayed in the town shul (synagogue) except when there was no minyan (less than 10 men), and then he would pray alone at home.
The Baal Shem Tov once visited Anapol and stayed with a local member of the community. Early one morning, the Baal Shem Tov sat in the front room of his host's home smoking his pipe and meditating before going to daven (pray) with the minyan at the nearby town shul.
As he gazed through the window, he noticed a man walking briskly with his Tallit and Tefillin clutched tightly in his hand. The Baal Shem Tov could see an aura of spiritual light surrounding the man. He asked his host, "Do you know who that man is that just walked by carrying his Tallit and Tefillin?"
The host looked out the window at the man as he continued walking down the road. "Oh, that's just Reb Dovid, the stocking maker. He’s on his way to shul, just as he does at this time every morning."
"Would you mind asking him to stop by and speak with me tomorrow before going to shul?"
"Rebbe," answered the householder, "I would, but Reb Dovid has had the same routine for many, many years. I doubt he'd change it, particularly before davening."
The Baal Shem Tov didn’t pursue the matter. He went to shul with his host and continued to wonder at the bright light that surrounded Reb Dovid. After davening, he walked over to Reb Dovid and asked if he could purchase several pairs of the stockings he made. Of course Reb Dovid was pleased to take his order.
Later that day, Reb Dovid arrived at the host’s home to deliver the stockings for the Baal Shem Tov.
“How much do I owe you, Reb Dovid?”
"Each pair cost one and a half golden coins,” answered Reb Dovid.
The Baal Shem Tov’s host interrupted them: "Reb Dovid! Don’t you have a special price for my special guest perhaps one golden coin each pair?”
"No," answered Reb Dovid, "if I wanted to sell the stockings for less, I would have asked a lower price to start."
The Baal Shem Tov paid Reb Dovid the one and one half golden coins for each pair of stockings. "Tell me about your business," he asked.
"Well," answered Reb Dovid, "first I make about forty or fifty pairs of stockings. Then, I put them all into a large tub of hot water and stamp them until they are soft. Next, I let the stockings dry. After, I iron them flat. Finally, I separate them into pairs."
"So, how do you sell them?" continued the Baal Shem Tov.
"I wait until the shopkeepers come to my house and purchase them from me. Whenever they come to buy the stockings, they replenish my supply of wool which they've specially purchased for me so that I can make more stockings, and I pay them extra for their trouble."
"Today, out of respect to you, Rabbi, I made an exception and brought the stockings to you. Normally, I only leave my house to go to daven at shul with a minyan. And if there is no minyan, I stay home and daven by myself."
"What do you do if you need a large amount of money, say to pay for your children’s weddings?" asked the Baal Shem Tov. Reb Dovid answered with a smile. "The Almighty, blessed be He, takes care of me and somehow there is sufficient money for all my needs, even enough to marry off my children."
"And what do you do early in the morning?" continued the Baal Shem Tov.
"Honestly, Rabbi," answered Reb Dovid, "I spend every day, except for the Sabbath and Holidays, from early morning until evening making stockings."
"Do you recite Tehillim (Psalms)?”
"Rabbi, I have no time to look into a book, so I only recite the ones I know by heart," answered Reb Dovid.
After Reb Dovid left, the Baal Shem Tov’s host wondered out loud, “Why is the Rebbe so interested in my simple neighbor."
The Baal Shem Tov replied: “The wisest of Torah scholars exerts great effort to comprehend his studies, and to be inspired to serve The Creator. But the exertion of one’s mind can sometimes dull his true connection to The Almighty, which is beyond comprehension. In the celestial treasure house Above, where all the words of Torah study and prayers of His holy people of Israel are stored, the most treasured are the plain words of Tehillim, recited by the simple Jew as he goes about his daily work, with perfect faith and trust that The Almighty will keep him and sustain with all that he needs. That pure, simple faith is the true essence of each Jew. Reb Dovid is such a person - and it is he and others like him that lay the foundation for our Redemption, may it come speedily in our days."
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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