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His Disciples Dance on the New Moon

His Disciples Dance on the New Moon


One year, during the Yom Kippur prayers, the Baal Shem Tov saw with his holy spirit that harm would come to the Jewish people if he and his disciples did not make the traditional blessing of the new moon immediately following the holiday. Then this great mitzvah would be joined to the side of merit and incline the balance of the scale of judgment to good.

But the new moon was not visible at the end of Yom Kippur, and the blessing could not be recited. So the Baal Shem Tov, who was depressed about this, attempted to use his mystic powers to cause the moon to appear. He asked his disciples several times to go outside and see if the moon was visible, but in spite of his great efforts, the skies remained overcast with dark clouds, and it seemed unlikely there would be a moon that night.

The Baal Shem Tov’s disciples knew nothing about their master’s worries or about the heavenly decree and how important it was that they bless the moon after Yom Kippur. It was their custom to celebrate at the end of Yom Kippur, since they had completed their divine service successfully, led by their holy master, the Baal Shem Tov, whose service on Yom Kippur was like that of the high priest in the ancient Temple. They had full trust that their prayers were accepted and that they were signed and sealed for a good year.

So this time too, they were joyously dancing with holy fervor. At first, they danced in the outer room of the Baal Shem Tov’s house, but afterward, carried on the wave of their exuberant joy, they burst into their master’s room and danced in his presence. When the joy and ecstasy of their dancing surged even more strongly, they dared to draw the Baal Shem Tov himself into their circle. They swept their holy master into their midst, and he began to dance with them.

While they were dancing this sacred dance, those outside suddenly called out loudly that the moon was visible, and they all went out quickly to bless the moon that night.

The Baal Shem Tov then said that what he could not accomplish by his mystic powers, the Chassidim had accomplished by their joy.

Reprinted with permission from Jewish Tales of Mystic Joy, by Yitzhak Buxbaum.

Maggid Yitzhak Buxbaum is the author of ten books, including Jewish Spiritual Practices and The Light and Fire of the Baal Shem Tov.
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Shoshana Jerusalem May 5, 2016

depression When the author of the above article wrote that the Baal Shem Tov was "depressed", I don't think that he was referring to clinical depression, but rather meant loosely that he was in a bad mood. By the way, it is really a term that people do use too loosely, and that is something to be avoided. A person with a chemical inbalance should certainly get help, but a regular person who's overtired or in a bad mood, should never say, "Oy, I'm depressed". Reply

Gila Memphis via May 3, 2016

Depression Shoshana, you seem to be operating under a misunderstanding of what "depression" is. Depression is a recognized clinical disorder. It can happen to anyone, regardless of how "deeply religious" that person is. Depression is nothing to be ashamed of and it does not reflect a character flaw or a lack of faith in God.

I assume you would not say that a holy or religious person cannot ever contract heart disease, cancer, or Alzheimer's disease. If so, there is no reason to assume that piety makes one immune to depression, since depression is just as much of a natural and normal medical condition. We do not hold people responsible for medical conditions that are beyond their control. Of course, a person who has depression must be responsible to seek treatment and to continue taking his or her medications, if applicable, but simply having been diagnosed with the disorder in the first place is not a matter of choice and is no reflection on a person's character. Reply

Shoshana Jerusalem May 2, 2016

Baal Shem Tov Dear Friend,
A religious Jew knows that everything that happens comes from H-shem and is for the best and therefore can never be depressed. Especially the Baal Shem who was a deeply religious and accordingly very joyous person. True, we may not like what is happening. Life can be very difficult at times and very bitter. But a person who has faith is never depressed. He turns to H-shem in prayer and tries to change the decree, and that is the appropriate reaction. Reply

Gila Memphis via April 12, 2016

Shoshana, why is it so inconceivable that the Baal Shem Tov could have been depressed? He was a holy person, yes, but he was still a person. And no person is immune to depression. Reply

Shoshana Jerusalem February 4, 2015

"depressed"? Very nice article but I'm sure that the holy Baal Shem Tov was not "depressed", G-d forbid.. Concerned, maybe, but depressed, never.

We have to be so careful of our words when speaking about holy people, or anyone, for that matter. Reply

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