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The Test

The Test

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Once the Baal Shem Tov sat with his disciples for the festive meal of Rosh Chodesh, and his face was serious. The disciples knew from previous occasions things that would put their Rebbe in a more joyous mood, and they tried, but with no success.

Then, a certain village-dwelling Jew entered, named Reb Dovid. Immediately upon his entry the Baal Shem Tov was full of joy--he treated him warmly, gave him a place to sit, and also gave him a piece of his "hamotzi" (bread).

This matter caused the disciples to have questioning thoughts--the whole Holy Society were not able to rouse joy, and only a villager was able to do so?!

The Baal Shem Tov sensed their questions, and sent Reb Dovid off to do something, and when he left he said to them:

This Reb Dovid works hard, by the sweat of his brow, for every penny he earns. During the year he saves a penny at a time to buy an etrog for Sukkot, until he assembles the sum and travels to the city and buys an extremely fine one, and he has great joy from it. Since he is poor, and his wife is of bitter spirit, it angered her considerably that he does not care about the condition of his household, since he spends money on an etrog and rejoices over it. In her bitterness she broke the pitom (tip) of the etrog (rendering it possul, unfit for use).

Now, besides the money that he spent on the etrog, there were many obstacles to bringing it, water to cross, bad roads, so that it all added up to much hard effort. Yet, when he saw what his wife had done he was not angry, but said: "It appears that I am not worthy of such an etrog. Truly, does a simple Jew like me deserve such a fine etrog?!"

"From the time of the Akeidah (the 'Binding of Isaac')," concluded the Baal Shem Tov, "there was not such a test of character, and therefore I treated him so warmly."

(Sefer Hasichot 5696, p. 148)

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Henya San Francisco, Ca. October 8, 2014

Reb Dovid forgot that he was created in the image of God. He needs to be reminded that he IS worthy.
H.C. Reply

vicki stone portland October 8, 2014

wives why are the wives frequently the villain. I think I would be angry too, if we had a leaking roof, the kids needed new shoes, all they could eat was cheap kasha, and the husband spends a fortune on an etrog! Reply

Rachel Portland, Or September 18, 2013

Anonymous MI I'm with you on this one. Reply

shmuel nomtreal September 21, 2010

I don't think it was a question of putting bread on his table; that obviously overrides an esrog. According to the Torah, one may not give up one life for a mitzva (although there are exceptions), especially the life of someone else (i.e. his wife). It seems to me that it was a question of giving up not such vital necessities of life like buying new clothing etc. Reply

Mr. Al Langille September 20, 2010

I Don't Get It The etrog may be important, but why is it important at the expense of his household? He mentions he is "a simple jew". Does that translate to him being poor? If he's poor, how is buying an etrog such a good thing when he needs to put food on the table? Reply

Anonymous MI, USA October 13, 2008

Nu, the point is not the quality of marriage in Hassidic homes. In this, we are like all other people, some marriages are better than others, some look good from the outside, but the people involved are miserable, some look horrid, but actually work for the spouses, etc.....

In fact, this looks like a difficult marriage to me. Each member was trying to meet a goal, with no regard for the other person. He wanted an etrog. She wanted some food on the table, a shirt for the son that just outgrew his old one, etc. Was either goal evil? No. Had she tried to talk to him before? Probably. She knew exactly how important this was to him. She yelled volumes by defeating his goal, so then he had to listen to her. She did this wrong action in desperation. He took his first right step by not getting angry. I hope they talked long and deeply after this. Reply

Reuven Sarasota, Florida October 27, 2005

worthy is, worthy does..., Did his wife know how important the etrog was to him? I think not! The life of a married Hassid!
p.s. must be better than an unmarried Hassid! Reply

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