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The Reincarnated Prince

The Reincarnated Prince


Some three hundred years ago, the name of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov spread throughout Europe as one who was willing to do anything, even perform miracles like Elijah and Moses, in order to help another, especially a fellow Jew.

One evening a middle-aged couple came with a desperate request; they wanted a child. Despite their prayers, good deeds and various remedies and treatments, they had failed to conceive a child in all the years of their marriage.

The Baal Shem Tov closed his eyes, put his face into his hands, lowered his head to the desk before him and his consciousness soared to the spiritual realms.

Minutes later he sat upright, looked at them sadly and said: "There is nothing I can do. Continue praying, continue your good deeds. May G‑d have mercy. But it is beyond my ability to help you."

The woman burst into bitter tears; her husband turned his face aside and wept silently, his body shaking.

"No, no!" she cried. "I won't believe it. I will not accept no for answer. I know that when a tzaddik (righteous person) decrees, G‑d must fulfill. I want a child!" Her cry pierced the walls and broke the holy master's heart.

He lowered his head again for many long minutes then looked up and said: "Next year you will have a child."

The couple was speechless. The man began trembling, took the Baal Shem Tov's hand kissed it as his wife showered thanks and blessings. They backed out the door, bowing, weeping and praising G‑d and His servant the holy Rabbi Israel.

Sure enough, two months later the woman conceived, and nine months thereafter gave birth to a beautiful baby boy.

The couple's joy increased day by day as the child grew. Their baby was beautiful! His eyes sparkled with life and his every smile filled their lives with warmth and happiness. At the age of one year, it was obvious he was something special; he was already walking and talking. As he approached the age of two they began looking for a tutor to begin teaching him Torah. They planned to take him to the Baal Shem Tov; they would show him what his blessing had brought.

But on the morning of his second birthday the child didn't wake up.

The neighbors came running when they heard the screams, but nothing could be done. As miraculously as the boy had come, so mysteriously and tragically had he departed this world.

The funeral was enough to make the heavens cry. After the week of mourning they returned to the Baal Shem Tov to inform him of the tragedy. But the Baal Shem Tov understood better then they could possibly have imagined.

"Your child," he said to the grieving parents, "contained a lofty soul which had made a huge sacrifice to save thousands of people. But this soul needed you to achieve its tikkun ('rectification') and become spiritually complete. That day, when you came to me, I looked into the heavens and saw that it was impossible for you to have children; but when I heard your cries and saw the depth of your pain, I realized that this special soul was destined to be yours for the short span of its return to physical life. Sit down, dear friends, I have a story to tell you."

Several hundred years ago lived a king who was childless. He was rich and powerful, but he desperately desired a son to carry on the lineage. He ordered that all his subjects hold daily prayers in their houses of worship that G‑d should grant their sovereign an heir.

One of his advisors suggested that the reason the king was childless was because his Jewish subjects did not pray for him sincerely enough. The only way to make them do that, said this advisor, was to oppress them.

The next day the king issued a public proclamation stating that if the queen was not blessed with a child within in the next three months, all the Jews would be expelled from his kingdom. With all the neighboring countries closed to Jewish settlement, the poor Jews had nowhere to go. Their cries and prayers rose from every synagogue in the land.

A call resounded through the heavens for a soul willing to descend into the spiritually desolate environment of the royal palace in order the save the Jews of that land. Finally, one very holy soul agreed to make the sacrifice.

Shortly thereafter, the queen became pregnant and soon gave birth to a son. The king was overjoyed and showered the Jews of his realm with presents and favors.

At the age of two, the child could already read and write, and when he was five years old he had surpassed all his teachers and learned all they had to teach. A master teacher — a priest whose fame as a genius and scholar had spread far and wide — was brought from afar to teach the prodigy.

This new tutor was of a different caliber altogether. It seemed that he had mastered every form of wisdom in the world and his very presence radiated a thirst for knowledge. The young genius could not get enough of his new teacher. He became attached to him more than even to his own father the king. He spent every moment of the day and most of the night with him absorbing more and more wisdom and learning; and the more he absorbed the more he desired.

But the priest demanded his times of privacy. He had an agreement with the king that for two hours of every day he would lock himself in his room and no one, not even the King himself, was allowed to enter or disturb him in any way. It was on this condition that he accepted the task of teaching the prince.

But the prince was curious. He could not tolerate the idea that his beloved master was withholding something from him. He had to know everything!

One day, the young prince managed to hide himself in his teacher's room before the priest's daily two hours of seclusion. The priest entered the room, locked the door securely behind him, and searched the room thoroughly. Somehow he failed to discover the prince's hiding place and he proceeded in his strange daily ritual.

First he removed all the crosses from the walls and from around his neck, and put them in a box outside his window. Then he took out a large white woolen shawl with strings at the corners, wrapped it completely around his head and body, and began weeping like a baby.

Then he took out two small black boxes with long black straps attached to them, tied one to his left upper arm and the other above the middle of his forehead. After that he began to pray, swaying, singing and crying for over an hour. Finally, he took out a large Hebrew text and began reading from it in a sing-song voice, swaying back and forth all the time.

Suddenly, he stopped and listened intently. The faint but unmistakable sound of another person in the room had caught his ear. The priest was terrified. He jumped from his chair, hurriedly removed the black boxes and shawl, stuffed them in a drawer, and began to search the room. It did not take long for him to discover his young pupil, who had been observing everything with rapt fascination.

The priest begged the boy not to reveal what he saw. If the king found out he would certainly be beheaded. But the prince's curiosity had been aroused. He swore that he would never tell anyone what he saw in the room, but only if the priest would explain what he had just done and teach him what it was all about.

So the priest had no choice but to reveal that he was a Jew, doing was what Jews have been doing for thousands of years: praying and studying the Torah and fulfilling its commandments. He had been compelled to hide his faith during one of the many decrees of forced conversions that Jews were subjected to in those times; now he was forced to assume the guise of a alien religion on the pain of death.

"You must teach me your ancient wisdom!" the prince insisted. "I knew that you were hiding something from me. In everything that you taught me, I always sensed that there was something more there, something deeper and truer, that you were withholding from me!" In vain did the "priest" plead that he would be subjecting them both to mortal danger. "If you refuse to teach me," the prince threatened, "I'll tell everyone what I saw in this room."

For several years they learned Torah together, until the boy announced that he wanted to convert to Judaism. His desire became so strong that teacher and pupil made up a story about going to Rome to further their studies and instead escaped to another country where the boy converted and never returned to the palace again.

"The prince became a great and famous sage," the Baal Shem Tov concluded his story, "living a life of saintliness and good deeds. When he passed on from this world and his soul ascended to the heavens, it was the most luminous soul that had returned from earth in many generations. Only one blemish dimmed its shinning perfection: the lingering effect of the fact that it had been conceived, borne, and fed for two years in the spiritually negative environment of the royal palace. All it lacked to attain the true heights of its glorious potential was for it to return to earth and be conceived, given birth to and weaned in the holy atmosphere of a righteous home.

"When I saw the depth of your holy desire for a child, I know that you were worthy parents for this righteous soul."

A popular teacher, musician and storyteller, Rabbi Tuvia Bolton is co-director of Yeshiva Ohr Tmimim in Kfar Chabad, Israel, and a senior lecturer there.
Illustration by Chassidic artist Michoel Muchnik; click here to view or purchase Mr. Muchnik's art.
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sadmom Newton May 1, 2017

Horrible awful story I absolutely hate this horrible story. Those of you who find it inspiring are completely sick. My beautiful perfect baby girl died last week. We have prayed for her too for so long and she was loved so much. She was beautiful, perfect when she came into this world but we found out after a couple of weeks that she has a fatal disease and she died. Only an evil, cruel God would do such a thing to parents. Either us or poor parents in this story who got a son they prayed for for years only to lose him. It is a tragedy, a sad, horrible thing, those of you who find it inspiring probably never had any real tragedy in your lives. Our hearts are broken forever. Reply

Ephraim Levine Watford, UK November 22, 2017
in response to sadmom:

Dear Sadmom. I really felt so much of your pain in your comment. The passing of one's child must rank as the most painful experience any parent go through. Although I haven't personally experienced this, I have been there and helped parents in my community who have. I realise that each person deals with grief in their own way and that there is no 'one size fits all' approach. One of the most painful questions asked after a passing, and more so with a child, is 'why me?' Why did G-d allow this to happen to me? The story above looks to address this question by telling us that nothing in life is random, whether the turning of a leaf in the wind of the passing of a person. There is comfort in knowing that the passing of a child was an act determined by G-d for a specific purpose, and that the parents who would experience this were hand-picked. I wish you much comfort and blessing, and you should find only strength in life's vicissitudes together with your family. Best wishes. Reply

Yehuda Shurpin for June 11, 2015

Re: Was this Crown Prince Ordan of Hungary? While it is true that that book of historical fiction is based on a story that is supposed to have occurred with Rabbi Yitzhcak Tirnau, author of sefer haminhagim, there really is no way of knowing whether the two stores are indeed connected. Reply

Moshe Bienenfeld Valley Village, California June 10, 2015

Was this Crown Prince Ordan of Hungary? I have a question for the people at There is an legend about a Hungarian crown prince who converted and later died al kiddush Hashem. I don't know if anyone knows the exact details of the story but there's a book published by feldheim called the Kadosh of Tirnau by R' Shmuel Rothstein which by the way is a great novel which I highly recommend. The book tells the tail of the life and conversion of Ordan, Crown Prince of Hungary and seems to have many similar threads to the Baal Shem Tov's story listed above. Do you know, was this the same Prince? Reply

Isaac Nagaokar Israel December 8, 2013

Story related to our lives Two years ago my wife gave birth to our fourth child, one week before Rosh Hashanah. We had his grand brith ceremony on the second day of Rosh Hashanah with more than 200 people who had come to attend the New Year prayers in the synagogue. Exactly after 70 days our child passed away in his sleep. This has left us shattered even now, two years after this incidence we tremble with fear over what happened that morning. Many who came for the mourning said that this child came for a Tikun, selecting us as his parents & was a great soul. I am willing to meet some Rav from Chabad, Israel to whom we can pour our hearts out..
So friends such stories do happen, just we do not know exactly who the great soul was who came to be our son. Reply

Tuvia Bolton Kfar Chabad, Israel March 11, 2010

Reply to Feigele from Rabbi Bolton Thank you for the commment. I think the stories are true... although there are different versions. But certainly the miracles that the Baal Shem Tov did were no greater than what Moshe Rabbenu did: the Ten Plagues, splitting the sea, bringing the Torah, bread from heaven, water from a rock, etc.
These stories come to teach us that there is a Moshe in every generation. Reply

Levi brooklyn, ny March 8, 2010

They had another baby afterwards Just to give this story a happy ending, here is a quote from Hachayol magazine which translated the story from the monthly Talks and Tales:
After hearing this, the parents became afraid that they might have not treated this special Neshoma (soul) the way it deserved. The Baal Shem Tov calmed them down and then instructed the father, Reb Yaakov, to teach children to say Amen Yhe Shmei Rabo and Borchu, and to help them kiss the Torah in Shul. He instructed Reb Yaakovs wife to become a midwife, and that when children come visit the newborn baby boy before the bris (circumcision), she should say the Krias Shma (Shema prayer) with them. She should say brochos (blessings) with the children, make sure that the newborn babies wear a Yarmulka even when they go to sleep, and wash negel vaser (ritual handwashing) when they wake up.
The couple returned home and followed the Baal Shem Tovs instructions. Two years later they were blessed with another son, Aharon, who grew up to be the famous Tzaddik (righteous man), Reb Aharon Karliner. Reply

Feigele Boca Raton, Florida USA June 3, 2009

A Jewish Soul! Maybe the first time this soul descending from heaven to become a prince already was a Jewish soul! Which would justify the prince’s yearning and search for utterly knowledge until he satisfactorily found the Torah and converted to Judaism to go back to his past origins as a Jew.
Then the second time, he needed to complete the cycle to feel complete as a Jew.
These stories, although imaginary have a deep meaning and wisdom. Maybe we are not what we seem to be and are also here on earth to fix it. With a different soul other than the one we had before. We could have been of different color, religion or gender. So who are we to say who is better. But most people don’t know that. Reply

Anonymous March 23, 2008

Great story of the Baal Shem Tov! Thanks. Reply

Eliyahu January 24, 2008

It just doesn't make sense Because this woman wasnt kosher the baby was killed? What world we live in, for the to be a justification, if they were good peoplel they should be punished? Reply

Rabbi Tuvia Bolbon Kfar Chabad, Israel January 3, 2008

Prince The stories of Tzadikim give us a bigger picture of the world; i.e. from the Creator's view.
The essence of Judaism is to know and feel that G-d cares about, creates and is involved each detail of His creation CONSTANTLY. But most important; G-d is good, He loves His creations and HELPS. That is why He put Tzadikim like the Besht and the Rebbe here; to fill us with joy and optimism to serve Him though His Torah. Reply

Chaya Rivka CA January 2, 2008

Love it!!! Very uplifting. Reply

Rabbi Tuvia Bolton Kfar Chabad, Israel September 26, 2006

Reply You ask if this Baal Shem Tov story is true. There is no one today that actually saw them happen but certainly all of them could have happened. And, although there are slightly different versions of may of them, very probably they are all true... Reply

Anonymous September 25, 2006

are these true stories? Reply

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