One year on Simchat Torah in Mezibuz, many members of the inner circle of the sixty most advanced students of the Baal Shem Tov were dancing into the night with great joy, while consuming large quantities of wine. The wife of the Baal Shem Tov, Leah-Rachel,* was concerned that there would not be enough wine left for Kiddush the next day and Havdalah in the evening at the end of the festival. She went over to her husband and said,

"...they will keep dancing and drinking, drinking and dancing, until we won't have any wine left for Kiddush and Havdalah."

"I think you should tell them to please stop drinking so much. Otherwise they will keep dancing and drinking, drinking and dancing, until we won't have any wine left for Kiddush and Havdalah."

The Baal Shem Tov smiled broadly. He replied, "Good point! You may go tell them to stop. They will listen and go home."

The Rebbetzin turned to go to the nearby room where the chasidim were dancing and celebrating. She opened the door…and froze in the entrance in shock. Her husband's followers were merrily dancing in a tight circle and she saw flames of fire surrounding them and hovering over them like a wedding canopy!

She didn't take another step towards them or utter a single word. Instead she turned around, went down to the cellar of their house, took as much wine as she could carry and silently placed it on the table of the enthusiastically dancing Chasidim.

A DIFFERENT YEAR on Simchat Torah the same scene repeated itself: the close chasidim of the Baal Shem Tov were dancing in a circle with great joy and excitement, surrounded by bright flames of fire. Surely the Shechinah--the Divine Presence—was dancing together with them! the height of the ecstasy, the shoelaces of one of the disciples tore.

Then, at the height of the ecstasy, the shoelaces of one of the disciples tore. He was severely distressed. No longer could he continue dancing with his companions and be a part of this exalted Simchat Torah celebration.

At that time, the only daughter of the Baal Shem Tov, Udel, had been standing off to the side, enjoying the joyful spirit and dedicated dancing of the Chasidim.

Udel was already married for many years but had only one child. She quietly approached the chasid with the broken laces and said softly to him, "If you promise me that I will give birth to a son this year, I will provide you with a good pair of shoes to continue dancing."

The chasid was in a quandary. How could he make such a promise? Only the Baal Shem Tov himself was permitted to do that. On the other hand, how could he give up being part of such an exalted Simchat Torah celebration?

He did not delay too long and gave her the promise she asked for. That year, 5513 (1753) she gave birth to a son, the holy Rebbe Reb Baruch of Medzibuz, who grew up to be one of the most important Chasidic leaders in the third generation.


Editor's note:

* Some sources say her name was Chana.

[Translated, freely adapted and supplemented by Yerachmiel Tilles from Sipurei Chasidim – Moadim by Rabbi S. Y. Zevin.]

Biographic notes:

Rabbi Yisrael ben Eliezer [of blessed memory: 18 Elul 5458- 6 Sivan 5520 (Sept. 1698 - June 1760 C.E.)], the Baal Shem Tov ["master of the good Name"—often referred to as "the Besht" for short], a unique and seminal figure in Jewish history, revealed his identity as an exceptionally holy person, on his 36th birthday, 18 Elul 5494 (1734 C.E.). He wrote no books, although many claim to contain his teachings. One available in English is the excellent annotated translation of Tzava'at Harivash, published by Kehos.

Udel, only daughter of the Baal Shem Tov (in addition to his one son), married one of her father's disciples, Rabbi Yechiel Ashkenazi. Their children were Rabbi Moshe Chaim Ephraim of Sudylkov, author of the major Chassidic work, Degel Machne Ephraim; Rabbi Baruch of Mezhibuzh, one of the leading rebbes of his generation; and Feiga, mother of Rabbi Nachman of Bretzlov.