Two carts clattered along the dusty road. Inside one sat Rabbi Meir Margulies, known for his scholarly works called Meir Netivim. In the other sat Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, whose fame as a man of G‑d was just beginning to spread.

Curious to get to know the mysterious man about whom so much had been said, Rabbi Meir asked the Baal Shem Tov to disembark so that they could speak. “They say you can perform miracles and can even read people’s minds,” he began. “Is that “I know about these remedies; I was looking for something more” true?”

“Well, I’ll just tell you this,” replied the Baal Shem Tov. “When you were praying this past Shabbat, you accidentally chanted the weekday blessings instead of the special insert for Shabbat.”

“Yes, it’s true!” replied Rabbi Meir in amazement. “Now, please tell me what I can possibly do to correct this lack.”

The Baal Shem Tov advised him to carefully scrutinize his deeds and think thoughts of remorse, the standard course of correction for such an error.

Rebbe,” said Rabbi Meir. “I know about those remedies. I was looking for something more . . .”

“In that case,” replied the Baal Shem Tov, “you should be sure to be patient in judgment.”

With that, the two men returned to their respective carts, and they were off.

As the spiritual leader of a large region, Rabbi Meir made a point to travel through every Jewish town and hamlet in the area at least once a year.

Upon his arrival in a rural community, the villagers asked the rabbi to help them solve a weighty problem that had torn their tight-knit group apart.

“You see,” explained one of the elders, “there is a young man who lives a ways out of town. None of us know who he is or where he comes from. He dresses all fancy, like a non-Jewish prince, and operates a tavern. One day, one of our men asked his wife to go pick up some vodka at the tavern. She took her time in returning. Things seemed just a bit suspicious, and rumors began to swirl that she and the tavernkeeper were up to no good.”

After listening to the accounts of various villagers, the rabbi determined that the situation did seem suspicious, and called the tavernkeeper to appear before him.

Sure enough, the young man soon swaggered in, decked out in colorful silks and furs. Yet despite the accusations of the villagers, the man steadfastly maintained his innocence.

Unable to conclusively rule on the matter, Rabbi Meir left the village, feeling uneasy about the entire affair.

As he traveled along, he came upon the Baal Shem Tov once again. He stopped his horses and asked the Baal Shem Tov to do the same. Sitting in the Baal Shem Despite the accusations, the man steadfastly maintained his innocenceTov’s cart, Rabbi Meir recounted the chain of events that he had just encountered.

“Did I not tell you to be patient in judgment?” the Baal Shem Tov chided him. “You should know that in every generation there are 36 righteous people in whose merit the entire world stands. That tavernkeeper is the greatest of them all.”

Rabbi Meir immediately climbed into his cart and asked his driver to return to the village so that he could personally beg the young man for forgiveness.

But it was too late. The mysterious man was already gone without a trace. All Rabbi Meir could do was share the Baal Shem Tov’s words with the villagers, thus restoring the tavernkeeper’s good name.