In the city of Mezhibuz there lived Reb Wolf Kitzes, an eminent disciple of the Baal Shem Tov (1698-1760). He was so poor that when his daughter reached marriageable age, there wasn’t any money for a dowry.

Once the Baal Shem Tov said to him, “Why are you not looking for a shidduch (match) for your daughter?”

“There is absolutely no money to be had, even for bread for the family,” said Reb Wolf. “With what can I prepare for a wedding?”

The Baal Shem Tov told him sternly to hurry up and look for a shidduch for his daughter. When Reb Wolf seemed to hesitate, the Baal Shem Tov said, “I am telling you that the time for her match has come, so do the following: Send a messenger to the city of Iași at my expense. The messenger should meet with the shadchanim (matchmakers) there and tell them that you are ready to offer a dowry of 2,000 silver rubles, as long as the groom is a Torah scholar and from a respectable family.”

Reb Wolf did as the Baal Shem Tov told him. The messenger described Reb Wolf as a very righteous man willing to give a dowry of 2,000 silver coins. The shadchanim began making various suggestions, but none of them found favor in the eyes of the messenger. When he was offered a shidduch with a most respected and wealthy individual, whose son was extremely learned in Torah, he was satisfied. The suggestion was highly agreeable to him. An engagement document was signed, obliging the father of the bride to give a dowry of 2,000 silver rubles, as had been discussed.

The messenger returned home and told Reb Wolf all that transpired. The match was favorable to him as well, and to his daughter. However, he went to see the Baal Shem Tov dejectedly, wondering how he was meant to pay such an exorbitant amount?

When he came before the Baal Shem Tov, the Baal Shem Tov joyfully wished him mazal tov!” and told him that he need not worry at all, because very soon he would be able to pay up as he had promised.

A few weeks passed after the writing of the engagement document, and Reb Wolf received a letter from his prospective in-law, in which he expressed his wonder that the groom did not receive a gift as was customary.

Reb Wolf brought the letter to the Baal Shem Tov. Once again, the Baal Shem Tov told him not to worry, because help would be forthcoming. Another few weeks passed, and another letter arrived, asking why he had still not sent a gift? Reb Wolf had faith in the words of the Baal Shem Tov, and did not answer this letter either. When the future father-in-law saw that there was no response, he sent an abrasive letter, saying that if he did not hear back from Reb Wolf, the the engagement would be off.

Reb Wolf returned to the Baal Shem Tov with the dreadful letter. The Baal Shem Tov said,

“Write to your in-law and tell him that at the time designated for the wedding, the groom should come here and, with the help of G‑d, everything will be ready—the dowry and all the customary gifts!”

Reb Wolf wrote the letter exactly as the Baal Shem Tov instructed him. Since Reb Wolf was well known as an upstanding individual, the father of the groom accepted his words and began preparations for the wedding.

As the wedding approached, Reb Wolf again went to the Baal Shem Tov. The Baal Shem Tov told him to send a message to the father of the groom saying that he is invited to come to their town three days before the wedding, because he wishes to spend some time rejoicing together before the wedding. Reb Wolf did as he was told.

A few days before the wedding, Reb Wolf received a letter from groom’s family that they were now on their way. Reb Wolf went to the Baal Shem Tov with a downcast face to show him the letter. On his way there, he met another man who asked him where the Baal Shem Tov lived.

“Why, I am also going to the Baal Shem Tov,” he answered him, “so you can come along with me.”

When they came to the Baal Shem Tov, the Baal Shem Tov greeted the guest, and said, “I would like to tell you a story. There was a prosperous merchant who had a business floating logs in large rafts to Prussia. During one of these jobs, he received 40,000 silver rubles as payment.

“Now this merchant had an elegant wagon with sturdy horses and a gentile wagon driver. On his return trip from Prussia with the money, the travelers came upon a forest. The merchant had fallen asleep, and the wagon driver diverted the wagon from the road into the forest, driving deep inside. Waving a sharp axe above his head menacingly, he woke up the merchant and demanded that he give him all the money. Trembling, the merchant held on tightly to the bag of money, pleading with the driver to allow him to keep half of it. But the wagon driver would not hear of it. He insisted that he must turn over all the money, and if not, he would kill him right then and there.

“When the merchant saw that he had no choice, he handed over the whole sum to the wagon driver, in the hope that he would remain alive. As soon as the wagon driver got the money, he turned to him and said: ‘How can I leave you alive? Surely you will tell the authorities what happened. Now I must kill you!’

“The merchant begged for his life, but his words fell on deaf ears. Seeing that his captor was determined, he begged him to at least give him time to repent and say his last prayers before he died. The wagon driver agreed to this request and tied him to a tree, leaving him there to say his prayers.

“With tears in his eyes, and heart-wrenching sobs, the merchant began to say the viduy confession.

“At that moment, he made a vow to G‑d: ‘Master of the Universe! If you save me from the evil hands of this murderer, I promise to give a tenth of all this money to charity.’

“Suddenly, the merchant’s salvation came. The forest guard, though he was far away from his usual spot, heard the sound of heartfelt sobs. His musket in tow, he rushed to the place where the merchant was tied to the tree, quickly untying him. The merchant told him what had happened, and the guard caught the wagon driver, tied him up with rope and led him straight to the city’s police station. After some inquiries, the merchant was given back his money, and the wagon driver was put in jail. The merchant traveled home happy and full of gratitude and praise to G‑d for his miraculous deliverance.

“However, when he came home, a number of weeks passed, and he forgot to fulfill the promise he had made in his hour of need. He did not give anything of the 10 percent he had promised. It was as if he did not remember his promise at all.

“The merchant had an only son who soon became very sick. But the merchant still did not remember to give the 10 percent to the poor. He sent for the best doctors, and they all said that the boy was in danger. So when he heard that in the city of Mezhibuz there lived a Baal Shem who accomplishes wonders and miracles, he traveled to him to request that he pray on behalf of his only son.”

Needless to say, the guest who came with Reb Wolf was none other than that merchant himself, who had come to ask the Baal Shem Tov to pray for his ailing son. When the Baal Shem Tov finished telling the story, the merchant was deeply shaken, because he remembered the promise he had made but did not fulfill.

He said to the Baal Shem Tov, “I am ready and willing to immediately give the full amount to whomever the Baal Shem Tov will tell me.”

The Baal Shem Tov responded, “Go quickly and count out exactly 4,000 silver coins and give them to Reb Wolf Kitzes.”

The merchant did so, and Reb Wolf began preparing for the wedding with great joy. He purchased gifts for the groom, and set aside 2,000 silver coins for the dowry. A most beautiful wedding was prepared, and the merchant was asked to remain to celebrate with them.

Before returning home, the merchant received word that his son was completely healed from his ailment.

(Adapted from Sippurei Chassidim, Torah #51, by Rabbi Shlomo Yosef Zevin, z”l, with assistance from Uri Kaploun's translation.)