| Story Time |

When a Tzaddik Prays: Chapter 5

“I’ll teach you what happens to Jews who step into our streets! I’m going to finish you off, right here!”


R' Yosef continued with the story:

The tailor could see that soon the mob would storm the house, smashing down the door and likely killing everyone inside.

“Now what will we do? We’re finished!” The tailor’s eyes widened in sheer terror. “There’s no escape, they have surrounded us! This is the end!”

The Baal Shem Tov rose and headed straight for the front door.

“Wait! Stop! You’re not going out there, are you? If you do, they’ll storm the house! They won’t have any mercy on any of us, even my children! Please, whatever you do, don’t open that door!”

The Baal Shem Tov calmly opened the front door and stepped outside. The mob stepped back for a moment, shocked at the holy sight. But then they continued their advance, pressing around the tzaddik from all sides, leaving no room for any escape.

“Dirty Jew!” A massive man carrying a long dagger stepped forward, his eyes bloodshot. “You think you can just waltz into our neighborhood and spend the night, eh? I’ll teach you what happens to Jews who step into our streets! I’m going to finish you off, right here!”

The man lunged forward, teeth bared and eyes flashing wildly. And then, just as suddenly as he had leaped forward, he froze in place. The dagger slipped from his frozen, motionless fingers and clattered to the floor. The crowd gasped, leaping backward in disbelief at the incredible sight.

It took another moment for the ruffians to compose themselves, and then another foolhardy member of their drunken group decided to try his luck.

“So, you think that’s going to save you, old man? You can’t get all of us, and my club will finish you off before you even have a chance to sa—”

The man froze as well, his mouth still hanging open like a foolish ape. The club in his hand slipped from his grasp and clattered onto his own foot. A tear of pain leaked from the corner of his left eye, but other than that he could make no motions.

Now the crowd finally understood that they were up against a truly powerful, righteous man, someone whom they should never have dared raise a finger against.

Slowly, they all shuffled forward and began pleading with the Baal Shem Tov to release their frozen comrades. The tzaddik eventually agreed, and the crowd gathered around their two friends and disappeared as quickly as they had arrived.

R’ Berel smiled contentedly.

“Ah, what a beautiful story, R’ Yosef. Thank you for sharing. I had thought I remembered all the details, but apparently there was much that had slipped my memory as I’ve aged…”

“Oy, R’ Berel. Your memory may not even be as good as you think! Did you forget about the mysterious person who shows up next to the house?”

“Mysterious person…? I thought the story was over.”

“No, no. There is still a bit more, R’ Berel. Settle back in the wagon and relax. I will finish our story, hopefully before we arrive at our destination.”

“Very well. Proceed, please.”

R’ Yosef gave the horses another slap with the reigns, urging them to go a bit faster as the late afternoon sun dropped further in the sky.

The Baal Shem Tov returned to the home and the three of them, the tzaddik, his talmid, and the tailor, proceeded to have a most uplifting and inspiring Shabbos. As the seudah progressed, the atmosphere became so infused with holiness that they literally felt as though they were sitting in the Beis Hamikdash during times of old. It was a moment of indescribable joy and bliss.

But then, as they were in the midst of a holy song, the doorknob on the front door turned and a moment later a man was standing on the threshold.  He was very thin, well-dressed, and his razor-sharp eyes darted around the room quickly, taking everything in. Upon catching the tailor’s gaze, he nodded curtly, and the tailor nodded back.

“Good evening, professor,” the tailor greeted the stranger.

“A good evening to you,” the man replied, tight-lipped and guarded. “I hope it won’t bother anyone if I observe how you and your guests conduct your Sabbath duties. I heard there were some… interesting people in town, and I left the university I teach in to see what was happening for myself. We don’t exactly get guests of your kind too often in these parts.”

“Professor, I don’t think my guests want observers,” the tailor said softly.

“Fine, then I’ll leave.”

“Stay.” The Baal Shem Tov’s voice was low, but his tone was piercing. 

So the professor stayed. He stood there and watched with wide eyes as the tzaddik and the others went through the seudah. When the next morning came around, he was back again, leaning against the wall and observing the Baal Shem Tov with his razor-sharp gaze.

Shabbos passed uneventfully after that, and soon the Baal Shem Tov and his talmid were bidding the tailor farewell as they packed up the wagon to go back home.

“A few moments later, they were off, leaving Leipzig and all of the mysterious events that had unfolded over the past day.

“Rebbi…” The talmid stared in the darkness at his rebbi’s holy face as the wagon traveled. “What was this all about?”

R’ Yosef paused in his story for dramatic effect. Finally, R’ Berel could not contain himself any longer.


And R’ Yosef then proceeded to finish the story, and thus answer all the mysteries within it.

To be continued…


(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 922)

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