Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Another Shtetl Mystery: Two Versions Of A Story

Sudilkov's Shul

The sefer Botzina Denehora contains the following story:

A tale is told by Rabbi Leib of Letichev of a special "protection" that the Degel Machaneh Ephraim, while still a boy, received from his holy grandfather [the Baal Shem Tov]. The story is as follows. Once when the Degel was sitting near the pure table of his holy grandfather, his grandfather said to him, "If you like, I will show you something." "Oh, yes," answered the Degel, the little grandson. Immediately the holy Besht ordered that he be brought a piece of parchment which he placed under the tablecloth for a while, while he was engrossed in holy thoughts. Afterwards he took it out from under the table, and found written on it, "Ani Mem-Tes-Tes Sar HaPnim". The Besht then gave the parchment to his holy grandson, and instructed him to guard it to the highest degree, and so did the Degel do.

A biographical appendix to Degel Machaneh Ephraim adds the following information to this story, "By the word of the Degel's teacher, the holy Rabbi Leib from Letichev, who added that when he became the Degel's teacher, the Degel lost that holy parchment, and from then on suffered from toothaches."

Sefer Baal Shem Tov (translated by Baalshemtov.com) provides this version:

When the Baal Shem Tov first took up residence here in Mezhibuz, there were great rabbis among us who opposed his way. They visited him during the holiday of Succos and told him that his succah was unfit according to Torah law. The Baal Shem Tov argued that his succah was fit. Then, he rested his head in his hands for a few moments, and when he opened them, they held a piece of parchment on which it was written: "The succah of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov is fit. Thus says Metat, the Prince of the Countenance."

That parchment was inherited by the Baal Shem Tov's grandson, the holy rabbi of Sudilkov (author of Degel Machaneh Ephraim). Whenever someone would get sick, he would tell the family to place the parchment under the sick person's head, who would immediately recover. This continued for two years. They would put the parchment under the pillow of the head of every sick person, who would immediately get better. During that entire two year period, not one person in the city died. Once, however, they put it under the head of a sick person, and it disappeared. The rabbi explained that it had been revealed to him that heaven was not pleased with what he was doing, for all those born must eventually die. Therefore, he had prayed that the parchment be taken back.

Sefer Baal Shem Tov adds that a letter from the Rabbi of Mezhibuz states, "I heard from honest people who heard from the Tzaddik, Rabbi Yoskie, the grandson of the Degel that he himself saw the parchment in his grandfather's possession."


At June 20, 2006 at 7:15:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Do you think these stories occured in Mezhibuz or in Sudilkov?

At June 20, 2006 at 9:08:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"heaven was not pleased with what he was doing",
why was the parchment allowed to work in the first place?

At June 20, 2006 at 9:10:00 AM EDT, Blogger yitz said...

Medzibuzh. When the did the Degel go to Sudylkov? Was the Baal Shem ever there?

I'm not sure these stories contradict, they may even be two different events. I don't like the translation of Sar HaPnim as "Prince of the Countenance" & therefore suspect that the entire translation may be faulty. Can you tell us where in Sefer Baal Shem Tov it's found?

At June 20, 2006 at 9:22:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

According to Degel Machaneh Ephraim, Parshas Bo (page 90 of the new printing), the Degel moved to Mezhibuz in 1788.

The story in Sefer Baal Shem Tov can be found in the "L'Sukkos" section. I think it is the first entry.

At June 20, 2006 at 9:23:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Yitz: I forgot to answer one of your questions. Yes, I have seen in one place mention about the Besht visiting Sudilkov.

At June 20, 2006 at 2:07:00 PM EDT, Blogger socialworker/frustrated mom said...

Very nice stories thanks.

At July 19, 2006 at 7:15:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

908 am said why did it work in the first place..... is not a tzadik allowed to make mistakes?... he also has to find his way in Hashems world


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