Friday, October 13, 2006

A Classic Simchas Torah Story

(Painting by Shoshannah Brombacher)

Excerpt from


And then there was the time that the Simchas Torah festivities were taking place in Medzibush. Simchas Torah at the Baal Shem Tov’s shul was an unforgettable experience. On this one day of the year, the Chassidim got so carried away with fervent dancing and drinking, that they were transported to other worlds. Even one such experience in the Baal Shem Tov’s shul was cherished for a lifetime.

On one particular year, the joy was more pronounced than ever before. The Chassidim danced in a circle carrying the Torahs hour after hour. They actually felt the presence of the Shechina in their midst.

After several hours, Reb Yaakov had to stop dancing because his shoe tore apart. He was miserable. It was just not the same looking on as being within the circle of Chassidim. Besides being his only pair of shoes, he was well aware that he would not be able to afford a new pair of shoes.

The Baal Shem Tov’s daughter Adel noticed Reb Yaakov sitting at the side of the room, saw his torn shoes, and understood the situation. She went over to Reb Yaakov and said, “If you promise me a son by next year, I will bring you a new pair of shoes.”

While such a promise would not normally be easily given, the Chassidim close to the Baal Shem Tov possessed powers similar to those of their Rebbe. After thinking for a few minutes, Reb Yaakov promised The Baal Shem Tov’s married daughter Adel that she would bear a son by the next year. She immediately brought him a pair of shoes. He put the shoes on and lost no time in joining his friends.

By the following year, Reb Boruch, the Baal Shem Tov’s grandson, was born to Adel and her husband Yechiel Ashkenazi.

And so it was.


At October 13, 2006 at 4:46:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

In place of Rebbe Baruch, I have also seen this story end with the birth of the Degel Machaneh Ephraim.

The Degel version, however, appears to be incorrect since Shivchei HaBesht #222 mentions Rebbe Baruch.

Has anyone else heard the version that ends with the birth of the Degel as well?

At October 13, 2006 at 7:09:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Also interesting about this story is that it seems to imply that this was Adel's first son.

If this was the case the Degel was the first born (1748) and Rebbe Baruch was the second (1753).

The "Toldos" appendix of the most recent printing of Degel Machaneh Ephraim mentions the above posted story but tells it about the Degel. In the footnote it says "per Shivchei HaBesht". This is obviously a mistake since Shivchei HaBesht #222 records it differently.

At October 13, 2006 at 12:21:00 PM EDT, Anonymous chabakuk elisha said...

There may be different versions in Shivchei haBesh"t as well. I know that there are discrepancies in different printings. Further Research is required...

At October 13, 2006 at 12:58:00 PM EDT, Anonymous A Yid said...

In my edition of Shivchey Baal Shem Tov this is mayse #183. It doesn't mention that Baal Shem Tov's talmid's name was R' Yakoyv, just sais it was one of the chevraya kadisha. And it does mention that after his brocho to Rebetzn Odl, Reb Boruch miTuclchin (Mezhbuzh) was born. It doesn't elaborate on either it was the firstborn son on not.

I have also a digital scan of old Shivchey Baal Shem Tov (publishen in Kopust) and it says there the same as in new edition. There are though several other edition (notably Yiddish one printed in Koretz) which have additional information and different versions. But I don't have one (it is possible to order a digital copy from the Hebrew University library in Yerusholaim, but I didn't have time and money to do it yet).

At October 13, 2006 at 1:09:00 PM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

A Yid: I knew you would have some information on this!! Thank you for checking on it for me.

At October 13, 2006 at 1:40:00 PM EDT, Blogger Shira Salamone said...

I can't help wondering why the reason that Adel noticed that Reb Yaakov wasn't dancing was that *she* wasn't dancing. Is there a place for women to dance in your synagogue?

At October 13, 2006 at 2:11:00 PM EDT, Anonymous A Yid said...

If you saw Baal Shem Tov's beys medrash - you can notice that it is pretty tiny. But here the reason was obvious as stated in Shivchey Baal Shem Tov itself - she was watching talmidey Baal Shem Tov dancing, which must be really a wonderful thing sight.

At October 3, 2007 at 11:01:00 AM EDT, Blogger DixieYid said...

Great story. I'd never heard it before. I wonder why she couldn't ask her father for that bracha though?

-Dixie Yid

At October 3, 2007 at 11:44:00 AM EDT, Blogger Neil Harris said...

Probably due to the idea that most people think their zechus is good enough to get tefillos answered and don't like asking for help (topic of this years Teshuva drasha by R Frand).

I believe there's a variation of this story by Reb Shlomo about a group of Litvachs watching this take place and thinking that the Chassidim were dancing around the BST's daughter. Obviously, even to non-Sherlock Holmes readers, things are not always what they seem.

At October 3, 2007 at 12:25:00 PM EDT, Blogger DixieYid said...

Reb Neil,

But if she didn't want to ask for help, why did she ask R' Yaakov?

Perhaps you'd answer that since she felt she was giving him something in return (the shoes), she didn't feel as bad asking him as she would have felt asking her father, from whom she presumably felt that she had only received, and therefore felt that it would have been presumptuous to ask for that promise.....

-Dixie Yid


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