14 Tishrei 5782 / Monday, September 20, 2021 | Torah Reading: Sukkot
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The Werewolf    

The Werewolf

On Shavuot is the Baal Shem Tov’s yahrtzeit. In honor of this memorable day, we continue with the saga of his early years and wondrous deeds…


“The Baal Shem Tov – Early Years”, Part 5

In the last edition, the Satan came to the earth near the place where the boy Srulick was living.

The Satan approached all manner of nature, from plants and trees to insects and animals, to help him in his task. But none were ready to frighten or attack Srulick, after all, "he loves each and every one of us."

But there was an old man, a charcoal burner that lived alone in the forest outside of the village. Everyone was afraid of the charcoal burner because rumors had spread that he was a sorcerer. In fact, people said, at night, evil spirits would creep into him and change him into an animal-like, shaped creature (a werewolf). And when the townspeople heard howling coming from the forest, and they thought it was him.

They were right. The Satan didn't have to do any coaxing to get the charcoal burner to do his bidding. By this time, the charcoal burner was used to being controlled by the evil spirits. So the Satan (the innermost source of darkness) was free to inhabit the werewolf's heart.
The very next day, when Srulick was walking the children to Cheder, the werewolf ran out of the forest and towards them. It was a foul smelling beast and its fangs were bared. The children screamed in fear and ran in every direction. Just then, the werewolf disappeared back into the forest. Srulick tried to gather the children but they were so frightened that they had all run home.

When the parents heard the report of the werewolf and saw their children so upset, they decided they would not send them to Cheder again.

Afterwards, the Baal Shem Tov remembered the words his father had spoken just before he departed from this world. "My sweetest beloved son, remember always don't fear anything but G-d. And love every Jew dearly."

So the very next day, Srulick went to each house and told the parents, "The wolf ran back into the forest because the children frightened it. Please send your children to Cheder with me. I assure you that nothing will happen to them."

The parents were comforted by his words and agreed to send their children to Cheder the next day. As always, the children were singing, however with apprehension, as they walked through the fields to Cheder. Srulick instructed them, "No matter what happens, walk directly behind me and don't run.

As soon as came near to the forest, they could hear snorting. Srulick quickly walked towards the forest as the werewolf came running out towards him. The werewolf appeared to grow larger and larger but Srulick was not afraid. The werewolf started snorting and pawing the ground. Srulick, without hesitation, walked right up to the beast and killed it with a club. Then he cut open its chest and pulled out its heart. The heart was pulsating and squirming around in his hand. Srulick could feel the pain in this heart in himself. So he took pity on the heart and placed it on the earth. Without warning, the earth opened and swallowed the heart.

When Srulick looked around, he found the children huddled together in a little group. He led them to Cheder.

Later that day, the villagers found the charcoal burner dead in the forest near where Srulick had killed the werewolf. His eyes were closed and he had a peaceful, child-like look on his face.

From then on, the children of Horodenka didn't sing as they followed Srulick to Cheder. They became like their fathers and their fathers' fathers, walking with their worries always with them.

So after, Yisrael, now about fourteen years old, left the holy community of Horodenka, and wandered back to Okup, the village where he was born. It was then that he discovered a yearning in his heart that was only satisfied by the study of the Holy Torah. Young Yisrael (then known as Yisroelic) was a shamash and lived in the same synagogue. But, he was very careful not to show his passion for the Torah to anyone. By day, he slept on the benches, and everyone thought he was just an ignorant Jewish boy. But after the last man closed the holy book he was studying and left the synagogue, Yisroelic stood and studied the Holy Torah all night by candlelight.

Soon after, an event occurred that changed his life towards his future as a Baal Shem (One that utilizes the powers of Kabbalah to heal the sick, ward of Demonic spirits and predict the future).

To be continued…
Tzvi Meir Cohn attended Yeshiva Hadar Hatorah in Crown Heights, Brooklyn after completing his university studies in Engineering and Law. While studying at the Yeshiva, he discovered a deep connection to the stories and teachings of the Baal Shem Tov. His many books about the Baal Shem Tov can be found on Amazon. He can be contacted at howard@cohnpatents.com.

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