26 Av 5781 / Wednesday, August 04, 2021 | Torah Reading: Re'eh
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HomeTorah PortionStories from the Baal Shem TovA Jewish King - Shoftim
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A Jewish King - Shoftim    

A Jewish King - Shoftim

Although, the people of this country were seriously considering appointing this man as King, they still hadn't met him...


Parshat Shoftim
"You must then appoint the king whom God your Lord shall choose" (Devarim 17:15).
Once, the Baal Ketzot HaChotan (Rabbi Aryeh Leib) asked Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch, Rebbe of Ziditchov, "Why are these times so different from the time of the earlier generations, even just a few hundred years ago? I've noticed that since the Baal Shem Tov has arrived, he has attracted a large number of followers to beliefs that were primarily the teachings of the Ari HaKodesh (Arizal). So Rebbe, how did the Baal Shem Tov attract such a multitude of followers to his teachings when the same teachings weren't so accepted before?"
The Reb Tzvi Hirsch answered, "Let me explain with a parable: There was a country where the King died and left without designating someone to assume the position of King. The people searched everywhere in the Kingdom for a replacement but couldn't find anyone of suitable stature.
"Finally, they heard of a man from a distant land that had the characteristics of a great King. He was described by all who saw him as handsome, strong, brilliant, wise, and of exceptional character. There were no other men that even came close to this person, especially in brilliance, wisdom and character.
"Although, the people of this country were seriously considering appointing this man as King, they still hadn't met him and were reluctant to make such an important decision based on rumors.
"Then, a highly respected man returned from traveling to that faraway land and reported that he had seen the candidate with his own eyes. He described how special the candidate was, especially his wisdom and character. After hearing the account of the traveler, some people were ready to accept the man as their King. However, most of the people were still reluctant to make such a decision without actually seeing the man themselves.
A wise man living in that country without a King finally took the initiative to bring the candidate to his country for everyone to see. He took the long, arduous journey to the faraway land and convinced the candidate to personally come to his country where the people were desperate to find a King. When the man arrived and the people of the country had the opportunity to meet him and see with their own eyes that he was in fact as handsome, strong, brilliant, wise and of exceptional character as they had heard, they immediately crowned him to be their King."
Then Reb Tzvi Hirsch continued, "Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and his students were like the ones that spread the rumor of the greatness of the man in the parable. They were the first to reveal secrets of God's glory in the Holy Zohar to the general population, but the Zohar is still a very esoteric book and most people just couldn't understand the meaning of its teachings.
"Then the Arizal, as the highly respected man who returned from traveling to that faraway land in the parable, began to expound on these esoteric teachings that were first publicly taught in the Zohar. But his explanation of these lofty spiritual matters still couldn't be appreciated by most people since they couldn't see or understand them.
And then the Baal Shem Tov, like the wise man in the parable, who brought the regal candidate to his country, revealed God by showing that Godliness exists in everything, even this physical world, without exception. Then the Baal Shem Tov went further by teaching us how we can embrace God's Holiness with our thoughts and even our everyday speech and action.
"Thus the Baal Shem Tov, just like the wise man in the parable, was able to bring the King of Kings before the eyes of all people."
And so it was.
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 in the Breslev Store. He can be contacted at howard@cohnpatents.com.


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