22 Av 5781 / Saturday, July 31, 2021 | Torah Reading: Eikev
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HomeTorah PortionStories from the Baal Shem TovBeing Invisible - Tzav
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Being Invisible - Tzav    

Being Invisible - Tzav

Lord Vasily grew pale and was speechless. Finally, after a long pause he said, "What do you mean, dear sir? Are you saying the Rabbi was here and I didn't see him?"


Parshat Tzav
The Torah portion reads, "And he shall remove his vestments, and put on other garments" (Vayikra 6:4).
Once the Holy Reb Uri of Strelinsk said, "Concerning the Prophet Eliyahu (Elijah), we've been told that 'the girdle of his loins was a girdle of leather.' This means that in his case, his very loins, his very body, was like a leather girdle, which he could put on and take off at will." (Treasury of Chassidic Tales on the Torah, Sedra Tzav)
* * *
This has been passed down to us from the great light, Rabbi Gedaliah of Ilintsy, chassid and disciple of the Holy Baal Shem Tov:
There was a well-know local nobleman by the name of Lord Vasily who held great disdain for the Baal Shem Tov. He would boast to all, even to the Jews - ”Tell your holy Baal Shem Tov that one day I will catch up with him and dispatch him to his holy World to Come with one shot from my hunting rifle!” Everyone knew of the nobleman’s hatred for the great tzaddik.
The Governor was an acquaintance and admirer of the Baal Shem Tov. Once, when the Baal Shem Tov called on the Governor, he was invited to walk through the beautiful private gardens of the Governor’s estate. As they were walking, a servant of the Governor approached to notify the Governor that a local nobleman was waiting to meet with the Governor on a civil matter.
As it happened, the Governor’s visitor was none other than Lord Vasily. The Governor was well aware of Lord Vasily’s great dislike for the Baal Shem Tov and wished to avoid any trouble. The Governor excused himself and entered his large house with the intention of keeping Lord Vasily’s visit as brief as possible, and then to escort him to the door and send him on his way, so as to avoid any confrontation.
But suddenly in the midst of their discussion, the Baal Shem Tov appeared at the garden entrance doors, and entered the room where the Governor and Lord Vasily were meeting. The Baal Shem Tov approached the Governor and said: "My dear Governor, I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation.
But I see that you are busy and I do not wish to impose, so I will be on my way back home."
As the Governor and the Baal Shem Tov shook hands and said goodbye, Lord Vasily looked on with great curiosity but didn’t say a word. He thought to himself, "The Governor is acting very strangely."
The Governor, on the other hand, was wondering the same thing: "Why hasn't Lord Vasily reacted to seeing the Baal Shem Tov right in front of him!
After all, hasn't he been telling everyone that he intends to kill the Baal Shem Tov the next time he sees him. And here he is with his favorite hunting rifle and the Baal Shem Tov standing just a few feet away, and he acts like the Rabbi isn't even here. There must be something seriously wrong with him." The Governor, feeling worried about his friend, said, “My dear Lord Vasily, why don't you rest and spend the afternoon here in my home, and then please join me for dinner. It’s a long ride back to your manor and I would appreciate your good company."
The nobleman, flattered by the Governor's attention, immediately accepted the invitation.
Later that evening, as the Governor and his guest sat enjoying their dinner, the Governor said: “So tell me my friend,” he began, “why do you have such disdain for the Baal Shem Tov.”
The nobleman sneered. “That so-called holy man has all the local Jews tied around his finger. They won’t take a step without first getting his approval. They call it getting the Baal Shem Tov’s blessing. What a hoax? And besides, the Jews on my property don’t work as hard as before. They are more interested in spending Shabbat and the Jewish holy days together - going to the synagogue, eating and drinking."
The Governor leaned closer to Lord Vasily and said in a quiet voice, "Didn’t you see the Baal Shem Tov here, in my Great Room, where we were meeting earlier today? He was standing right in front of you! He shook my hand before he left.”
Lord Vasily grew pale and was speechless. Finally, after a long pause he said, "What do you mean, dear sir? Are you saying the Rabbi was here and I didn't see him?"
“Well I can assure you that I am not insane!" exclaimed the Governor. “He was right here - in the flesh!”
Both men sat in stunned silence.
"It appears we just witnessed a miracle,” said the Governor. “The Baal Shem Tov really is a holy man and it seems that he made himself invisible! I could see him, but you could not. Amazing!"
Lord Vasily was stunned. After a few minutes, he regained his composure.
“I must go immediately to the holy Rabbi and beg his forgiveness for my threats. Just think, a man that can make himself invisible at will, I cannot risk making him my enemy. I must go immediately!"
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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