9 Tamuz 5781 / Saturday, June 19, 2021 | Torah Reading: Chukat
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Pekudei: A Heavenly Teacher    

Pekudei: A Heavenly Teacher

I was born in the village of Okup in the year 5458. When I was five years old I was orphaned from my father and mother, of blessed memory. The community...


Parshat Pekudei
"You shall bring Aaron and his sons to the entrance of the Tent of the Meeting, and immerse them in water (in a mikveh)." (Shemot 40:12)
Through the “living waters” [of a mikveh], a person is renewed: After each immersion, he has the potential to rise to ever higher levels.(Sefer Zchut Avot)
* * *
In one of his letters, dated Tuesday, Parshat Devorim, 5493, the Baal Shem relates the following:
I was born in the village of Okup in the year 5458. When I was five years old I was orphaned from my father and mother, of blessed memory. The community provided me with food and drink, clothing, and tuition. But when the leaders of the kehilla (community) saw that I was not doing well in my lessons — they did not support me any longer.
I wandered from town to town, until I came to the city of Brody.
When I was eighteen years old, I became a melamed (a teacher) for very young children. I married the sister of the holy Reb Gershon Kitover.
I did not know it at that time that because of the merit of my sacred ancestors; I had been given a special, precious soul.
One Friday afternoon, the eve of Shabbat, Parshat Vayeshev, at one o’clock in the afternoon, I fell into a deep sleep. In a dream I saw an old man. He asked me if I knew who he was. I answered that I did not.
He then said: “Know that I have been sent from the Heavenly world to study with you every day. Go to the mountains which surround the town and there I will study with you and reveal to you how to conduct yourself. You must not reveal this dream to a soul, not even your wife. No one must know of this arrangement until the time that I permit it to be so.”
I then asked him his name. He said that in due time I would know his name but not now, and then I awoke. I thought it had been only a dream and nothing else.
That afternoon I went to the mikveh to immerse myself in honor of Shabbat. As I submerged my head under the water, with my eyes open, as was my custom, I saw the old man again, as if I was seeing him with my physical eyes. I became scared with a deep fear. I felt as if I was transformed into a different person, and felt that a spiritual aura was hovering above me.
At the Friday night services, Kabbolat Shabbat, I was conscious that people were staring at me.
That night the old man again appeared to me in a dream and said: “Do not fear and do not dismiss what you see and hear as merely a dream. You will understand more when you will leave the town on Sunday, and go to the valley between the second and third mountain. Before you depart, be sure to immerse in the mikveh four separate times.” He finished his message and disappeared.
When I awoke, I pondered for a long time what I had experienced. I was sure that it was only in the merit of my ancestors, of blessed memory, who had prayed before the Heavenly Throne that mercy be shown me that I might attain spiritual elevation.
During the Shabbat morning services, I was called up to recite the blessing on the Torah and was honored with Maftir. I found this very unusual, for as the simple malamed of the town, I had never before been honored with the Maftir.
During the third meal on Shabbat, my brother-in-law, Reb Gershon Kitover, whispered to me: “Yisroelik, I notice a change in your face. Do you not feel well?”
I simply shrugged, and didn’t reply, as the old man had instructed.
When Shabbat had departed, I said ‘Eliyohu Hanovi,’ (Elijah the Prophet) and then my wife asked me why I was so pale. I did not answer her either.
On Sunday, the first day of the week of Parshat Mikeitz, a heavy snow fell. Nevertheless, at eleven o’clock I went to the mikveh and after immersing four times proceeded to the designated place between the second and third mountain. There, the old man met me and asked me to follow him. He led me into a cave which was filled with light. A table and two chairs stood inside. Seating himself on one chair, he motioned to me take sit on the other. He then placed a sefer (a holy book) on the table and asked me to read. As I began to recite the words, I felt as if Light was entering my body and soul, and the Gates of Wisdom opened before me.
After two hours of study, the old man said, “Yisroel, that is sufficient for today. We will continue, with God’s help, tomorrow. Remember my words, and do not tell a soul of what we do.”
I was urged again to ask his name, but again he told me that the time for that had not yet come. He took me by the hand and we left the cave. The old man accompanied me until the outskirts of the town. He then placed his holy hands upon my head and blessed me.
We continued this manner of study for a whole year, during which time I never knew the name of my master and teacher.
One day, in the summer months, as we took leave of one another, he divulged his holy name to me. I was seized with fear and awe at the great privilege of studying under such a saintly teacher and I felt physically faint.
My Master then told me to move my residence from the town to a small village. Without asking any questions, my brother-in-law helped me move to a small village near the town of Kitov.
There my wife operated an inn while I secluded myself in the mountains from Shabbat to Shabbat. I returned home every Friday to spend Shabbat with my wife. Each day I would study under my saintly teacher who revealed to me the inner secret of secrets.
It was then that my Rebbe told me that it had been decreed in the Heavenly world that I should reveal myself when I turn the age of thirty-six, in the year 5494. It disturbed me greatly for I foresaw that I will be the cause of dissent and controversy, and many opponents will try to destroy me. I trusted in God’s infinite mercy, for He has never deserted me until this day and surely will never desert me in the future. Yet I wondered why do I need all this pain and trouble? And who am I to be granted such sublime secrets of Torah and to deliver such to the Holy people of Israel? Surely it is in the merit of my holy forbears, may their merit guide me.
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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