26 Av 5781 / Wednesday, August 04, 2021 | Torah Reading: Re'eh
 
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HomeTorah PortionStories from the Baal Shem TovThe Baal Shem Tov's Successor - Pinchas
 
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The Baal Shem Tov's Successor - Pinchas    

The Baal Shem Tov's Successor - Pinchas



"My son, don't be afraid to take my place. I promise you that whenever you need me, whenever you call, I'll always come to help you."

 



Parshat Pinchas
 
 
"Moshe [Moses] spoke to God saying: 'Let Hashem, God of the spirits, appoint a man over the community who will go forth before them… so that the community of HaShem shall not be sheep that have no shepherd'" (Bamidbar 27:15-17).
 
God tells Moshe that he will leave the people in the same way as his brother Aharon (Aaron), who had already died. Moses asks God to appoint a new leader. God tells Moses to appoint Yehoshua )Joshua).
 
* * *
 
Just before the Baal Shem Tov passed away and  returned to his Heavenly abode, he told his only son, Hirshele Tzvi, "My son, don't be afraid to take my place. I promise you that whenever you need me, whenever you call, I'll always come to help you."
 
The first Shabbat after the Baal Shem Tov died, the inner circle of Chassidim were waiting and expecting Reb Tzvi to expound on the Torah. But he was mourning his father and Rebbe's death and felt shy and inadequate to speak. The Chassidim kept urging him. "Reb Tzvi, after all, your father always spoke Torah on Shabbat." But he kept shaking his head no.
 
Finally, the time for the third Shabbat meal arrived and the inner circle of Chassidim were sitting together with Reb Tzvi. During this time, the Baal Shem Tov always spoke deep mysteries of the Torah to them, his closest followers. The Chassidim became insistent. "Reb Tzvi, your father always spoke at this time. Don't you remember when he said this and when he said that?"
 
"You see, father," said Reb Tzvi, "the Chassidim have already lost respect for me."
 
"Reb Tzvi,” the Chassidim said, "we didn't mean any disrespect for you or, God forbid, to insult you. We're just so used to hearing your father, the Rebbe, speak words of Torah that we started to remember them ourselves."
 
After that Shabbat, Reb Tzvi started to wear his father's white cloak, a symbol of leadership, and expounded on the Torah. The next Shavuot, exactly one year after the Baal Shem Tov had passed away, Reb Tzvi and the Chassidim were sitting together and discussing the Torah. Suddenly, Reb Tzvi got up and said, "My father told me that the Shechinah (Godly revelation) now dwells in Mezritch." Then Reb Tzvi removed the white cloak of leadership and put it onto the shoulders of Reb Dov Ber of Mezritch. And so, Reb Dov Ber, who later became known as the Mezritcher Maggid, assumed leadership of the Chassidic movement.
 
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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