14 Av 5780 / Tuesday, August 04, 2020 | Torah Reading: Eikev
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The Power of Repentance - Bereishit    

The Power of Repentance - Bereishit

If someone regrets his transgression with such remorse, then two candles are more than sufficient to atone for his wrongdoings.”


Parshat Bereishit
“God blessed the seventh day, and He declared it to be holy…” (Bereishit 2:3)
Reb Yankel was a simple Jew and a hard working wagon driver. He could barely read the prayer book much less study the Holy Torah, but nevertheless, he tried to fulfill the mitzvot as best he could. “Surely our Heavenly Father will look kindly on what I do,” he often thought.
One Friday, Yankel was returning from a trip. The road was muddy making it almost impossible to drive. Yankel realized that he would not make it home in time before the beginning of the Holy Shabbat. He began to whip his horse, but then he realized, “What’s the point? We’re just too far away.”
Yankel considered spending Shabbat in the forest, but quickly abandoned that idea. “It’s too dangerous to be in the forest with the wild animals and roaming bandits.” So he continued traveling.
When he finally arrived at his small village, the streets were quiet. Everyone was preparing for the Holy Shabbat or had already gone to the synagogue for Friday night prayers. He could see through the window that the Shabbat candles were already lit.
When his anxious wife asked him where he had been, he broke down crying. “I’ve committed a terrible sin, I’ve desecrated the Holy Shabbat,” he sobbed as he told his story.
She tried to comfort him: “A Jew shouldn’t be upset on the Shabbat. You didn’t intentionally break the Shabbat; you had no choice. After the Shabbat ends, speak with the Rabbi. I am sure he will help you.”
Yankel changed into his Shabbat clothes, recited the evening prayers, made Kiddush over wine and ate his Shabbat meal.  The moment Shabbat was over Yankel told the Rabbi his story. The Rabbi reassured him. “Don’t despair. The Almighty is merciful. You should bring two candles to the synagogue in honor of the coming Shabbat. God will surely forgive you.”
The next Friday, Yankel brought two large candles to the synagogue. The synagogue was empty except for Reb Yechiel Michel of Zlotchov, a well-known chassid of the Baal Shem Tov. Reb Yechiel watched Reb Yankel place his two candles on the chazzan’s shtender (stand).
“Reb Yankel, what are you doing?” he asked.
Yankel told him the story of his transgression and the Rabbi’s instructions to bring two candles.
Reb Yechiel was outraged. “Two candles to atone for violating the Holy Shabbat!” he screamed. “Are you crazy?”
Reb Yankel was crushed. To make matters worse, at that exact moment someone opened the door and a gust of wind blew out Yankel's candles.
Yankel felt that God had rejected his repentance.
Reb Yankel returned to the Rabbi and told him what had happened. The Rabbi suggested that he ask the Baal Shem Tov’s advice.
The following day, Reb Yankel left for Mezhibuzh in his rickety wagon. With flowing tears, Reb Yankel told the Baal Shem Tov his story.
“Your Rabbi gave you an appropriate atonement,” he said. “Next Friday, again take two candles to the synagogue. I assure you that the candles will burn brightly and that your repentance will be accepted by God.”
Reb Yankel was relieved and thanked the Baal Shem Tov. “Could you kindly do me one favor?” the Baal Shem Tov asked. “When you return to your village, please give this letter to my chassid, Reb
As soon as Yankel returned home, he delivered the Baal Shem Tov’s letter to Reb Yechiel. It contained an invitation to spend the coming Shabbat in Mezhibuzh. Reb Yechiel was very pleased.
The following Thursday morning Reb Yechiel departed for Mezhibuzh. Although the journey normally took about half a day, he took a wrong turn and found himself lost in a forest. It began to snow. The snow was falling so heavily he could barely see the horse in front of him. Reb Yechiel ended up spending the night in the forest, huddled in his wagon.
Friday morning it was still snowing. Reb Yechiel was cold and hungry, and began to worry that he would not reach Mezhibuzh before the Shabbat.
About an hour before the Shabbat began, it stopped snowing. Reb Yechiel whipped his horses to run faster, and within a few minutes he could see Mezhibuzh in the distance. Just seconds before the sun set, Reb Yechiel pulled up in front of the inn in Mezhibuzh.
Reb Yechiel was beside himself with nervous worry. He quickly changed into his Shabbat clothing and rushed to the Baal Shem Tov's synagogue. That entire Shabbat, the Baal Shem Tov never acknowledged Reb Yechiel’s presence.
After Shabbat, the Baal Shem Tov asked Reb Yechiel to speak with him privately. “It was decreed in Heaven that you should feel the pain that the simple wagon driver felt when he couldn’t get home before the Shabbat. It was only through my intervention that you were saved from violating the Shabbat. If someone regrets his transgression with such remorse, then two candles are more than sufficient to atone for his wrongdoings.”
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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