15 Kislev 5781 / Tuesday, December 01, 2020 | Torah Reading: Vayishlach
 
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HomeTorah PortionStories from the Baal Shem TovVayeitzei: The Wedding Blessing
 
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Vayeitzei: The Wedding Blessing    

Vayeitzei: The Wedding Blessing



After about three weeks of traveling in the freezing Ukrainian countryside, with no food or money left, they had no idea where to go next. They were cold...

 



Parshat Vayeitzei
 
 
Many years ago, during the days of the Baal Shem Tov, a Jewish innkeeper employed two orphans, a boy and a girl. The two youngsters eventually decided to get married. The innkeeper promised to help them get married since they had worked for him for a few years.
 
One day, the boy saw the innkeeper's wife screaming at his fiancé. The woman was so angry that she slapped the girl across the face. The boy was so furious that he raised his hand to hit the woman back. The innkeeper, hearing the screams, rushed to see what was happening and saw the servant boy with his arm raised to hit his wife.
 
The innkeeper ran over and grabbed the boy’s hand. Although the boy tried to explain what had happened, the innkeeper yelled at them to pack their bags and leave the inn. As the young couple walked out into the cold Ukrainian winter, the innkeeper screamed, "I never want to see your ugly faces again!"
 
Using their savings, the young couple bought a rickety old sled and a ragged-looking horse and began traveling from town to town looking for a place to live. After about three weeks of traveling in the freezing Ukrainian countryside, with no food or money left, they had no idea where to go next. They were cold and hungry, and they gave up. All they could say to each other was, “Ooy Moshie", "Ooy Rochie!” before falling into an unconscious daze. They were so tired and the cold filled their famished bodies. The horse ambled along pulling the sled.
 
Suddenly, in the late afternoon, the horse stopped next to a small fire surrounded by a group of Chassidim.
 
Earlier that same morning, the Baal Shem Tov asked Alexei, his wagon driver, to prepare the sled for a trip. Then, he invited a group of his close followers (Chassidim) to accompany him on his travels to an undisclosed destination.
 
The Chassidim always loved to join their Rebbe on just such a “magical” trip. Once the wagon was out of their hometown of Medzibusch, Alexei would often put down the reins guiding the horses, take a few sips from a bottle of whiskey he always carried, and snuggle up under a heavy blanket to go to sleep for the duration of the trip. Then the wagon or sled, depending on the weather, would seem to fly through the air and travel great distances in a short period of time.
 
On this trip, the Baal Shem Tov and his Chassidim traveled in this manner from early morning until late in the afternoon. The Chassidim were freezing and wondering when they would reach an inn to stop, warm up and hopefully spend the night. Suddenly, the Baal Shem Tov announced that they would stop and daven Mincha (the afternoon prayer) beside the road. The Chassidim asked to continue on to the nearest inn but the Baal Shem Tov insisted that they stop right there. Everyone was so cold that they decided to first light a fire to warm themselves.
 
Once the fire was blazing and the Chassidim had just completed their afternoon prayers, they saw a small sled pulled by an old, haggard horse approaching slowly towards their fire. The sled was covered in a sheet of white frost. On a closer look, they saw the young orphan couple snuggled together under a pile of blankets and staring out through a layer of frost covering their faces. The Chassidim lifted the young couple from the sled and placed them next to the fire to thaw out their already blue bodies. After the couple began to gain consciousness, the Chassidim helped them sip a cup of hot tea with brandy.
 
When they returned to themselves, the boy and girl told the tale of how they, Moshie and Rochie, had worked for a Jewish innkeeper, were planning to get married, and the circumstances leading to them being there.
 
After the couple finished their story, the Baal Shem Tov said, "A young couple can’t travel like this. We are going to have a Chasana (wedding). Lets all go to the next inn.” So they packed up the sleds and started traveling to the closest inn.
 
In a few hours, the sleds stopped in front of an inn and the innkeeper came out to greet the Chassidim. As he was telling them where to put the sleds and horses, he suddenly noticed the young couple.
 
"What are they doing here? They are not allowed to step foot in my inn!" yelled the innkeeper.
 
The innkeeper’s wife, hearing her husband yelling in a loud voice, came outside and stood next to her husband. "Get away from here, you dirty little brats," she joined in.
 
"Please," said the Baal Shem Tov, "We are going to have a wedding at your inn."
 
"And who is being married, may I ask?" queried the innkeeper.
 
"This young couple," answered the Baal Shem Tov.
 
The innkeeper and his wife began to laugh uproariously. Then, the innkeeper suddenly became serious and said "They'll get married here over my dead body."
 
The Baal Shem Tov took the innkeeper aside and spoke to him in a very quiet tone. As the two of them walked into the inn, the Chassidim noticed the Baal Shem Tov pour a pile of gold coins onto the table. Immediately thereafter, the innkeeper called his wife in and they planned a gala wedding party for the young couple. As the plans were concluded, the Baal Shem Tov said to the innkeeper, "And don't forget, we want the best wine from your wine cellar."
 
The next afternoon, there was a gala wedding at the inn. Word of the wedding had passed through the nearby town and everyone flocked to the celebration. Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov was the Tzad HaKiddushin (the officiating Rabbi) while his Chassidim took care of the other details of the marriage ceremony.
 
After the wedding ceremony, everyone ate and drank their fill. Then the Baal Shem Tov, sitting at a table with the Chassidim said, "It's only right that the Chosson (groom) and Kallah (bride) should have gifts to begin their life together."
 
Everyone clapped and then listened intently as Rabbi Israel continued, "And for my gift, I'd like to give the Chosson and Kallah this fine inn." After a momentary silence, the innkeeper and his wife started laughing so hard they could barely stand.
 
Then a Chassid, Dov Baer (later known as the Midzritcher Maggid) said, "I'd like to give them the flour mill down by the river."
 
"I'll give the stables and horses by the inn," piped up Reb Ze'ev Kotses another Chassid.
 
"And I'll give the wine cellar in the inn," said another of the Chassidim.
 
Everyone at the wedding party turned to look at the innkeeper and his wife when the Baal Shem Tov said, "And what about you, innkeeper? What gift will you give to the newly married couple?”
 
"Oh, I'll give them five rubles," said the innkeeper.
 
"Please," said Rabbi Israel, "That’s not enough for a couple that just had a big wedding at your inn."
 
"You're right," said the innkeeper, "I'll give them the five thousand rubles of rent money that the Duke just collected from his land holdings."
 
The innkeeper's wife followed with, "And they can live in the old broken down house at the end of town."
 
When the wedding guests murmured complaints about her stinginess, she said, "Okay, I'll give the kallah the big diamond broach the Duke's wife always wears."
 
So the wedding party bentched (recited the prayer after eating bread) and said the seven blessings after a wedding. Then the Baal Shem Tov quickly wrapped all the leftover food and drink into the table cloths which he had purchased from the innkeeper.
 
The Chassidim put the leftovers into the little sled along with the newly wedded Chosson and Kallah. Then the Baal Shem Tov and the Chassidim got into their sled.
 
Just before leaving, the Baal Shem Tov said to the young couple, "I give you a blessing that all of the blessings we bestowed on you will be fulfilled, and that you live long, healthy, happy lives together both physically and spiritually."
 
The newlyweds, still wearing their wedding clothes got into their sled and started off along the road.
 
At first, they were elated with the turn of events. First being thrown out of the inn and then being married at the same inn. They felt like they had just awoken from a dream. After they traveled for a few hours, it dawned on them that they still didn't have a place to go and they still didn't have any money. They started to feel bad as the realization began to grow that they were in the same condition as before they met the Chassidim except they were married and had a package of food in the sled. As time passed, they became more and more despondent as the old horse aimlessly pulled the sled along a frozen Ukrainian road.
 
After another hour or so, the couple noticed an unusual form in the snow by the side of the road. It almost looked like a person. They got off their sled to get a better look.
 
"My G-d, it's a young nobleman,” said Rochie. His skin was blue and icicles were forming on his beard.
 
“Quick Moshie,” she instructed, “build a fire.”
 
They covered him with extra blankets and got the fire blazing. When he regained consciousness, they gave him a drink of whiskey and fed him the leftover food from the wedding.
 
As he slowly came back to himself, the young nobleman related how he had had a hunting accident. He had fallen from his horse and his horse had run away.
 
Before he finished relating the story, they heard a hunting horn and soon one of the servants of the young nobleman's father, the Duke, rode by searching for the boy. As soon as he saw him, he called for a carriage to transport the Duke's son home, and rode off without paying any attention to the newlyweds.
 
The boy was brought immediately to the Duke and his wife who were hosting an extremely somber party, celebrating the collection of the Duke's rents. The Duke, his wife and their friends returned from an afternoon of hunting to learn that the Duke's son, and only child, was missing. When the Duke’s son was brought into the party room, everyone cheered and let out a sigh of relief. The boy was still in shock and was taken to his room to recover. After some time, he came to himself and remembered how he had fallen from his horse and had been saved by a young couple.
 
The boy ran down to his parents inquiring about the young couple that had saved his life. Because of the shock surrounding the events, everyone had forgotten about the young couple.
 
"Quick, find the couple and bring them here," ordered the Duke to his servants.
 
Immediately, the servants went off and found the couple. They were brought to the party and given a victors welcome.
 
The Duke questioned the couple, Moshie and Rochie, and learned of their being thrown out from the inn (which coincidently belonged to the Duke), their meeting with a strange Rabbi called the Baal Shem Tov, their wedding, and their finding the Duke's son.
 
The Duke, his wife, his servants, and the guests at the Duke's party were thrilled that the Duke's son was miraculously saved and unharmed. The music played and the liqueur flowed as they crowded around the young couple, thanking them over and over.
 
Someone yelled, "Let's help the newlyweds begin their life together with some gifts!”
 
The Duke immediately jumped up and said, "I'm giving my inn that is now being run by the mean old innkeeper and his wife, to the newlyweds!"
 
When someone else suggested that they be given the stables, horses and wine cellar in the inn, the Duke said, "Absolutely. All of that will be included with the inn."
 
Then another guest said "What about giving them the mill by the river?"
 
"Of course I agree. They're a wonderful couple and it's a wonderful idea," chimed in the Duke.
 
"What about some cash?" asked another celebrant.
 
"Here is five thousand rubles, the rents I just collected on my properties," said the Duke as he pushed a bag of gold coins into Moishie’s hand.
 
Then the Duke's wife removed her famous diamond broach and pinned it onto Rochie’s wedding gown. She burst out, "You are the most beautiful of all brides and there is no way I can thank you for giving me back my one and only son." Then she started hugging Rochie and weeping.
 
Rochie exclaimed, "But what about the innkeeper and his wife? Where are they going to live?"
 
"We'll give them the broken down house at the end of the town," answered the Duke's wife.
 
And so the young couple received the gifts that the Baal Shem Tov had seen with his holy vision.
 
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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