5 Tamuz 5781 / Tuesday, June 15, 2021 | Torah Reading: Chukat
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Vayakhel: The Holiness of a Shabbat Gathering    

Vayakhel: The Holiness of a Shabbat Gathering

After completing Havdalah (a brief service at the conclusion of Shabbat that separates Shabbat from the weekdays), two of the leading rabbis of the Brody community...


Parshat VaYakhel
The Torah portion begins with Moshe (Moses) assembling the entire Israelite community and telling them: "These are the words that God has commanded for you to do: You may do work during the six weekdays, but Saturday must be kept holy as a Shabbat of Shabbats to God." (Shemot 35:1-2)
This is the only place in the Torah where the words Moshe assembled" appears. This is so all future generations will know that they should assemble in the synagogue and study Torah every Shabbat. Through this, God's Name is made holy and great among the Israelites. (MeAm Lo'ez)
* * *
Once, long ago, Rav Israel ben Eliezer (the holy Baal Shem Tov) was spending Shabbat with his followers in the town of Brody. Brody was known as a center of great opposition to the fledgling Chassidic movement and in particular to its founder, the Baal Shem Tov.
After completing Havdalah (a brief service at the conclusion of Shabbat that separates Shabbat from the weekdays), two of the leading rabbis of the Brody community, Rav Yechezkel Landau and Rabbi Chaim Sanzer, were smoking their pipes and discussing what a restful and holy Shabbat they had just experienced. One thing led to another and they began to speak about the Baal Shem Tov. They were very upset thinking about how this 'charlatan' was leading many Jews astray from the ancient path of Torah and mitzvot.
"Let's go over and see for ourselves how the 'holy man' spends his motzei Shabbat!" Rav Yechezkel suggested in a sarcastic tone.
"That's a great idea. It would be very interesting to see just how "the Rebbe" conducts himself," answered Rabbi Chaim, in a tone of contempt.
So they both went to the inn where the Baal Shem Tov was spending Shabbat. When they arrived, they found the Baal Shem Tov had not yet ended Shabbat. He was in the midst of Seudah Shlishit (the third meal of Shabbat). Sitting at the head of the table, he was expounding on a Torah thought to a full room of his Chassidim.
When he finished, the crowd of Chassidim began singing niggunim (spiritual songs without words) and dancing in a large circle. In a short time, everyone was filled with the feeling of great love and joy for each other. In their state of elation, no one was aware of the two rabbis that had just joined the assembly of the Rebbe and his Chassidim.
At first Rav Yechezkel and Rabbi Chaim just stood there watching this unusual sight. But then, they found themselves humming along with the niggunim. Before they knew what happened, the Chassidim drew them into the circle and they were dancing with the others. As the two rabbis continued to dance around and around in the circle, they found their hearts bursting with a feeling of love and joy that they had never previously experienced. They looked at each other but were speechless. Suddenly, they felt love for everyone in the room.
Then, the Baal Shem Tov whose eyes had been closed while he was immersed in the beauty, joy and fellowship of the singing, stopped and looked out into the crowd.
"My dearest friends, when we gather on Shabbat to study Torah, with love for one another in our hearts, we blend together and become one. Then, we can Divine each other's thoughts. And on this Shabbat, a great miracle has just occurred. God has blessed us with the holy feeling of Divine love for each other."
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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