Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Minyan of Thieves

There's a famous story of the Baal Shem Tov I heard from Reb Shlomo and I just saw a different version quoted by R. Simon Jacobson (see below). Sometimes when we can't get into heaven al pi shuras hadin, we have to break in...

They tell the story of a young widow who once came crying to the Baal Shem Tov. “I recently lost my husband. Now my young child, my only child, is lying gravely ill. The doctors have given up hope. Please, Baal Shem Tov, please do something to save my child.”

The Baal Shem Tov, whose heart was always open especially to the needy and oppressed, soothed and reassured her saying that she should go home and her child will be fine. He then proceeded to gather together ten (a minyan) of his holy hidden Tzaddikim, to pray for the child’s welfare and immediate healing.

But to no avail. As much as they tried opening their souls and in turn opening the gates of heaven, they sadly were unsuccessful. The Baal Shem Tov sensed that the decree in heaven was sealed and could not be reversed by the Tzaddikim’s prayers.

The Baal Shem Tov, however, was not one to take no for an answer and give up. He fell upon an idea. He asked his wagon driver to prepare the wagon and the horses. They were going for a trip to the forest. He directed the driver to go to a particular spot, which surprised the driver, being that this was known to a be a dangerous area where thieves lurked, and everyone would avoid.

They arrived at the designated spot. The Baal Shem Tov climbed off the wagon, and within a few moment he was, to the chagrin of the driver, surrounded by several thieves. When the head of the band of thieves saw that it was the Baal Shem Tov, he put down his weapon and with wonder and astonishment asked: “Baal Shem Tov, what are you doing here in the wild?”

The Baal Shem Tov replied: “Listen, I need to speak with you. I need your help.” All of them wondered what possible help could the Baal Shem Tov need from lowly thieves. The Baal Shem Tov continued speaking to the band leader: “I need you to gather ten of your thieves and come with me to pray for a sick child.” The head thief didn’t understand, but since the Baal Shem Tov was requesting he complied. He gathered a minyan of his partners in crime, and they prayed with the Baal Shem Tov.

The child miraculously recovered.

Later, when the Baal Shem Tov was asked by his surprised students, “how were you able to accomplish with ten thieves more than you could have accomplished with ten Tzaddikim?!” the Baal Shem Tov replied: “Simple. I saw that all the gates in heaven were locked. And I needed someone to break in…”

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