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Sunday, 30 July 2017

136) WHAT HAPPENED IN MEDZEBUZH AFTER MIDNIGHT?

LETTERS FROM THE BAAL SHEM TOV IN ENGLISH FOR THE FIRST TIME: 

LETTERS FROM THE CHERSON GENIZA – TRANSLATED INTO ENGLISH.  PART 6.


A sample of the writing of the Rav of Rashkov, the scribe who copied the Sefer haTzoref  for the Baal Shem Tov (see Document 32).

See here for introduction.


DOCUMENT 55:

Letter from the Baal Shem Tov to R. Nachman of Horodenka asking him to keep an eye on R. Dovber of Mezeritch while he (the Besht) is away:


B”H

Tuesday  (Parshat) Vayerah 5516 (1756).

To my student the holy rabbi etc., our teacher the rabbi Nachman n’y, of Horodenka, the faithful of my house:

Urgently send me my Chanukah Lamp, because G-d willing, after Shabbat - may it descend upon us for good – I will be travelling from here, this holy community (unnamed[1]) to Lvov.[2]
I shall remain there, G-d willing until after Chanukah.

And for G-d’s sake, see to it that (my) house is in order, and particularly ensure with open eyes that my exceptional student, the holy gaon Mr Berenya[3], may he live, is well and not punishing himself (with asceticism) heaven forefend. (Let him) receive the medicines as I have prescribed, before (I leave on) my journey.

From your rabbi who requests your well being:

Yisrael, son of our teacher the rabbi, Rabbi Eliezer Baal Shem from Medzebuzh.
Shalom and all the best to the members of my household and to all those associated with me, may they live.


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DOCUMENT 29:

Letter from the Baal Shem Tov to R. Dovber of Mezeritch informing him that R. Yaakov Josef of Polnoye has been taken captive.



B”H

Motza’ei Shabbat (Saturday night, Parshat) Vayeshev 5516 (1756).

To my exceptional student, the rabbi and holy gaon, Officer of the Torah etc., Mr. Berenya[4]:

Know that we are in (a situation of) great anguish (because) they have taken as captive my dear student Mr Yaakov Yosef (of Polnoye) n’y.

Inform this to the public: We require for this 200 Adumim. I have only 50 Adumim. Try to add (another) 100 Adumim and bring (the money) to me.[5]

From your teacher:

Yisrael, son of our teacher the rabbi, Rabbi Eliezer Baal Shem from Medzebuzh.


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DOCUMENT 73:

Letter from the Baal Shem Tov to R. Dovber of Mezeritch informing his not to assume a leadership role as ‘two cannot rule together’[6]:


B”H

Erev Chanukah 5516 (1756). Medzebuzh.

To my exceptional student, the holy gaon (and) and faithful shepherd of the House of Israel, my soul is bound up in your soul etc., Mr Berenya[7] sy’n:

I received the letter from your holy hand but it was not enough because I yearn to see your face. Therefore I do not agree that you should remain (in an unnamed location) under any circumstances in the world.

Come (back) immediately.

Additionally, it is not possible that (the Movement) can (be governed simultaneously) with two crowns[8] and leadership cannot impinge one on another. Enough said in alluded (form).

From your rabbi and teacher who clings to you....(text missing):

Yisrael, son of our teacher the rabbi, Rabbi Eliezer Baal Shem from Medzebuzh.


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DOCUMENT 167:

Letter from R. Dovber of Mezeritch to R. Yaakov Yosef of Polnoye asking if he knows who the mysterious invisible figure was during his (R. Dovber’s) strange interaction with the Baal Shem Tov:



B”H

Sunday night (Parshat) Vayigash 5516 (1756) here in the holy congregation of Medzebuzh.

Long life. To the honourable beloved of my soul and beloved of G-d. The rabbi and holy gaon, man of G-d, the awesome (man) who has accomplished many things, officer of the Torah, the true Torah etc. etc. etc. ks’t.[9] Our teacher the rabbi, Yaakov Yosef the Cohen, may you live. Head of the Court of the holy community of Polnoye:

Great terror seized me last night after midnight.

It was my turn to (stay up) all night and study mishnaot while our holy master, teacher and rabbi (the Baal Shem Tov), may he live, slept.

(Suddenly) he (the Baal Shem Tov) moaned and called me (using) the following words:

“Berili[10], come here.”

 I immediately walked (over to him) and asked in the following words:

“What does the rabbi want?”

He responded to me:

“Berili, go immediately to my shul and bring (back to me) my new (walking) stick, immediately. But go quickly and fetch (the walking stick).”

I went immediately (to fetch the stick) and I gave it to him.

As soon as he received the (walking) stick from me, he returned it to me and said:

“Go immediately and return this stick to the man who is standing next to you, and tell him that the rabbi (the Baal Shem Tov) does not want to receive the gift which you gave to him, because it is beyond his capabilities to rectify (your - the stranger’s - soul).”

And I (R. Dovber) never saw any person (standing there)!

(Nevertheless) I stuck out my right hand and I told (the invisible stranger) what our holy master y’n told me to say.

And (then) the man took the stick from my hand but I did not see him and the stick disappeared from my hand.

And my knees gave in and were knocking together from fear.

And our master, teacher and rabbi y’n (the Baal Shem Tov) said to me in the following words:

“Berili come here. Do you fear? Do not be afraid. That man transgressed all of the Torah in its entirety, heaven forfend. He gifted me with the (walking) stick and then he died.

It has been a number of months (since his death and) he has be requesting of (and bothering) me to rectify (his soul), but (whatever I do) does not help.

Therefore, now that he has started to bother me again (I asked you) to give his stick back to him (so that he will leave me alone).

He (the invisible stranger) is (was) from Polnoye and used to be a regular guest at my Yosselin (R. Yaakov Yosef of Polnoye), may he live.”

-Thus the words of our master (the Baal Shem Tov) may his soul live.

All this my eyes beheld and I have never seen such a wondrous event (before).

(For this reason) I request of you (R. Yaakov Yosef of Polnoye), honourable one y’n, is it possible that you know this individual?

Is it possible for you to respond to me (and tell me who this man was)?

(From) the one who loves your soul, and who loves you in truth with a great love.
With great kindness and (greeting from my) heart and soul which love you:

Dovber, son of our teacher and rabbi, the Rabbi Avraham.


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UNNUMBERED DOCUMENT:

Letter from the Baal Shem Tov to R. Dovber of Mezeritch expressing his dismay at not hearing from R. Dovber:


B”H

Monday evening 5516 (1756). Lvov.

To my exceptional student, the holy rabbi and gaon, Officer of the Torah, man of G-d etc. Our teacher the rabbi, Rabbi Dovbernya[11] n’y:

I was most surprised at you!

Did we not speak, prior to my journey[12] (and agree) that you would write to me every week (and inform me) about your well-being (health), and about the functioning of my household and about those (students) connected with me.

It is now two weeks and I have not received any (news).[13].

I, therefore, request, for G-d’s sake, that you do not cause me consternation, heaven forefend, and that as soon as you receive my letter you write to me (particularly) about your well-being because this will restore my soul, as my soul is bound with yours.

(Also) inform me about the (day to day) affairs of my household and whether (or not) my debts have been paid.

G-d willing, in a month’s time, I shall return to my home.

The gathering of rabbis[14], may they live, will begin in a week’s time, may it come on us for good. (And) with G-d’s help, the good side will be victorious. Amen, so may it be (G-d’s) will.

From your teacher and rabbi who loves you with a wholesome heart, and is waiting for a speedy letter (of reply):

Yisrael, son of our teacher the rabbi, Rabbi Eliezer Baal Shem from Medzebuzh.

(P.s. Regards to all the above mentioned.)


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DOCUMENT 146:

Letter from the Baal Shem Tov to R. Nachman of Horodenka advocating for an increase in the salary of R. Dovber of Mezeritch:


B”H

Tuesday (Parshat) Vayikra 5516 (1756). Medzebuzh.

To my student, the holy rabbi, man of G-d, Mr Nachman n’y of Horodenka:

For G-d’s sake increase the weekly salary of the holy rabbi, my colleague, Mr Dovber n’y, for he is a very weak (and unhealthy) person.

And if the rabbi the gaon (R. Yaakov Yosef) of Polnoye does not agree to this – well I do, and who does one listen to; the rabbi or the student?

And one needs to be particularly careful not to upset the holy thoughts (of R. Dovber)[15] even one iota or hair’s breadth.

And if the world would know of his great holiness the rabbis and gaonim would ‘carry his garments’ (to the bathhouse for him as a sign of respect)[16].

From your teacher and rabbi who constantly seeks your welfare,

Yisrael, son of our teacher the rabbi, Rabbi Eliezer Baal Shem from Medzebuzh.


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DOCUMENT 141:

Letter from the Baal Shem Tov to R. Dovber of Mezeritch informing him that he (the Besht) took his advice and spoke assertively to certain people behaving recklessly:


B”H

Slovita. Sunday (Parshat) Vayeira 5517 (1757).

To my student, the holy rabbi and gaon, man of G-d, Officer of the Torah etc. Mr Dovber n’y:

After inquiring after your good health, I (wish to) inform you that I annulled my thinking and my will (against my better judgement) in favour of yours and I spoke to them (unnamed persons) harshly like (hard) sinews.

And thank G-d I was successful and they will no longer return to their foolishness.[17]

G-d willing in a few more days I shall return to my home.
Send regards to all in our group[18], may they live.

From your rabbi and friend who loves you in truth:

Yisrael Baal Shem of Medzebuzh.


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DOCUMENT 24:

Letter from the Baal Shem Tov to R. Mordechai inviting him to Medzebuzh for Pesach and promising that no one (besides the Maggid) will recognize him:


B”H

After the Search of leaven, this year 5517 (1757) of Peret Katan[19].

A happy and kosher festival (of Pesach).

To the honourable and holy, beloved of my soul and my colleague, whose name is holy, Mr. Mordechai the Tzadik[20] n’y:

I am sending a designated messenger to you, honourable and holy one shalita, (to invite you) to come immediately to me for the holy festival (of Pesach), G-d willing.

Do not remain in the village.

I guarantee that one will know you, except for my holy student and colleague Mr Berenya[21], may he live, as he already knows you from before. Enough said.

I am preparing to welcome you in joy and great abundance, G-d willing.

From the one who wishes you well:

Yisrael Baal Shem of Medzebuzh.


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DOCUMENT 32:

Letter from the Baal Shem Tov to R. Dovber of Mezeritch rebuking him for revealing the secret of the rabbi from Rashkov:


B”H

Thursday 5 Iyyar 5517 (1757). Medzebuzh.

To my student, Officer of the Torah, Mr Dovber n’y:

What you did was not good in that you revealed the hidden secret of my student the rabbi from Rashkov[22] n’y.

But I forgive you completely[23] and from now on do not do anything without informing me.
From your teacher and rabbi who loves you:

Yisrael, son of our teacher the rabbi, Rabbi Eliezer Baal Shem.






[1] It doesn’t appear that this letter was written in the Baal Shem Tov’s hometown of Medzebuzh as he concludes this letter by sending regards to all the members of his household. This letter must, therefore, have been written from another unspecified town.
[2] This visit to Lvov could not have been for purposes of debate with Bishop Sokolski (see KOTZK BLOG 123.) as that debate took place three years later in 1759.
[3] A term of endearment for R. Dovber of Mezeritch.
[4] A term of endearment for R. Dovber of Mezeritch.

[5] The assumption, of course, is that the Baal Shem Tov had a plan to acquire the other 50 Adumim from another unmentioned source.
[6] This letter is quite unusual as the Baal Shem Tov, who at the age of 56 - four years before his passing - is rather assertive and protective of his leadership position. Compare this to Document 260, where the Baal Shem Tov seems happy to temporarily hand over a full and complete power of attorney to R. Dovber.
[7] A term of endearment for R. Dovber of Mezeritch.
[8] I.e.: The Baal Shem Tov and R. Dovber of Mezeritch.
[9] I do not know what this abbreviation stands for.
[10] A term of endearment for Dovber.
[11] A term of endearment for Dovber.
[12] To Lvov, as apparent from the opening sentence.
[13] T”a is an abbreviation for temunat ot, which literally means the shape of a letter.
[14] This may be a reference to one of the debates between the rabbis and the followers of the false messiah Jacob Frank, which were held under the auspices of the church.
[15] This could be understood in two ways: either simply not to insult R. Dovber, or not to cause him grief by him having no money which will impact on his thought process and ability to function in his leadership role.
[16] A Talmudic expression of respect.
[17] There is no indication as to who these people were or what they did that was so offensive.
[18] Literally Anash or Anshei shlomeimu which means the members of our faction.
[19] A calendar designation.
[20] This appears to be a reference to R. Mordechai the Tzadik, a student of the Baal Shem Tov. It is said that the Besht revealed to him (R. Mordechai) the famous teaching: A soul can toil for seventy of eighty years just to do a material (and certainly a spiritual) favour to another. R. Mordechai, in turn, revealed this teaching to R. Shneur Zalman of Liadi.
[21] A term of endearment for R. Dovber.
[22] This may be a reference to R. Shabbatai of Rashkov who put together a kabbalistic Siddur based on the kavanot or intentions of the Ari Zal. This became the basis for much of the Chassidic prayer rites and future siddurim. He was an expert scribe and copier of texts, particularly kabbalistic texts. It was R. Shabbatai who copied the text of Sefer haTzoref for the Baal Shem Tov. (This was a rather controversial works and may perhaps be connected to the ‘secret of the rabbi of Rashkov’. See here.) According to tradition the Baal Shem Tov together with R. Shabbatai of Rashkov worked together to cancel out the negative effects of the Frankist movement using kabbalistic methodology.
An example of the writing of R. Shabbatai of Rashkov.
[23] Bm’g is an abbreviation for bimechilla gemurah, which means with complete forgiveness.

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