I recently heard this charming story from Rabbi Yitzchak Dovid Grossman, the rabbi of Migdal HaEmek and the founder and director of Migdal-Ohr.
One of the rabbis who teaches in Migdal-Ohr has a sister, Raizel*, who was older, single, and lived in Switzerland. Once, when she came to Eretz Yisrael for a visit, she asked her brother if he could bring her to Rabbi Grossman to receive his bracha that she should meet her bashert in the near future.
When Rav Grossman heard this, he told Raizel’s brother, “Of course! Bring her on Motzei Shabbos to the melave malka.” And so it was that they came, Raizel was introduced to Rav Grossman, and he blessed her that she should meet her zivug soon.
And then he said: “We chassidim have a minhag that on Motzei Shabbos when we make the special melave malka meal to escort the Shabbos Queen away after Shabbos, we tell a chassidic story, especially a story about the Baal Shem Tov. So that’s what I’m going to do.” And with the candles shedding their special light in the background, Rabbi Grossman spoke with awe, telling one of the myriad stories of the holy Baal Shem Tov. This was the story he chose to share:
Once a childless woman came to the Baal Shem Tov to receive a bracha that she would have a child. He knew that she was an akara, physically unable to have a child, and so he didn’t want to give her a bracha. The woman left, broken-hearted, but one day she came back, just before mincha, and threw herself across his doorstep, saying, “I’m not moving from here until the Baal Shem Tov gives me a blessing for a child. Either he can bless me, or he can step over me, but without his blessing, I’m not moving from here!”
When the Baal Shem Tov heard this and realized how great and earnest was her desire for a child, he blessed her, saying: “HaKodesh Boruch Hu will help and will give you a child next year!”
A year went by and when a woman came to the Baal Shem Tov to ask him to be the sandak at her baby’s bris, the gabbai asked the Baal Shem Tov, “Do you remember the woman who threw herself over your doorstep last year because she wanted your blessing for a child? That’s the woman who is making the bris for her son!” When the Baal Shem Tov heard that, he was amazed and told his gabbai to bring the woman to him.
“What special thing did you do that enabled you to have a child?” he asked. “I didn’t do anything special,” she replied simply. “But you must have done something,” he insisted, knowing that when he had seen her, it was physically impossible for her to have a baby. “I didn’t do anything special,” she repeated.
“Well, what did you do all this past year?” the Baal Shem Tov asked. “Nothing special,” she repeated. “As soon as I received your bracha, I just went home and started preparing for the baby. I fixed up the room so it would be just right for a new baby. I got a crib, a carriage, a baby bed, sheets and blankets and towels, nice curtains, and toys. That’s what I did the whole year – I got the room ready for the baby you promised me.”
When the Baal Shem Tov heard this, he said: “That’s why you had a baby! It wasn’t me or my blessing that caused the miracle, it was your emunah! Your emunah was so great and sincere that it caused a change within you that enabled you to have a baby!”
The melava malka continued, with warm food and drinks and heavenly singing, and the atmosphere was one of holiness and joy.
The next day Raizel had plans to meet her brother at one o’clock after he finished teaching, and then he would take her for a tiyul, a trip in northern Eretz Yisrael to daven at different kivrei tzaddikim. When her brother finished teaching, he went outside, expecting to see his Raizel there, but he didn’t, so he called her on her cellphone to ask where she was. She answered right away, apologized for running late and said that she was at a supermarket in Migdal HaEmek. When she told him exactly which one it was, he said that he’d be there to pick her up in a few minutes.
When he arrived, he saw her standing outside with a wagon filled with bags. “What’s all this for?” he asked, surprised. “You’re our guest – you don’t have to buy food.” She smiled serenely and said: “It’s not food. It’s beautiful disposable dishes, cutlery, glas’es, and napkins for my engagement party.”
“What do you mean ‘your engagement party’ – you’re going back to Switzerland on Wednesday!” her brother exclaimed. “I know,” she responded, “I’ll bring them with me.” And then, as her brother looked at her, obviously puzzled by what she was saying and doing, Raizel explained.
“You heard the story Rabbi Grossman told last night about the Baal Shem Tov and the woman who wanted a child. He said that it was her emunah, her faith, that led to her having a baby. Well, I also have emunah,” Raizel continued. “Rabbi Grossman gave me a bracha that I should meet my zivug soon, so I’m getting ready for my engagement party!” With nothing left for either of them to say, they both smiled and, with emunah and hope in their hearts, put the packages into the car and went on their way.
The next day Raizel’s mother in Switzerland received a phone call. She looked at the caller I.D. and saw that it was an international call. “Hello,” said the voice on the other end when Raizel’s mother answered. “This is Sareleh Cohen, the shadchanit from Eretz Yisrael.” “Oh yes,” said Raizel’s mother. “How are you?” “Fine, Baruch Hashem,” Saraleh replied, and then she got straight to the point.
“I heard that Raizel is here in Eretz Yisrael,” she said. “Yes, she is,” said Raizel’s mother, “but just for a couple more days.”
“That’s fine,” said Sareleh. “I have a shidduch suggestion for her. My nephew is here from Lakewood for a visit, and it just occurred to me that maybe Raizel would be a good match for him. Please give me her number and maybe they can meet.”
Within minutes Sareleh had Raizel’s phone number and was talking to her. “Shalom, Raizel, I’m a shadchanit in Yerushalayim. Your mother told me all about you a while ago, and today I just thought of a wonderful idea for you. It’s my own nephew, so I can tell you he’s a very special boy! He lives in Lakewood but he’s in Yerushalayim now for a visit. Where are you now?”
“Now? I’m in Yerushalayim, doing some shopping for gifts in Geula.” “Geula?! I’m also in Geula now!” said Sarela excitedly. “That’s great! Listen, there’s a bakery on the main street, I’ll tell you exactly where, and let’s meet there right now.” “Wonderful,” Raizel responded, and within a few minutes, she was standing in a bakery, and in this totally unexpected turn of events, she was happily chatting with Sareleh Cohen, a woman she had never even heard of before.
That night, Raizel met the young man from Lakewood, and again the next day too – and in a month’s time, they celebrated their engagement in Switzerland, with the dishes and napkins and more that Raizel, with her pure, simple emunah, had bought in Migdal HaEmek. Within a few months, Baruch Hashem, they were married and are now living in the holy city of Yerushalayim.
When Rabbi Grossman told this story, he said that sometimes what is needed in order to arouse Heavenly rachamim (mercy) is not only belief in Hashem and tefillah to Him, but a specific, concrete act of emunah. Not only to think and feel and speak, but to do, to act with complete emunah.
* not her real name
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