The Baal Shem Tov lived in the town of Medzhibuzh, where he had gained a reputation as a miracle maker. He would travel from town to town, teaching the simple unlearned Jews. He would tell them stories which taught many deep principles of devotion and avodas Hashem. Many stories are told about the Baal Shem Tov which serve the purpose of instilling belief and trust in the common Jew. The Baal Shem Tov taught that Hashem is everywhere. He taught that Hashem wants us to approach Him and his Torah with joy and gladness.
Having achieved an almost legendary status during his lifetime, the Baal Shem Tov attracted thousand of Jews in distress who came to him to receive words of encouragement and blessings.
Many serious scholars would also come to learn the mystical hidden secrets of the Torah. His teachings, which eventually became known as Chassidus, connected every aspect of life to the Torah itself. It is said that part of the Shabbos he would spend talking to the simple Jews who came to see him and the other half was given to instruct the Torah scholars.
There are literally thousands of stories showing the miraculous and unusual solutions the Baal Shem Tov found to the many difficult problems Jews from throughout brought to him.
The Skuler Rav often visited Rebbe Reb Boruch of Mezibuzh, a grandson of the Baal Shem Tov, and they would spend time together discussing various topics of Torah and Chassidus.
During one of these numerous visits he related to the Tzaddik the following story.
“One time I was visiting the holy Baal Shem Tov. As is the norm, people from all walks of life would come to him for blessings, ask his advice and to hear a good word. He always had time and patience for each and every one of them. No matter if it was a big luminary and talmid chacham or a plain peasant, to him they were all Yiddishe kinderlach and as such they were all worthy of his love and attention.
Two men came in and they looked somewhat perturbed as they waited for the Tzaddik to kindly indicate that they should begin speaking.
One of them began. “We have come to ask advice,” he said. He swallowed hard and paused, and then continued with his story. It was obvious that he was not too comfortable.
“I am the Rav of a small town not too far from here.” he began. He turned to look at the man accompanying him and he continued. “I have come to ask advice as to whether I should make a match between my son and the daughter of this man?”
The Tzaddik’s deep eyes gave the Rav a penetrating look and then he glanced at the second man accompanying him. There was a strange depth to his look as though he saw far more than just what he had heard. Although it was obvious that it was the first time he had met these people and the first time he was hearing this story, it was no news to him. He answered without hesitation. “Can you give me one good reason why not?”
The Rav was rather taken aback at the swiftness and firmness of the response. He had expected the Baal Shem Tov to give the matter some thought, to mull over the question, give it some consideration, but no! His answer was clear and direct and the Rav was none too happy.
He began to explain his situation feeling a little nervous and uncomfortable but the Tzaddik indicated to him that he should come out with what was pressing on his heart. “This man will forgive you for what you have to say,” he said kindly. “Just tell me the truth!”
“Holy Rebbe,” he began. “This man is not a learned man nor a talmid chacham, excuse me for saying so. In fact, he was a simple water-carrier. He was then left a fortune, after the death of a close relative, and now he is a rich man. He therefore got the idea into his head that he would love to have my son as his son-in-law. Of course he was well aware of the fact that I would never entertain the idea so he hit upon a brilliant idea. Since my son is a talmid chacham and I am able to afford it, I hired a brilliant Rebbi to learn with him. He was aware of this fact so he cleverly offered the Rebbi a large sum of money as an enticement if he would try to put together this shidduch. Can you imagine it, my son to the daughter of a water-carrier?”
The Baal Shem Tov turned to the second man and asked him. “Is this true?”
The water-carrier held his head up high and answered. “Yes holy Rebbe, it is true. I knew that if I would have approached him myself he would have laughed in my face, but hiring the Rebbi to do the job would be more likely to get results. I figured that if he approached him daily over a period of a few weeks he would finally wear him down and there was a chance that it would go through.”
“Yes,” chimed in the Rav. “I can’t get rid of this man. Every day the melamed he bribed comes to me and tells me about the virtues of this man’s daughter and I have come to a point that I can no longer bear it! Therefore I went to him and told him that since he will not take no for an answer, and my answer is no, then there was only one option left to us. We would go to the Baal Shem Tov and ask his advice. That is why we are here today. We decided that whatever the Rebbe will say we will do. If you say that we should go ahead with the match then we will do so. If however the Rebbe not to, then this man must promise to leave me alone and forget all about the whole idea and I never want to see him again!”
“I hear you,” said the Baal Shem Tov thoughtfully. “Now let me ask you something. Tell me, this man standing here who aspires to become your mechuten, is he a G-d fearing person, is he and his family good people who partake in acts of chesed and tzeddakah?”
“Yes,” said the Rav immediately for this was nothing but the truth. He may have once been a simple water-carrier but the man had an excellent name and reputation and no-one had a bad word to say against them.
“Well, if that is the case,” said the Baal Shem Tov, “there is no reason to postpone the shidduch. Let it be arranged now. There is no reason whatsoever to delay!”
The two men looked at each other and smiled wryly. An agreement was an agreement! The Tzaddik asked to bring wine and pastries and they drank a l’Chaim and warm wishes of “Mazel Tov” resounded. The two shook hands warmly and the ice seemed to melt and a sudden feeling of simcha permeated the air. They two men who had entered the room so tense were now happy and relaxed. It was as though the load of reaching a decision had been taken from them. They left, satisfied with the arrangement.
“When the men left,” continued the Skuler Rebbe with the story he was telling to Rebbe Reb Baruch of Medzhibuzh, “the holy Baal Shem Tov turned to me and he said. “Whilst dreaming and whilst awake that man needed a good shadchan!”
“I was puzzled as to the meaning of these strange words and I was determined to find out. I left the Baal Shem Tov’s holy presence soon and I hurried after the two men. I intended consulting the Rav hoping that he would some light on that statement.
I soon caught up with the two new mechutanim whom I presumed were staying at the local inn. I engaged them in conversation as we all sat down to a glass of tea and I casually told them what the Baal Shem Tov had said. “Whilst dreaming and whilst awake that man needed a good shadchan!”
At first he seemed to be puzzled. Then an incredulous look came into his eyes and he gasped.
“Now I understand!” he cried out. “A while ago I had the strangest dream. I dreamed that I was traveling to my congregates, to receive my salary as Rav, in the form of produce. Many of them are poor people and paid me in produce in lieu of my wages. After I finished my rounds I entered the local Bais Hamidrash where a group of men were seated around a long table. They were deeply involved in a heated argument about a sugye in Shas. To me it seemed like a straightforward issue easy to resolve and there was nothing to argue about. I ventured forth and in an apologetic voice for interfering when I had not been approached, I explained their argument in a simple and straightforward fashion.
Instead of being happy that the issue was resolved, I suddenly heard a loud voice raised from a table in the back of the Bais Hamidrash. “How dare this man simply walk in and offer an explanation when he was not even asked. Who needs his opinion? He is nothing but an ignoramus person!”
I awoke, smiled and the incongruity of the dream and put it out of my mind.
However, a short while later I had another strange dream. This time I again traveled to some nearby villages for the purpose of “collecting” my salary and once again I ventured into the local Bais Hamidrash.
Once again a group of men were sitting and having a heated discussion about some scholarly topic. To my practiced ear it seemed so easy and so clear-cut that I did not understand why they were arguing?
Once again I ventured my opinion only to be met with shame and derision. They laughed in my face and these people too called me an ignoramus. I will not say that I was not offended but once again I woke up with that smile one has on one’s face when the glad realization hits that it was nothing more than a dream after all, hits one!
Then I had the same dream for the third time. I kept on thinking that the dream was repeating itself because it was playing on my mind. This time I was in yet another village and once again I went through the same steps of picking up produce and then having time to spare before returning home, I ventured into the local Bais Hamidrash. Here the scene repeated itself. Once again a group of learning men were struggling with an issue in the Gemara and I tried to help them out but once again they ridiculed me and shamed me.
This time however, there was a difference. This time an old man stood up from his place at the table and he said to me. “Reb Yid! Reb Yid! You are an ignoramus person even though you may be a talmid chacham with a lot of Torah knowledge! You still don’t want to do that shidduch do you?”
I awoke all confused and upset and could not make head or tail of what these people wanted from me? What shidduch? What did it have to do with my ability (or inability according to them) to learn? I once again pushed the silly dream out of my mind and forgot about it. You know how it is. When subconsciously you don’t want to think so you don’t think. I should have realized that all these uncomfortable incidents of being ridiculed and shamed, even though I am a Rav, was a lesson. A lesson to break my stubborn pride! Why did I not realize it?
Now that you have told me the words that the Baal Shem Tov said to you after I left, I can now clearly understand the meaning of those dreams. I was made a fool of so that my pride and spirit would be broken as they were. Otherwise I would never have agreed to come to the Tzaddik and let his opinion be final… Not the way I was against the shidduch!
Now I am a happy man because I see that this shidduch was ordained in Heaven – a match that had to be and therefore I am at peace! Thank you!”
With these words he shook my hand and I realized like he did, that he needed a good shadchan and it was the holy Baal Shem Tov who finalized a shidduch that was announced in Heaven forty days before these two children were born.