Motzei Shabbos Story: The Baal Shem Tov once gathered a select group of his students and announced: “Come, I will show you someone who sincerely and wholeheartedly welcomes guests into his home.”
By Blumah Wineberg – Chabad.org
The Baal Shem Tov once gathered a select group of his students and announced: “Come, I will show you someone who sincerely and wholeheartedly welcomes guests into his home.”
The Baal Shem Tov asked for his horse and wagon to be prepared for a trip.
The wheels of the wagon flew through fields and forests, mountains and valleys. By late afternoon, the Baal Shem Tov and his students arrived at a village, and the wagon came to a halt in front of an inn.
A Jewish man came running out of the inn to greet them. He called out: “Hooray, there are guests! Precious Jewish guests!”
The innkeeper went over to the travelers and invited them into his home.
“Come, dear rabbis, come into my home. You can rest up and eat something. You will refresh yourselves, and at the same time bring life to me! It’s not every day that I am so fortunate to do the mitzvah of hachnasat orchim [welcoming guests]!”
The Baal Shem Tov responded, “Perhaps it would be better that we continue on our way to the nearby city. There we will have a mikvah, and we will be able to pray with the congregation and hear the Torah reading.”
“Oh, but I have a mikvah and a Torah scroll right here; and together with all of you, we will also have a minyan [quorum of 10],” the innkeeper said, entreating them to remain. He added that if they would like to pray in the city on Shabbat, they could walk there, because it was within the permissible area one is allowed to walk on Shabbat.
In the end, the Baal Shem Tov agreed to the request of the innkeeper, and the travelers became his guests.
While the innkeeper lived modestly, he offered his guests his best rooms and did everything he could to make their stay comfortable. After they had prayed, he invited them to a table set with delicious food. He himself stood by to serve them.
On Shabbat morning, they all walked to the nearby city to pray. After Shabbat, the innkeeper prepared a lavish melaveh malkah feast (meal after the conclusion of Shabbat), and even invited many more guests from the area. He radiated joy as he greeted his guests and bustled around making sure everyone was cared for.
The Baal Shem Tov and his students spent a few more days with the villager, who took care of all their needs personally and did everything in his power to make sure they felt at home.
Before leaving, the Baal Shem Tov asked their host if he had any special requests.
“My only request is that you pray for me that I merit life in the world to come,” he answered.
“The thing you ask for is dependent upon you,” the Baal Shem Tov responded. “But if you want me to bless you, you must come to me in Mezhibuzh. And, by the way, I can give you some sound advice. Since in our country there is a shortage of wine, when you come, it would be worthwhile to bring with you 100 barrels of wine of the best kind, so that you can earn a nice profit.”
Time passed, and the students all but forgot about the whole episode. One day, the Baal Shem Tov said to his students, “Today a group of poor people came to our town. Please go and tell them that I am inviting them to my Shabbat meal.”
The students were very surprised to hear this. The local custom was that poor people and passing guests who came to town had all their needs met by the local committee in charge of accommodating wayfarers, who arranged meals and sleeping accommodations. And now the Baal Shem Tov was inviting this group to his house.
When the poor folk were seated around the table, the Baal Shem Tov turned to one of them and invited him to come sit next to him.
“Do you recognize me?” the Baal Shem Tov asked him.
“Yes,” the poor man answered. “I had the merit to host the Rebbe and his students in my inn.”
The students sitting around the table perked up their ears.
“Tell us what happened to you since then,” the Baal Shem Tov continued.
The villager told the following tale:
“When the Rebbe told me to come to him to Mezhibuzh and bring 100 barrels of the best wine, I firmly believed in the words of the Rebbe, and set out to do this. I sold everything I possessed, and bought 100 barrels of wine. Then I set out on my way. Toward evening, as we passed through a forest, a big storm broke out and torrents of rain fell.
“The path was totally sodden with water, and the wagons were unable to move forward. I got off the wagon and, leaving the merchandise with the wagon drivers, I started searching for a house or inn in which to spend the night.
“Eventually, I noticed a small light far ahead in the darkness. I went toward the light. Soon I reached a house in the forest. An old Jewish man with a flowing beard greeted me at the door. He invited me in. The house was warm and well-lit, and the old man treated me kindly until I warmed up. In the morning, after I said the morning prayers, I parted from the regal old man and went back to where I had left my wagons. However, there was no trace of them. It was as if they had vanished into thin air.
“At first I was very upset and depressed. However, then I began to think that I don’t have any reason to be upset. ‘G‑d gave and G‑d took, may the name of G‑d be blessed.’1 Surely it is all for the good, I decided. I began to walk, and then came upon a group of poor people traveling this way. I traveled with them until I came to Mezhibuzh.”
The poor man finished his story, and all eyes now focused on the Baal Shem Tov.
“Do you regret that you asked me to be blessed with life in the world to come? Perhaps you would prefer to get all your lost wealth back?” the Baal Shem Tov asked the innkeeper.
“G‑d forbid!” the man replied without hesitating. “Is the Rebbe suggesting that I give up my share in the world to come in exchange for 100 barrels of wine? Absolutely not, Rebbe. I am prepared to remain a poor person all my life, traveling from place to place, if only I can merit life in the world to come!”
“Indeed that is what I wanted to hear from you,” the Baal Shem Tov said. “A Jew needs to be ready to give up everything for faith in G‑d. You accomplished this, and therefore you will merit life in the world to come.”
A smile of pure happiness spread across the poor man’s face.
The Baal Shem Tov continued: “You are thinking that now you will have to wander with your friends for a long time. Well, that is not the case. With the help of G‑d, tomorrow the wagons with the wine that you lost in the forest will arrive here. You will sell them for a nice profit, and you will once again be able to do the mitzvah of welcoming guests as before.”
Sure enough, the very next day, the wagons arrived as the Baal Shem Tov had said. The villager became wealthy, and continued to host guests in a generous fashion.
(Translated and adapted from Sippurei Tzaddikim #257)
Reprinted with permission from Chabad.org