A Chassidic Story

Shivchei HaBaal Shem Tov #62

Reb Meir of Anipoli told the following story.

In a certain village there lived a sock-maker. Summer, winter, spring and fall, the sock-maker would daven (pray) in the local shul (synagogue). Even if there wasn’t a minyan, he would daven there by himself.

The Baal Shem Tov was once visiting that village. In the morning, as he smoked his pre-prayer pipe, the Baal Shem Tov looked out the window and saw the sock-maker on his way to shul. This caused the Baal Shem Tov to tremble. He asked his host, “Please go outside and tell me who that is, walking with his tallis and tefillin.” The host stepped outside, saw who it was, went back and told the Baal Shem Tov. “Please ask him to come here to speak to me.”

“I know him. He has this ‘thing’—he doesn’t go anywhere. He certainly won’t agree.” The Baal Shem Tov was silent.

After Shachris (the morning prayer), the Baal Shem Tov sent for the sock-maker, asking that he bring four pair of socks. The man came, bringing the requested socks with him. “How much does a pair cost?” asked the Baal Shem Tov.

“Each pair is a one and a-half gold rubles.”

“How about if I pay you just one gold ruble?” said the Baal Shem Tov. The sock-maker didn’t answer. The Baal Shem Tov asked someone else to finish the negotiating. The person asked the sock-maker, “Nu. So, maybe you’ll sell for less than one and a-half gold rubles?”

“If I wanted to sell for less, I would have said so the first time.” The Baal Shem Tov paid the requested price and then asked the sock-maker, “What do you do?”

“I ply my trade.”

“How do you go about your work?”

“I make no fewer than 40 or 50 pairs at a time. Then I put them all in a tub filled with hot water. Afterwards I press them into shape until they’re made the way they ought to be.”

“How do you sell them?”

The sock-maker replied, “I don’t set foot outside my door. The shopkeepers come to my home to make their purchases. They also buy wool for me and deliver it. I pay them for their trouble. Even coming here, I did only as a courtesy for his honor. I only leave my home to go to shul. If there is a minyan, I daven with them. If not, I daven by myself, at my regular seat.”

“If you need to marry off your children, what do you do?”

“God helps me, and from my regular trade I make enough to marry off my children.”

“When you wake up early, at dawn, what do you do?” asked the Baal Shem Tov.

“The same thing—I make socks.”

“Do you say Tehillim*?”

“Whatever I can say by heart, I say.”

Later, the Baal Shem Tov said that the sock-maker would be the foundation of the shul until the coming of the Redeemer, may it be swiftly, in our day. Amen.

From this story, we see the greatness of one who earns an honest living with his own labor.

© Copyright 2011 O. Bergman

*Psalms

Author: Ozer Bergman

Ozer Bergman is an editor for the Breslov Research Institute, a spiritual coach, and author of Where Earth and Heaven Kiss: A Practical Guide to Rebbe Nachman's Path of Meditation.

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