Once again, a group of venerable tzaddikim gathered at the home of the righteous parents of young Nachman, sharing teachings of the Baal Shem Tov and praying at his holy gravesite. As the five-year-old Nachman looked on, they then sat down to plan their journey.
One of the earliest students of the Baal Shem Tov and the first one to publish his teachings, Rabbi Yaakov Yosef of Polonoye, also known as “the Toldos,” was already well advanced in years. Though he had been blessed with a long life by his master, the next generation of tzaddikim knew that they only had so much time left to sit at the sage’s feet.
Overhearing the visitors’ plans to visit the Toldos, young Nachman begged them to take him with them. “Please, take me to see the Toldos too! I so much want to see his shining face and hear his holy words!”
With great regret, the group of elderly tzaddikim had to refuse the child. “You’re too young to take such a hard journey,” they said. “The way is difficult and long.”
But Nachman wouldn’t give up. He was determined to get to Polonoye, no matter what. The visitors soon broke up their meeting and went out into the village of Mezhibuzh to organize their provisions and transport. Before long, they had packed and taken their places in the wagon. But when the driver raised his whip to spur on the horses, a bystander called out, “Stop!”
Down below, little Nachman had wrapped his arms and legs around the spokes of one of the wagon’s large wheels. “You’re not going to go anywhere without me!” he cried.
The tzaddikim were at a loss; what should they do now? At that moment, Rabbi Chaim of Krasni, one of their number, got up and said, “Leave him be! I’ll be responsible for him! He’ll sit with me, and I will make sure that he returns home safely.”
Throughout his life, Rebbe Nachman was always grateful to Rabbi Chaim of Krasni for enabling him to meet the Toldos once in his life.
And Rabbi Chaim of Krasni would say in later years, “I saw for myself just how stubborn Rebbe Nachman could be in his service of God even when he was just a little boy!”
Based on Or HaOros I, pp. 46-47