Melaveh Malka Story
Rabbi Levi Yitzchok Ginsberg
is a saying among Chassidim (attributed to the Rebbe Maharash) that three
oversights are made in claiming that telling a story about the Baal Shem Tov on
Motzaei Shabbos is a segula for livelihood: First of all, it is a segula
to tell a story about any tzaddik and not just the Baal Shem Tov.
Secondly, it doesnít have to be on Motzaei Shabbos. And thirdly, telling a
story about a tzaddik is a segula for all of a personís needs,
not only parnasaÖ
we find that it is still customary to tell stories about the Baal Shem Tov on
Motzaei Shabbos. Reb Mendel Futerfas said that his grandfather, Reb Chaim
Futerfas, a Chassid of the Tzemach Tzedek, used to always tell a story about the
Baal Shem Tov at the Melaveh Malka meal. (Reb Mendel was actually raised
by this grandfather, as his father passed away before he was born. Reb Mendelís
given name was Menachem Mendel ben Menachem Mendel.) In any event, we see that
for whatever reason, the Baal Shem Tov is closely associated with Motzaei
having recently celebrated the holiday of Shavuos, the yahrtzeit of the
Baal Shem Tov, Iíd like to share with you the following story:
was once a pious and scholarly disciple of the Baal Shem Tov who was sent by the
Baal Shem Tov to serve as rav in a certain city. Everything went well in
the beginning. The young man took his responsibilities seriously and worked hard
to improve the physical and spiritual condition of his flock. For a long time
everyone was pleased by the new rav.
two incidents occurred that aroused a very great kitrug (decree) against
him up in Heaven:
day the Rav was sitting and learning in his house when all of a sudden he became
very thirsty. In those days there was no such thing as a faucet; all water had
to be painstakingly brought from a stream or well by the local water-carrier.
it turned out, not a drop of water was left in the Ravís house that day, and
he was so thirsty that it was preventing him from concentrating. Looking out the
window, he spied the water-carrier with two big buckets on his shoulders. The
man was already down the street and walking rapidly in the opposite direction,
but the Rav leaned out the window and yelled at him to stop.
the water-carrier didnít even pause but continued walking. The Rav raised his
voice and yelled out the window a second time, but this also had no effect on
the retreating figure.
that point the Rav became very angry, interpreting the slight as an affront to
his rabbinical authority. He ran out of the house and down the street after the
water-carrier, and when he finally caught up with him, slapped him across the
cheek. "When a rav calls to you, you must obey," he reprimanded
him. "You cannot make believe you havenít heard." The water-carrier
was quiet and said nothing in his defense.
to the Rav, however, was the fact that the humble water-carrier was really a
hidden tzaddik, who had been bringing water to a group of other hidden tzaddikim
in the vicinity. The Ravís anger was entirely unjustified, and precisely
because of his greatness, a powerful kitrug was aroused against him.
second incident occurred a short time later. In that particular town lived a talmid
chacham who had lost all his wealth, whereupon the community had taken it
upon itself to support him and his family. A special shliach was
dispatched to all the homes to collect money, and every week the talmid
chacham received an anonymous stipend that allowed him to live in dignity.
occasion, however, it happened that there were other poor people in need, and
the donors to the talmid chachamís fund refused to contribute, claiming
that they had already given enough tzedaka. When the Rav heard what was
happening, he declared that it was unfair to punish the many on account of a
single individual, and ruled that the needs of the many must take precedence. At
that point several of the regular donors stopped contributing to the talmid
chachamís fund entirely, and others cut down on their contributions. From
week to week the amount that was collected shrank, until eventually the person
in charge decided that it wasnít worthwhile to expend all that effort for a
few pennies, and the venture was abandoned. The next Erev Shabbos the talmid
chacham received nothing. He burst into tears, creating a very big kitrug
against the Rav.
trial was held in the Celestial court, and it was decided to deliver the Rav
into the hands of the Satan. The Satan could do anything he wished with himÖ
Satan was very pleased by his new victim. After much consideration he decided
that he would not kill the Rav, but would punish him with a fate worse than
death: he would cause him to renounce his faith, rachmana litzlan!
following Shabbos, immediately after davening Shacharis, the Rav was
seized with an inexplicable urge to convert. Rushing home from shul, he
tore off his tallis and started running through the streets in the
direction of the priestís house, as if in the throes of a delirium.
the priest opened his door and saw the Rav standing on his threshold he was very
surprised. He knew the Rav very well, and even secretly respected him. He asked
him the reason for his visit.
wish to renounce my faith," the Rav replied. "And the sooner the
priest was shocked, to say the least, yet overjoyed by the huge fish that had
inadvertently swum into his net. However, he was concerned that it might be a
passing fancy on the part of the Jew, and insisted that he come inside and be
his guest. After plying the Rav with food and drink, he left him alone to
contemplate the fateful step he was about to take. In the meantime, the priest
hurried off to prepare for the conversion ceremony.
Rav, who had drunk a glass of whiskey, climbed into the nearest bed and
immediately fell asleep.
of the Baal Shem Tovís customs was to mentally take stock of all his talmidim
during Shalosh Seudos, the third meal of the holy Shabbos. One by one the
Baal Shem Tov would bring them to mind, checking on what each was doing to
determine if special help was needed.
Shabbos, however, when the Baal Shem tried to think about the Rav he couldnít
find him anywhere, neither in the higher realms nor in the lower. The Baal Shem
Tov utilized all kinds of kavanos and yichudim until he finally
located him in the priestís house, about to renounce his faith.
Baal Shem Tov immediately protested to the Heavenly court, but the court
insisted that the Ravís punishment was just. The Baal Shem Tov disagreed, and
started davening on the Ravís behalf. He began to enumerate all of his
many merits, but to no avail. Then, as a last resort, the Baal Shem Tov happened
to mention that the Rav was very careful to wash netilas yadayim for Melaveh
the Rebbe MH"M was always very makpid to wash for Melaveh
Malka with the Rebbetzin, aíh. During the meal, they would listen
to Rabbi Winebergís Tanya shiur on the radio.]
Baal Shem Tov was then told that this particular zíchus had the power
to save the Rav from destruction. But on one condition - that he wash his hands
for Melaveh Malka this Motzaei Shabbos, as well.
that the Baal Shem Tov woke up from his díveikus. Handing a challa
to one of his talmidim he instructed him, "Take this and go. And may
G-d help you."
Baal Shem Tovís disciple was already accustomed to such missions. He did not
ask questions but set out at once after reciting Baruch HaMavdil. He had
no idea where he was going, but surely Hashem would help. A few steps later and
he found himself standing outside an unfamiliar house. It was the home of the
priest, many hundreds of miles awayÖ
the second time that day the priest was surprised to find a Jew on his doorstep.
Ushering him inside, he led him into the room where the Rav was babbling in a
drunken stupor about renouncing his faith. The Chassid then understood why the
Baal Shem Tov had sent him.
him the Baal Shem Tovís challa, the talmid attempted to interest
the Rav in eating. The Rav was about to grab a piece and put it in his mouth
when the talmid stopped him. "Listen here, my friend. You havenít
yet converted, which means that you are still obligated to wash your hands and
make a bracha before eating." The Rav agreed, washed netilas
yadayim and took a bite.
kedusha in the Baal Shem Tovís challa had an immediate effect.
With the very first bite the Rav awakened as if from a dream and was instantly
cured of his insanity. "What I have done?" he began to wail. "How
could I have even thought of renouncing my faith, rachmana litzlan? Will
I ever be able to find a tikkun for such a terrible sin?"
talmid calmed him down and offered him encouragement. In the same way the
Baal Shem Tov has always taken care of you and come to your rescue, so will he
continue to lead you along the right path and show you a tikkun.
how can I even go to the Baal Shem Tov?" the Rav wept. "Mezhibozh is
many thousands of parsangs from hereÖ"
not be afraid," the disciple reassured him. "I myself arrived here in
a miraculous manner. Hold on to my gartel and we will start walking, and
with G-dís help we will arrive at our destination."
sooner had they taken a couple of steps than the two men were miraculously
transported to Mezhibozh and were standing outside the Baal Shem Tovís house.
In fact, the Baal Shem Tov was still sitting at the table with his talmidim,
engrossed in thought. The Rav resolved that he would not leave until the Baal
Shem Tov gave him a tikkun, and indeed, he eventually returned to Hashem
in complete teshuva.
the Melaveh Malka seuda on Motzaei Shabbos, the Beis Yosef
comments on the Tur: "There is a certain limb in the bodyÖthat only
receives its nourishment from food eaten on Motzaei Shabbos."
the Rebbe MH"M has explained (see Volume 36 of Likkutei Sichos), we
see from this that the Melaveh Malka meal has a certain advantage over
all other seudos, even those of Shabbos, in that it is the only seuda
from which the etzem luz (luz bone) derives benefit. (The etzem luz
is the single bone from which the physical body will be reconstructed during the
Resurrection of the Dead. It can never be destroyed and never decomposes.)
is the etzem luz indestructible? The answer is found in the seifer
Eliyahu Rabba, which explains that this bone derived no benefit from the Eitz
HaDaas (Tree of Knowledge): If the etzem luz is only sustained from
the Melaveh Malka meal on Motzaei Shabbos, and Adam and Chava ate from
the Eitz HaDaas on Friday afternoon, the etzem luz never even had
the opportunity to derive benefit from the Tree and remained untouched by the
sin. Moreover, as the only reason death was introduced into the world was the
sin of the Eitz HaDaas, the etzem luz transcends death entirely,
for which reason the body will be rebuilt from it when the dead are resurrected.
the Rebbe: If the eztem luz is totally beyond death, how can it derive
any benefit from the physical act of eating? Conversely, if the bone can
derive benefit from a seuda, why not the seudos of Shabbos, which
are "a semblance of the World to Come"?
the Rebbe answers: The main idea of the etzem luz is not just that it is
beyond death, but that it is the foundation from which the body will be
reconstructed after Tíchiyas HaMeisim. In other words, not only is the etzem
luz eternal but it is the vehicle through which eternal life is introduced
into a level of existence that actually does relate to death.
the objective sense, Shabbos is a "semblance of the World to Come" and
transcends death, yet it remains disconnected and separate from the rest of the
week. The "eternal life" of Shabbos is thus unable to fully permeate
the dimensions of time and space of the regular weekday.
only seuda from which the etzem luz derives benefit is Melaveh
Malka, which is technically during the week (the realm relating to death),
yet at the same time incorporates the holiness of Shabbos into a
"weekday" meal. As is explained in the siddur of the Arizal,
"One should rejoice during this meal as one rejoices at a Shabbos seuda,
for it contains a reflection of Shabbos." Moreover, by means of the Melaveh
Malka, "the light of holiness of the Shabbos seudos is extended
into the seudos of the weekdays."
of this helps explain the special connection between the Baal Shem Tov, Motzaei
Shabbos, and Melaveh Malka: The whole point of the Baal Shem Tov and the
revelation of Chassidus was not that the Baal Shem Tov should be holy and
eternal and transcend death, but that the "wellsprings" themselves -
not just the water they contain - should spread out, overflow and permeate all
levels of existence, even the very lowest, "beneath which there is
nothing." In other words, it is specifically the lowest levels that must be
permeated with the eternity and truth of the "wellsprings."
the wellsprings outward" is the preparation and vessel for the coming of
Moshiach. As the Rebbe MH"M emphasized so often, disseminating Chassidus is
not just a segula for bringing Moshiach, but expresses the entire concept
and function of Moshiach himself: drawing G-dliness down into the lowest
physical planes of reality, culminating in Biblical prophecy: "And the
glory of the L-rd shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see that the mouth of
G-d has spoken"; "And the world will be filled with the knowledge of
G-d, as the waters cover the sea." In the Messianic era, all levels of
reality will be entirely above the limitations of death.
process was initiated by the Baal Shem Tov, and with each succeeding generation
the wellsprings were brought lower and lower. With the advent of Chabad
Chassidus, the wellsprings were allowed to permeate the inner powers of the
soul. And although every generation brought Moshiach one step closer, the
holiness in the world was still too spiritual for Moshiach to arrive - until
is precisely in our generation, coarse and materialistic as we are, that the
process of bringing G-dliness down into the lowest levels will be completed.
Every sticker and flag, every billboard and gimmick brings the world closer to
its ultimate fulfillment, when "even the stone from the wall" will cry
out, "There is none but Him."
concept is personified in Melech HaMoshiach himself. The Rebbe Melech
HaMoshiach shlita is chai víkayam in a physical, corporeal body, and
not only in the spiritual sense. That this is axiomatic is clear not only to
intellectual Jews but to everyone.
conclude: The declaration of "Yechi" must burst forth from all
elements of reality, even inanimate matter. Not only should we say it after davening,
following "Lecha Dodi," and kriyas haíTorah, but also
when we are occupied in totally "pareve" activities. For the
more outward we spread the message (yarmulkes, wedding invitations,
etc.), the more the wellsprings themselves will be carried to their ultimate
Adoneinu Moreinu VíRabbeinu Melech HaMoshiach Líolam Vaíed!"