A Melaveh Malka Story
By Rabbi Levi Yitzchok Ginsberg

There 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

Nevertheless, 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 Shabbos.

Accordingly, having recently celebrated the holiday of Shavuos, the yahrtzeit of the Baal Shem Tov, Iíd like to share with you the following story:

There 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.

Then two incidents occurred that aroused a very great kitrug (decree) against him up in Heaven:

One 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.

As 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.

Surprisingly, 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.

At 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.

Unbeknownst 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.

The 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.

On 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.

A 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

The 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!

The 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.

When 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.

"I wish to renounce my faith," the Rav replied. "And the sooner the better!"

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.

The Rav, who had drunk a glass of whiskey, climbed into the nearest bed and immediately fell asleep.

* * *

One 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.

That 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.

The 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 Malka.

[Incidentally, 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.]

The 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.

At 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."

The 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

For 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.

Offering 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.

The 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?"

The 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.

"But how can I even go to the Baal Shem Tov?" the Rav wept. "Mezhibozh is many thousands of parsangs from hereÖ"

"Do 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."

No 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.

* * *

Concerning 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."

As 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.)

Why 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.

Asks 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"?

And 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.

In 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.

The 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."

All 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."

"Spreading 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.

This 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 now.

It 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."

This 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.

To 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 destination.

"Yechi Adoneinu Moreinu VíRabbeinu Melech HaMoshiach Líolam Vaíed!"


At that point the Rav became very angry, interpreting the slight as an affront to his rabbinical authority...




The Satan was very pleased by his new victim. After much consideration he decided that he would not kill him, but would punish him with a fate worse than death...




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...


Home | Contents | Archives | Contact E-MailInteractive | Chat | Advertise

©Copyright. No content may be reprinted without permission.