Vintage post card depicting scenes of Karlsbad

A Story: 36 Unanswered Questions…

When the Pnei Yehoshua offered his colleague, R’ DovBer of Mezerich, to seek the Ba’al Shem Tov’s blessing for his ailing legs, he responded that he has 36 major questions on his philosophy and wouldn’t see him • R’ Dov Ber Became his successor, but his questions remained unanswered…

The wind rustled softly through the treetops as the sweet smell of honeysuckle filled the air. Delicate bluebirds chirped melodiously as if to welcome the venerable guest who made his annual trip to the resort town of Karlsbad.

Rabbi Dovber slowly walked through the lush forest, leaning heavily on his cane, heading towards the bubbling springs that would provide some much needed respite from the aching in his legs.

As the sun tickled against the mountaintops, streaking the sky with brush strokes of orange and pink, the Maggid began making his way towards the impressive wooden house at the edge of the thick shrubbery. His dear friend, Rabbi Yehoshua Falk, the author of the famed work P’nei Yehoshua, greeted him warmly. After some steaming tea, they immediately delved into some deep Talmudic passage, not re-emerging until the wee hours of the morning.

Such was their pattern, year in year out. Both tremendous scholars. Both wonderful companions. Neither had traveled to the Baal Shem Tov, and whenever the Pnei Yehoshua broached the topic of perhaps visiting this mysteriously mystical personality to seek healing for his ailing feet, Rabbi Dovber shrugged it off. He claimed that he had thirty six heavily laden questions about the Baal Shem Tov’s way of life and could not possibly become one of his students. Or so he thought…

Months passed. The Pnei Yehoshua was standing before a packed Beis Midrash of students in his hometoen Lvov, giving over an intricate Torah lecture, the stars twinkling overhead like handfuls of crushed glass. The sudden sound of an approaching carriage broke through the stillness. A dusty messenger burst into the Study Hall.

“My master is in the carriage outside!” He blurted. “He would like to speak to the Rav immediately!” The Pnei Yehoshua politely asked him to wait until the end of the session, but the determined boy didn’t budge. The Pnei Yehoshua quickly went out to the wagon to see what the urgent matter was.

An unfamiliar sage sat on the back seat. An aura of calm holiness surrounded him. server information “I wanted to let you know,” the man declared, “that your town’s Shochet has been feeding the entire city non-kosher meat!” And with that, the carriage sped away, leaving a cloud of dust in its wake.

Mystified, the Rav finished his class and summoned the Shochet to his study. Astonishingly, the ritual slaughterer broke down and admitted that he had been serving the townspeople non-kosher for extended period of time!

Strolling back to his wooden house at the edge of the forest that night, the Pnei Yehoshua thought to himself that this mysterious sage must surely be the famed Baal Shem Tov.

Summer turned to fall which morphed into winter. The tall trees were frosted with layers of snow and sprinkled with crisp icicles. Yet the chilly winds didn’t deter the dedicated students of the city of Lvov to trudge their way through the soft whiteness and be warmed by the passionate words of their Rav, the Pnei Yehoshua.

One chilly day, a carriage came to a halt at the entrance of the Beis Midrash and before long, a snow-flaked young messenger boy could be seen in the doorway, his cheeks flushed a gentle pink. Recognizing him immediately as the assistant of the holy sage who had mysteriously appeared a couple months before, the Rav paused his lecture and quickly followed the lad to the waiting carriage.

“Reb Yid,” said the venerable-looking Jew seated in the back seat, “when Reb Dovber comes to stay by you in a couple of months, tell him that his legs will not be healed until he comes to pay me a visit!” And with a loud whip of the horses, the carriage was off into the night, a trail of disturbed snowflakes billowing behind it.

Convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was indeed the Baal Shem Tov, the Pnei Yehoshua eagerly awaited the arrival of his colleague. Sure enough, R’ Dovber arrived a while later, limping conspicuously. Together they studied. Together they philosophized. Together they discussed the Baal Shem Tov’s prediction – that R’ Dovber must pay him a visit if he wanted to be healed. Cautiously, haltingly, Reb Dovber agreed. He would travel to Mezibuzh and observe from the sidelines.

A year passed by quickly and as the squirrels skipped between the trees, Reb Dovber could be seen merrily making his way through the forest, accompanied by a content and satisfied aura in lieu of his sturdy cane.

Arriving again in Karlsbad, the Maggid was overflowing with praise for the Baal Shem Tov and his ways. Each line that they studied together was accompanied by deep explanations and joyful singing. With each chapter they completed, they felt as if they had not just sharpened their understanding, but enhanced their connection to their Maker.

“Tell me,” the Pnei Yehoshua questioned his inspired colleague. “What happened to all of your unanswered questions? Where did all your doubts disappear?”

“You see,” the Maggid explained, “I was indeed full of questions. Yet my questions were addressed to a human being of flesh and blood. Upon discovering that we are dealing with someone on a completely different realm, a G-dly man, whose lofty level is impossible for the human mind to grasp, all my concerns simply melted away…”

This Story was heard from a grandson of the Pnei Yehoshua and was recorded by R’ Ya’akov Kudainer, in his momentous Sipurim Noraim – an early book of Chassidic tales all witnessed or heard on first account.