The soup was cold and watery; the small bits of meat dry and leathery. There was no light for study, and anyway, there were no books to be read. When they were done with dinner, the husband motioned them to the edges of the room, indicating they should sleep on the floor. The Hasidim wanted to at least go outside and sleep in the beauty of nature, but the Baal Shem Tov had made a holy oath – and it would not be broken.
Soon after, the husband retired to his bedroom and slammed the door behind him. The Baal Shem Tov and his disciples laid on the dirt floor and tried to sleep, but no one gathered more than a few minutes of rest all night.
The next day was even worse – the husband brought out an old siddur, raced through the morning service, reading just three verses from the portion, and then went back to his bedroom. Meals were simply the remnants of the soup, stale challah and leathery bits of meat. But each one held to the oath, and did not violate the husband’s austere practice.
Finally it was time to make Havdalah, and as soon as it was done they were each ready to hurry out the door. “Wait!” barked the husband again, “Are you so rude that you would not thank my wife for her generous gifts?”
The Baal Shem Tov held up his hand, and slowly turned to the husband. “Yes, of course. It would only be polite.” And with that the bedroom door opened, and the wife emerged.
Want to read the first part of the story? Check here. The story concludes in the next post…