Hei Iyar, 5776
Once the Baal Shem Tov had a dream in which a deceased man appeared to him. The soul was deeply troubled because his son had forsaken the path of Torah. "I cannot rest because of my son. Please, rebbe, try to help him."
The Besht lost no time. He harnessed his famous horses and in hours the carriage was standing outside the mansion of the wealthy son in Paris. The Besht's attendant knocked forcefully on the door, but was repeatedly rebuffed. Finally the master and mistress were awakened. The mistress peered into the carriage, and overwhelmed by the stately appearance of the man seated within, she entreated her husband to invite him to stay.
"We have such a large, empty house. Please let him stay."
The Besht was given a comfortable room, word soon spread that a great wonder-working rabbi had arrived. People began to converge on the grand home. The mistress was very curious about the goings on, and engaged many of the petitioners in conversation. People began to speak about the wondrous cures that were effected by the potions and blessings of the rabbi, and the mistress of the house began to hope that she, too, could be helped.
That night she asked her husband to go to the Baal Shem Tov for his blessing and advice. "For so many years we have been denied the blessing of children. Perhaps this holy man can help us."
Her husband was uninterested. After all, the best doctors on the continent were unable to help them. What could an itinerant rabbi do for them? But his wife was relentless, and in the end, he acceded to her wish.
The Besht received the man and inquired about his business. "I manufacture wine," the man replied.
"Do you make kosher wine?" inquired the Besht.
"No," he answered.
"Well, then, at the next harvest, I want you to make a run of kosher wine. When you bring it to Medzibozh I can guarantee you a good profit."
The man just snorted. He did quite well, thank you, without the bother of kosher wine. Then he made his request to the Besht. The Besht produced several vials of medicine for the man's wife, and promised that in a year she would bear a son. The merchant was skeptical, but at least he had satisfied his wife. His wife was overjoyed and took the medicines at once. The Baal Shem Tov left, but true to his word, within a few months the woman conceived.
The merchant decided that since the Baal Shem Tov's blessing bore fruit, he would make the kosher wine and bring it to Medzibozh. He loaded the barrels of kosher wine onto several wagons and set out for Medzibozh.
After several days on the road, he lost his way. When the merchant alighted from his wagon to check directions, the driver unwittingly set off without him. Realizing that his master was lost the driver returned and frantically searched for him, but to no avail. He was forced to return to his mistress alone. The wife resumed the search, but was also unsuccessful. It seemed that the merchant had vanished.
The merchant wandered around for some time, but finally found shelter in a small shack. There he found a group of men playing cards and joined them. It wasn't long before he lost not only his money, but some of his expensive garments as well. Dejected, he resumed his travels, searching for someone who might take pity on him.
He wandered for hours until he came to the small cottage of a shepherd and his family. Out of the goodness of his heart, the shepherd supplied him with new clothing, food and drink.
The merchant wandered for many months from village to village in his attempt to return home. It seemed that each time he neared his home some perplexing situation intervened. From time to time he stopped at Houses of Study where the local Jews extended their warm hospitality. This experience humbled him and he began to examine his own heart as he had never done before. He felt drawn to Torah and especially to the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov, of whom he became something of a chasid.
One day at a gathering of the Besht's chasidim the Rebbe himself offered the man a glass of wine. The label on the bottle was that of his own company--a non-kosher wine!
The Besht laughed. "Don't worry about the wine. Although it is your own manufacture, this is the kosher wine which I requested of you. Your own wagons loaded with the wine are standing just outside the city. Know that it is now time for you to return home. Hurry, for your wife is ready to give birth to your son.""
Reprinted from Lchaim #292 with permission.