leaves no trace behind,
nor it needs a guide.
Baal Shem Tov has not written any treatise – treatise is a dirty word in the world of mysticism – but he told many beautiful stories, so beautiful that I would like to relate one of them to you just as an example so you can taste the quality of the man.
A woman comes to Baal Shem. The woman is childless; she wants a child. She bugs Baal Shem continuously saying, “If you bless me everything is possible. Bless me please. I want a child.”
Finally, tired – yes, even Baal Shem can get tired of a nagging woman – he says, “Do you want a boy child or a girl?”
The woman was tremendously happy; she said, “A boy, of course.”
Baal Shem said, “Then listen to this story. My mother was also childless, and she bugged and nagged the rabbi of the town continuously to bless her. Finally the rabbi said, ‘First bring me a beautiful cap.’ My mother,” Baal Shem said, “made a beautiful cap and went to the rabbi.”
The cap was so beautiful that Baal Shem’s mother said, “I don’t want anything in return, just to see you in this cap is so beautiful. I am tremendously gratified. You are not obliged to me, I am obliged to you. Thank you, rabbi.”
“And my mother went away. That’s how she became pregnant,” Baal Shem said, “and I was born.”
The woman said, “Great. So tomorrow I will come with a beautiful cap.”
The next day she returned with a very beautiful cap. Baal Shem accepted and did not even say “Thank you.” The woman waited and waited, then she said, “What about the child?”
Baal Shem said, “Forget all about the child! The cap is so beautiful, I am obliged to you. I must say thank you to you. Do you remember the story I told you? The woman did not ask anything in return, that’s why she conceived a child, and a child like me” – like Baal Shem.
“But you have come with the desire to get something. Just because of this cap do you want a child like Baal Shem? Forget all about it,” he said, “and don’t come again – ever.”
There are many things that can be said only through stories. Baal Shem has said the fundamental: Do not ask and it shall be given. Do not ask – that is the basic condition.
The Hassidism that arose out of Baal Shem’s stories is the most beautiful flowering that has ever happened. Jews have done nothing comparable to Hassidism. Hassidism is a small current, but is still alive, still flowing.