Tetzaveh: The Man Who Thought He Was God

Later, when Lord Elokim, the master of the castle, returned, his servants ran to him and said, "Lord Elokim, a Rabbi has come to visit. He is waiting for you in the library."

6 min

Rabbi Tzvi Meir Cohn

Posted on 04.02.22

Parshat Tetzaveh
"You shall command the B'nei Israel (Children of Israel) and have them bring you clear olive oil, made from the olives that were crushed for lighting, to keep the lamp burning constantly." (Shemot 27:20)
The advice given in the Holy Zohar is, as the President of the Academy in Gan Eden said: "A wooden beam which does not catch fire should be splintered, and similarly a body into which the light of the soul does not penetrate, should
be crushed." (Zohar III, 168a; Tanya Ch. 29)
* * *
Once, the Baal Shem Tov had a vivid dream of a Heavenly man speaking to him, "Dear Holy Rabbi, I beg of you to save the soul of my grandson who lives in Vienna. After he was blessed with great wealth, in his arrogance, he started to believe that he is God. He lives in a castle and has renamed his servants with the names of Heavenly angels, like Michael the butler, and Gabriel the wine steward. Worse, he has everyone call him Lord Elokim (One of God's Names). I beg of you to wake him up from his delusions. My soul is connected to him and I can't rest in peace until his conscience is awakened. Please help."
The Baal Shem Tov answered in the dream, "Holy Jew, I'll go to Vienna and do what I can to awaken his soul."
On Friday morning, when the Baal Shem Tov awoke from this dream, he called his devoted wagon driver, "Alexei, immediately harness the horses to the wagon. We're going to take a long journey and we'll have to leave immediately to reach our destination before the arrival of Shabbat."
After the Baal Shem Tov was comfortably seated and the wagon was underway, he told the driver, "Alexei, put down the reins of the horses and join me. Here take a big l'chaim (drink of alcohol), it's going to be quite a journey."
Soon Alexei fell asleep and the Baal Shem Tov was in deep meditation causing kefitzat haderech (spiritual shortening of the way) so that the wagon sped along at a speed allowing them to reach Vienna in a few short hours.
Alexei awoke just as the horses brought the wagon to a stop in front of a large castle. The servants of the castle were mesmerized by the Polish Rabbi with the flaming beard who stepped off the wagon.
"Could you please tell the master of the castle that he has a visitor?" requested the Baal Shem Tov of the servants.
"We're sorry Rabbi, but he is away looking at some of his land holdings." Then the servants invited the Rabbi into the castle and helped Alexei put the wagon and horses in the barn for the Sabbath.
Later, when Lord Elokim, the master of the castle, returned, his servants ran to him and said, "Lord Elokim, a Rabbi has come to visit. He is waiting for you in the library."
When Lord Elokim came into the library and saw the Baal Shem Tov, he was transfixed.
"Shalom Aleichem, Rabbi. It must have been a long trip. Won't you stay here for a few days as my guest? Please join me for dinner."
Then he called his servant, "Michael, please make our guest comfortable. Rabbi, you'll have to excuse me, I have some business to which I must attend."
Later that night, Lord Elokim passed the guest room expecting to find his guest asleep. Instead, he found the room lit with candles and the Baal Shem
Tov sitting at a Shabbat table covered with challah, wine, fish and chicken.
And the Baal Shem Tov, with his eyes closed, was chanting over and over the verse "Mashpeil gayim aday aretz…" ("He humbles the haughty into the earth…" found in the daily prayers before the Eighteen Benedictions).
Lord Elokim sat down at the Shabbat table and found his heart opening to the words of the Baal Shem Tov's chant. But then he started to feel uncomfortable and was confused about what he was experiencing.
As he looked out the window overlooking a Catholic monastery located directly next door to his castle, he noticed the Abbot sitting at his desk and studying by candle light. He felt an uncontrollable desire to go next door and speak with the Abbot.
Without thinking, he left the guest room and rushed next door. When he knocked on the door to the monastery, he was greeted by two monks, "Welcome Lord Elokim." He told them he wished an audience with the Abbot.
"His Holiness will be down shortly."  The Abbot took his time before he arrived. "Lord Elokim, I am honored by your visit. Please join me in my study where we can have a drink."
After they were comfortable and sipping a strong drink, Lord Elokim announced, "My dear Abbot, I wish to convert immediately to Christianity."
The Abbot was very pleased to save the soul of his neighbor. "Lord Elokim, this is a serious decision. How do you know you won't change your mind tomorrow, in the light of day?" asked the Abbot.
"Your Holiness, my heart drives me to this. My only wish is to convert to Christianity. To prove my sincerity, I'll even transfer all of my possessions to the Church."
The Abbot replied, "Would you even sign a document transferring all of your possessions to the Church?"
Lord Elokim immediately consented and the Abbot had a monk draw up the documents. As soon as Lord Elokim had signed them, the Abbot ordered the most potent wine to be brought up from the wine cellar to celebrate the generosity of Lord Elokim. After a few drinks, Lord Elokim fell into a deep sleep.
Meanwhile, the Baal Shem Tov had been chanting over and over the words "Mashpeil gayim aday aretz…." ("He humbles the haughty into the earth…")
After several hours, Lord Elokim awoke in a daze. When he sat up and realized that he had been lying on the dirt floor in the basement of his castle, he started to yell for his servants. Several monks, carrying a torch and followed by the Abbot, came running down the steps to the cellar.
"What are you doing in my castle!" yelled Lord Elokim in an aggravated voice.
"Just a minute," said the Abbot, "this happens to be our castle." He drew the signed document from his cloak and held it up to Lord Elokim. "Don't you remember last night when you decided to convert to Christianity and transferred all of your property to the Church?"
Lord Elokim ran past the Abbot and the monks to the guest room where the Baal Shem Tov was still chanting the words of the Prayers, "Mashpeil gayim
aday aretz…"
Lord Elokim realized that the Rabbi was no ordinary person. He fell down before the Baal Shem Tov. "Holy Rabbi. Please help me. I beg of you. I don't know what to do."
The Baal Shem Tov told Lord Elokim about the appearance of his holy grandfather in the dream and how the grandfather couldn't rest in Heaven until his grandson had returned to the ways of his forbearers, that of a Jewish life filled with acts of kindness.
When Lord Elokim heard about his grandfather, he confessed his cruelty to people and promised not to act that way again. He begged the Baal Shem Tov,
"Please Rebbe, tell me how to heal my soul."
The Baal Shem Tov took his hand and said, "I know your repentance is from the heart. Come look out the window into the monastery with me."
The Baal Shem Tov started again to chant over and over, "He humbles the haughty into the earth…"
Just then, Lord Elokim could see the Abbot light a candle on his desk to read.
Suddenly, the Abbot got up from his desk and tripped, causing the candle to fall over and ignite all the papers on his desk, including the document transferring Lord Elokim's property to the Church.
The Abbot could not extinguish the flames on his desk and finally he ran from the room screaming for help.
After this, Lord Elokim was a transformed person. He changed his name to Rachamim, the Compassionate One, and began living his daily life according to the ancient Hebrew ways of the Torah. From then on, he traveled at least once a year to his teacher and mentor, the holy Baal Shem Tov.
And so it was.
Tzvi Meir Cohn attended Yeshiva Hadar Hatorah in Crown Heights, Brooklyn after completing his university studies in Engineering and Law. While studying at the Yeshiva, he discovered a deep connection to the stories and teachings of the Baal Shem Tov. His many books about the Baal Shem Tov can be found in the Breslev Store. He can be contacted at howard@cohnpatents.com.

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