The Teacher’s Helper

The angels loved Srulic’s accomplishments but the Satan was angry because of the young assistant melamed’s amazing influence on the children…

3 min

Rabbi Tzvi Meir Cohn

Posted on 10.05.2010

“The Baal Shem Tov – Early Years”, Part 4

In the last episode, Rebbetzyn Sarah took her five year old son, Yisrael, to the daily morning minyan to say Kaddish for the soul of his father, Rabbi Eliezer. It happened that two men, one with a knapsack and a walking stick, began to frequent the little study room next to the synagogue; and there they studied Torah.
The men who carried a knapsack and a walking stick called the little boy to him, patted him on the head and embraced him. And as little Yisrael always came early, there was always time for the stranger to teach him Torah before the people gathered in the synagogue for the morning prayers. But the stranger with the knapsack told Yisrael not to tell anyone about the learning. It was to be their very own secret. Not even his mother was to know that they were learning Torah together.
With shining eyes little Israel promised. And indeed he kept his secret well, so that not even his mother knew.
And not to long thereafter, Rebbetzyn Sarah joined her husband Rabbi Eliezer in the next world and little Srulick was left an orphan. The local community did their best to take care of him but he was such a free spirit. For the next several years he lived with different families. They would care for him and send him to Cheder (school). But each time, after a day or two at Cheder, he would sneak away and go into the forest. There, little Srulick felt safe and happy as he communed with G-d and nature.
At first, the school teacher and members of the community would search for him, scold him, and return him to school. But eventually, they realized they couldn't control him. They told each other, "After all, he does seem happy and well adjusted, especially for an orphaned child, G-d forbid."
At about 10 years old, he moved to the village of Horodenka and became a teacher's helper. His job was to accompanying the young children to and from Cheder each day. At first everything went well. Srulick taught the children songs praising G-d and sang with them as they walked to and from Cheder. The songs had a powerful effect on the children and they seemed to grow happier each day.
Being that children are so beloved by G-d, their feelings of joy soon began to spread throughout the little town, which did not go unnoticed in the spiritual worlds. The angels were happy because they thought that this might be the heralding of Moshiach. But the Satan was angry because such spiritual uplifting was interfering with his work. So the Satan appeared before G-d and requested that this spiritual influx cease because it was not yet time for Moshiach to come. G-d reluctantly agreed.
So, the Satan came to the earth near the place where the boy Srulick was living. The Satan approached all manner of nature, from plants and trees to insects and animals, to help him in his task. But none were ready to frighten or attack Srulick. After all, they excalimed, "he loves each and every one of us."
But the Satan didn't give up so easily. He thought of a new plan to stop Yisrael from creating such a stir in Heaven.
To be continued.
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 on Amazon. He can be contacted at

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