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When someone comes to you and tells you your own story…

[I don't remember where I found this story, decades ago, It's a bit longer than many stories, but I think you won't regret reading it to the end and considering it in an open-ended way. For example, a good friend once gave me a custom-made T-shirt with these words on the front: "My life is based on a true story." Since then, I have been aware that God comes to me occasionally to tell me my own story, Thanks. Bil]

Just before the Baal Shem Tov died, he gave his disciples various tasks to carry on his mission. To the last disciple he gave the work of going all over Europe to retell the stories he remembered from the Master. Because this seemed hardly a prestigious job, the disciple was disappointed. But the Baal Shem Tov told him he would not have to do it forever; he would receive a sign when he should stop and then he could live out the rest of his life in ease.

After many years of telling the stories, he heard of a nobleman in Italy who would pay a gold ducat for each new story told of the Baal Shem Tov. But upon arriving at the nobleman's castle, the disciple couldn't remember a single story. He was mortified.

The nobleman urged him to stay a few days, hoping he would eventually remember something. On the third day the disciple protested, out of sheer embarrassment, that he must go. As he was about to leave, he remembered this one story.

Once the disciple went with the Baal Shem Tov to Turkey where the streets were decorated for the Christian's Easter festival. The disciple was upset, for Jews were not safe during the Christian Holy Week and Easter. They were fair game for the Christians shouting God-Killer! In fact, it was the custom during the Easter festival to kill one Jew in reparation.

Still, they went. They went into the Jewish quarter of the city where the Jews were huddled behind their shutters out of fear. Imagine how startled and surprised they were when the Baal Shem Tov stood up and opened all the windows and stood there in full view!

Seeing the bishop leading the procession, the Baal Shem Tov told his disciple, “Go tell the bishop I want to see him.” Was he out of his mind? Did he want to die?

When given the message, the bishop seemed frightened and agitated. But he went. He went and was secluded for three hours with the Baal Shem Tov. Then the Master came out and without saying anything else, told his disciples that they were ready to go back home.

As the disciple was about to apologize to the nobleman for the insignificance of the story, he noticed the enormous impact it had on the man. The nobleman said through his tears, “Your story has saved my soul. You see, I was there that day. I was that bishop. I had descended from a long line of distinguished rabbis, but one day during great persecution I had abandoned the faith and converted to Christianity. In time, the Christians made me a bishop. I had accepted everything, and even went along with the killing of the Jews each year until that one year.

“The night before the festival I had a terrible dream of the Day of Judgment. So when you came the very next day with a message from the Baal Shem Tov, I knew I had to go with you.. For three hours he and I talked. He told me there still might be hope for my soul. He told me to sell my good and retire on what was left and live a life of good deeds and holiness. There might still be hope. And his last words to me were these: ‘When a man comes to you and tells you your own story, you will know that your sins are forgiven.’

“So I have been asking everyone I knew for stories from the Baal Shem Tov. And I recognized you immediately when you came and I was happy. But when I saw that all the stories had been taken from you, I recognized God's judgment. Yet now you have remembered one story, my story, and I know now that the Baal Shem Tov has interceded on my behalf and that God has forgiven me.”


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