The following is a true story about the great Kabbalist, known as Rav Israel, ben Eliezer, better known as the Master of the Good Name (Baal Shem Tov, in Hebrew).
THE KABBALIST AND THE TEN THIEVES
Isaac the Water Carrier lived in a tiny village located in the Ukraine during the mid 1700s. Isaac and his wife Miriam had an only son named David. When David turned 7 years old he was stricken with a mysterious illness. With each passing day, the young boy grew weaker. Isaac the Water Carrier visited countless doctors looking for a cure but to no avail. Miriam could see in her baby boy’s eyes that time was running out. She could sense the Angel of Death hovering over his bedroom. Little David desperately needed a miracle.
It so happened that one of the greatest Kabbalists in the world lived in the same village as the Water Carrier. Throughout history, Kabbalists were known as healers and great sages who supposedly could talk to angels and perform all kinds of miracles and wonders. Isaac the Water Carrier’s last option was to pay a visit to the old Kabbalist.
When he learned of the Water Carrier’s heartrending situation, the Kabbalist was greatly saddened. Isaac begged the old sage to do something in the way of prayer and blessings. The Kabbalist took hold of Isaac’s worn hands and promised to do his best.
That night the great mystic ascended high into the spiritual worlds utilizing secret prayers and otherworldly meditations that were known only to a small circle of Kabbalists throughout the ages. When he reached the Gates of Heaven he was stunned. The Gates were locked. The fate of little boy had already been sealed.
The night passed and the morning sun rose in the eastern sky over the quaint Ukrainian village. Isaac the Water Carrier and the Kabbalist met in the early dawn. Sorrowfully, the Kabbalist told the Water Carrier the news. “I’m afraid there is nothing I can do”, the sage said. “It has already been decreed that the Gates of Heaven remain locked to your only son.”
Isaac was shattered. Heart-broken. Tears began streaming down his face. The poor Water Carrier pleaded with the Kabbalist to try one more time. “I have nowhere else to turn!” cried Isaac. “David is my only son, my only child. And you are my only hope!”
The Kabbalist didn’t have the heart to say no to this broken man. “I cannot promise anything” the old mystic replied. “But I will make one more attempt.” And that’s when a bizarre idea suddenly occurred to the old sage.
The Kabbalist summoned his coach driver, Alexi, and made a peculiar request. “Go at once to the village”, the Kabbalist said, “and bring to me ten thieves. No less than ten.” Alexi was shocked. But he knew better than to question the man who could talk to angels. “Find me pickpockets, bandits, looters, the worst scoundrels possible,” the Kabbalist added. “And please, hurry!”
Alexi took the Kabbalist’s horse and coach into town. To his surprise, he was able to gather together ten thieves quite quickly. In fact, Alexi was amazed at how easily these dangerous bandits agreed to accompany him to the home of the Kabbalist. Turned out even the worst villains of the village had heard of the mysterious Kabbalist who possessed great powers. Which might have explained why no thief had ever dared to try rob him.
Alexi and this notorious band of outlaws arrived at the house of the Kabbalist. The wise old sage thanked them for coming and invited them all into his home. Seated in the holy den were some of the nastiest criminals in the country. They included, Stanislav the Swindler, who swindled local villagers out of their chickens and cows. He would then sell the stolen goods to strangers who lived in neighboring villages. Stanislav then swindled the strangers and sold the same animals back to the people whom he swindled them from in the first place.
There was Konstantin the Con Man, who proudly claimed that he even once conned the Tsar of Russia; And Boris the Bilker, who bilked wealthy bankers out of billions of rubles; Leonid the Lock-Picker could pick any lock in the world—except for the time when Leonid locked himself out of his own house and had to wait 3 hours for the locksmith to open his door. All these scoundrels sat in the home of the great Kabbalist boastfully recounting their criminal escapades.
Suddenly, the Kabbalist motioned for them to be silent. They all listened attentively as this great Kabbalist asked each one of these wily thieves to assist him in what would be his most difficult miracle of all!
The next morning as dawn broke, while robins chirped and roosters crowed, and as a sweet-scented breeze blew ever so gently, Isaac the Water Carrier danced wildly in the middle of the cobbled stoned street. He looked like the happiest man on earth. He was!
A horse and carriage suddenly pulled up along side the dancing Water Carrier. It was Alexi. Seated inside the carriage was the Kabbalist. “My dear friend Isaac,” the Kabbalist exclaimed, “It appears by your delightful face and dancing shoes that you have good news to share.”
“Thank-you with all my heart!” cried the Water Carrier. “My beautiful boy David received a miracle last night. It’s as though he was never sick. He is out milking the cows right now!”
“Indeed, this is very good news”, said the man who could talk to angels. “Be well, my friend!” The old sage then rode off. Alexi was puzzled. “How can this be?” he asked the Kabbalist. “You’re a holy and honorable man. But those hooligans I brought to you yesterday…they are robbers. Thieves. Lawbreakers. Why did you not ask for pious and righteous men?” It was a good question! And this is what the noble and kind Kabbalist told Alexi:
“When I prayed that first night I saw that the Gates of Heaven were locked. There was nothing I could do. The poor man’s heart was shattered. How could I refuse him when he pleaded with me to try again? Then last night I prayed again. Unfortunately, the Gates of Heaven were still locked.”
Alexi was confused. “So what happened?” he asked. The Kabbalist cracked a smile. ”Ahhh, but this time I had a band of thieves to assist Me. A good thief knows all about breaking and entering. They picked the locks! These bandits broke into heaven and that is how my prayers were able to sneak into the heavenly sanctuary.”
The Kabbalist’s horse and carriage rode through the busy village as swarms of villagers bustled about.
It is said that if you looked really carefully that bright early morning, you would have seen a number of thieves, intermingled among the villagers, discreetly tip their hats to the Kabbalist as his horse and carriage passed by.
Ever since this remarkable event took place some three centuries ago, Kabbalists of later generations recounted this story to their students teaching them the greatest secret in the world: the secret to getting all your prayers answered:
The Kabbalist in this story is also our very own soul, all of our positive character traits. Our good nature and endearing qualities will not arouse the answers to our prayers. The thieves represent all of our negative and egocentric traits. We are all thieves, to one degree or another. When we want to receive blessings in life, when we want to open the gates of heaven, we must recognize, admit and then uproot our negative traits. It’s our mischievous, dishonest attributes that are the master keys to unlock the gates of heaven. When we work to turn a self-centered quality and a crooked characteristic to good, the key to the gates of heaven turn and unlock.
And that’s when true blessings rain upon us and everything changes.
Below is a short clip where you can meet just a few of the Holy Students of Kabbalist Rav Berg over the last 30 years. People who had the courage to transform, elevate and change themselves towards the good.
Introducing the Holy Students of Kabbalah: