Dreaming of Moshiach

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Rewards and Punishments

One of the most important Mitzvot that Yaakov was very careful to observe was Melave Malka. He always made special efforts for the Melave Malka with extra food and drinks for anyone who would join him in this great Mitzvah meal.

One Saturday night when Yaakov returned home from shul, his wife and children were standing around the table while Yaakov was doing Havdalah, when suddenly, there was a knock on the door. One of the kids opened the door and 2 very well-dressed men asked to speak to the owner of the house. Yaakov told them to wait till after Melave Malka and then, he will speak with them. They told him that they are in a great hurry and explained that they are businessmen. Yaakov placed the kiddush cup of the Havdalah on the table and inquired about their business. They insisted that he come with them to the city nearby because they just received very high quality merchandise and willing to sell it to him very cheap. He tried pursuading them to wait but they would not listen and not wanting to miss a business opportunity, he quickly changed his Shabbat cloth to regular clothing. The businessmen told the wife that her husband will be returning tomorrow afternoon so she packed up all the Melave Malka food including Challah, fish, meat and placed it in a basket.

Yaakov got on his wagon and followed behind the 2 businessmen in their wagon. As soon as they exited the city, the businessmen stopped their wagon and run over to Yaakov and said, "Give us your money or we kill you."

Yaakov got very scared and wanted to run away. He pulled the reigns and the horses began running fast. One of the men shot the horse and killed him and the other horse stopped in his tracks. Yaakov quickly got out of the carriage and tried running on foot but they caught him. They tied him up and took all his money and then, they forcibly dragged him into the forest and threw him inside an empty house. Before leaving, they threw the basket of the Melave Malka food on him and said, "Eat till you get eaten." They opened a door inside the house and quickly ran away. Out of this room came out a gigantic bear, Yaakov was so frightened, he fainted.

When he woke up, it was dark. Slowly, he remembered what happened and realized all this happened because he didn't keep his scheduled Melave Malka. He knew that this was a direct punishment from HKB'H for choosing business over the Mitzvah. He forgot that there was a bear in the house but he remembered the basket of the Melave Malka food. In the darkness, he stretched out his hand on the floor and found the basket but when he heard a loud growling, he fainted again. A few minutes later, he woke up but didn't dare move a muscle.

The hours passed and the hunger pangs overpowered the fear, and slowly, he reached into the basket and pulled out a bottle of wine. While weeping with tears of regret, he made Havdalah in a choking voice. Chills ran down his spine every time he heard the bear growling, the wine almost spilled over and he felt the bear coming closer to him... He yelled to HKB'H, "my life is in Your hands," and was ready to die.

When he realized that the bear wasn't coming closer to him, he took out the Challah from the basket and threw a large chunk of it to the bear. The bear caught it and ate it quickly. Yaakov took out the fish, took a small bite and threw the rest to the bear. The bear grabbed the fish and quickly gobbled it down. Yaakov thought that if he'll give the bear all the food, the bear will not harm him. He tasted a little of each for the Mitzvah of Melave Malka and the rest, gave to the bear. The bear just sat there, eating the food...

The night passed and when Yaakov saw sunlight, he decided to try to escape. He crawled on the floor towards the door and was not surprised that it was not locked. When Yaakov went outside, the bear followed him. He figured that if he is going to be the bear's meal, he should say the Viduy. After saying it, he searched for his wagon while the bear was following him. He found the wagon and released the reigns from the dead horse. He got on the wagon, directing the horse towards his home. He turned around to look behind him and sees the bear running after him. He tried to make the horse run faster but the bear caught up and jumped onto the wagon. Yaakov was sure his end has arrived...

Yaakov hears the bear groaning and crying in pain so he stopped the horse, maybe the bear wants to get off the wagon. He hears the bear sighing and all of a sudden, he hears the bear speaking in a human voice, in Yiddish, "I am a Jewish soul and died many years ago but it was decreed that I return to this world, reincarnated as a bear because I didn't observe the Mitzvah of Melave Malka. Now that I merited to eat food of Melave Malka in the body of a bear, my soul will be given permission to find rest. Please, I'm begging you, bury me in Jewish burial grounds." As soon as the bear said it, he died.

When Yaakov returned home, he went to Chevre Kaddishe and told them everything that happened and they agreed to bury the Jewish neshama of the bear in a nice place.

There is another famous story of the "dancing" bear (Sorry, I don't remember all the details).
The circus would go from town to town and it was most famous for its 'dancing bear show'. One day, the circus came to a certain village and when the Rav of the city saw the dancing bear, he asked the owner to sell him this bear. The owner refused because this bear brought him a lot of money. The Rav negotiated and kept raising the price till the owner finally agreed. The Rav called the Jews to collect the needed amount of money for Pidyon Shevuyim (redeeming the captives).

When the Rav purchased the bear, he whispered something in the bear's ear and at that moment, the bear died. He revealed to the Jews that this bear was once a very rich Jew and was very highly respected. When he would go to weddings, he refused to dance because he felt that it was beneath his dignity for a man of his status to dance. No matter how many weddings he attended, he always refused the groom's request to dance. His punishment was to reincarnate as a bear and dance...




והיה השם למלך על כל הארץ, ביום ההוא יהיה השם אחד - ושמו אחד ישתבח שמו לעד לנצח נצחים בכל העולמות Blessed is His name for eternity in all worlds אין עוד מלבדו