Evening fell while the Baal Shem Tov was on a journey with a few of his disciples, so they stopped to spend the night in a village inn. The little building soon echoed to the revelry of a wedding party, but the Baal Shem Tov and his companions spent the night quietly in their room.

...a little bird chirped away on a tree, right in front of the bride and groom.

In the morning, when the families of the bride and groom were standing outside, ready to make the journey home, the Baal Shem Tov was also there, for he too was preparing to leave. While they were waiting for their wagons a little bird chirped away on a tree, right in front of the bride and groom.

"Do you know what the bird is saying?" the Baal Shem Tov asked his chasidim. "It is the verse: 'For these shall the Land be divided.'" (see Num. 26:53)

They did not understand his meaning, of course, but neither did they ask him to explain himself.

...he was going to spend his old age in Eretz Yisrael.

Decades later, after this couple had lived a good life together and had raised children and grandchildren, the husband decided that come what may, he was going to spend his old age in Eretz Yisrael. Since his wife refused to leave her children, and they could find no way out of their dilemma, they brought their case before a rabbinical court.

The beit din ruled that the wife would receive a bill of divorce: she was not allowed to prevent him from going, nor could he force her to join him. After their monetary matters had been settled according to the court's ruling, the husband departed for Eretz Yisrael, and the wife remained with her children.

Word of this incident spread for and wide, until it reached the disciples who had accompanied the Baal Shem Tov to that village inn.

"So this is what the rebbe meant," they said in wonderment. "'Between these shall the Land divide!'"

Supplemented by Yerachmiel Tilles from the rendition in A Treasury of Chassidic Tales (Artscroll), as translated by Uri Kaploun from Sipurei Chasidim by Rabbi S. Y. Zevin.

Biographic note:
Rabbi Yisrael ben Eliezer (18 Elul 1698-6 Sivan 1760), the Baal Shem Tov ["master of the good Name"], a unique and seminal figure in Jewish history, revealed the Chassidic movement and his own identity as an exceptionally holy person, on his 36th birthday, 18 Elul 1734. He wrote no books, although many claim to contain his teachings. One available in English is the excellent annotated translation of Tzava'at Harivash, published by Kehot.

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