Sep 10 2014

Story: The King’s Fortress, by the Baal Shem Tov

Published by at 8:38 am under Stories

I thought a change of pace would be nice today. Rather than a poem, I offer a story by the Baal Shem Tov. Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer of Mezhizh, known respectfully as the Baal Shem Tov (the Master of the Good Name), lived in the early 1700s and is the spiritual father of the Hassidic movement that became such an important part of Judaism in Eastern Europe (and later, after World War II and the Holocaust, spread to the rest of the world).

Much of the spiritual genius of Hassidic Jewish mysticism is passed to us through stories, usually tales from the lives of revered Rabbis. Sometimes though we get an allegorical story, like this one told by the Baal Shem Tov himself…


/ Photo by ivan.kovpak /

There was a king who created, through his magical art, barriers and walls, one within the other, with which to surround himself. All these were, however, really illusory. He commanded that money be spread around at the gates of each of these walls to see how great the determination and desire of his subjects, how much effort each one of them would make, to come to the king.

There were those of his subjects who immediately returned home after they had collected a little money at the gates of these illusory walls. There were others who got as far as the second or third walls. But there were very few who did not desire to collect merely physical treasures, only to reach the king himself.

After considerable effort they came to the king and saw that there were really no barriers and walls, everything was a magical illusion.

So it is with God. Those who truly understand know that all the barriers and walls of iron, all the garments and coverings are really on God himself in hiding, as it were, because there is no place where he is not.

(trans. Alan Unterman)

Teachings of the Jewish Mystics
by Perle Besserman

2 responses so far

2 Responses to “Story: The King’s Fortress, by the Baal Shem Tov”

  1. Johnon 10 Sep 2014 at 12:44 pm

    I would like to read more of these type of stories on your site. A wonderful idea.

    Best wishes. John.

  2. Carolon 11 Sep 2014 at 4:06 am

    Beautiful story Ivan! Thank You. God’s peace and love, Carol

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