Another version of a Hasidic story

A while back, I posted a translation of a Hasidic story. I have since found another translation, similar but not quite the same.

Moshe Idel published his own translation and included the actual Hebrew text from Re’uven Zak in his book’s notes. See Moshe Idel, Kabbalah: New Perspectives (New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 1988), pages 270-1 (Idel’s translation), 397 (the original Hebrew).

For the sake of thoroughness, I’m presenting my own translation of the story from the original Hebrew that Idel published keeping my eye on his translation and on Cooper’s translation.

Idel’s translation comes after the notes.

Our holy master Rebbe * Yisrael of Rizhin * told a story about the Ba’al Shem Tov,* blessed be his memory.

Once there was a matter of urgently saving the life of an only son who was a very good person, and so on. The Ba’al Shem Tov ordered that a candle of beeswax * be made, and he traveled to a forest where he fastened this candle to a tree and did some other things. And he focused on yiḥudim,* and so on, and succeeded in saving [the son] with the help of G-d, may He be blessed.

Afterward, there was such an incident involving his [Rebbe Yisrael’s] great-grandfather,* the Holy Maggid,* and he did likewise, as mentioned above, and he said: “The yiḥudim and kavvanot * that the Ba’al Shem Tov focused on I don’t know, but I shall rely on the kavvana that the Ba’al Shem Tov intended,” and his [prayer] was also accepted.

Afterward, a similar thing happened to the holy Rebbe Mosheh Leib of Sassov, of blessed memory, and he said: “I do not even have the power to do that, but I shall only tell the story and * G-d,* may He be blessed, will help.” And so it happened with G-d’s help, may He be blessed.


▫ Rebbe – the title of the leader of a Hasidic community; Grand Rabbi.

▫ Rizhin – a town in Ukraine. Also Ruzhyn. About 75 miles (120 km) southwest of Kyiv. In Yiddish, the Ukrainian town is known as ROO zhin or RIZH in. Rebbe Yisrael (Israel) is known as the Holy Ruzhiner or Rizhiner, from Rizhin.

▫ Ba’al Shem Tov – Title of Rabbi Israel, the founder of the Hasidic movement. He lived from 1698 to 1760. Usually pronounced bahl SHEM tohv.

▫ candle of beeswax – I’ve only seen the Hebrew word sha’ava used to mean beeswax.

yiḥudim – mystical unifications of the Divine name. yee KHOO deem.

▫ great-grandfather – The Hebrew word is ambiguous. It could also mean grandfather, however we know from the history of Hasidic communities that the Maggid was Rebbe Yisrael’s great-grandfather.

▫ Maggid – Hebrew for preacher

kavvanot – intentions; kavvana(h) singular

▫ and G-d will help -The Hebrew reads “to G-d,” which is to say that he would tell the story of the Ba’al Shem Tov and the Maggid to G-d. In that case, “will help” is awkward. Cooper changes “to” to “and.” I am also following this emendation. I would strongly hesitate changing what is written, but there is already a spelling error in the text which indicates poor proofreading. Besides this, if Rebbe Moshe Leib only told the story to G-d, how does the Rizhiner know this story? On the other hand, Idel translates the text as it is written.

▫ G-d – Observant Jews refrain from writing Divine names lest they become disrespected or sullied.


Idel’s translation:

Our holy master [R. Israel of Rizhin] told us a story of the Ba’al Shem Tov, blessed be his memory. Once there was a stringent necessity to save an only son, who was a very good person, and so on. He [the Besht] ordered that a candle of wax be made, and he traveled to a forest where he attached this waxen candle to a tree, and [did] some other things and performed some yiḥudim, and so on, and he succeeded in saving [the son] with the help of G-d.

Afterward, there was such an incident involving my [Rebbe Israel’s] grandfather, the Holy [Great] Maggid, and he did likewise, as mentioned above, and he said: “The yiḥudim and the kavvanot performed by the Besht are not known to me, but I shall do this on the basis of the kavvanah which the Besht intended”; and his [prayer] was also answered.

Afterward, a similar thing happened to the holy R. Moshe Leib of Sassov, blessed be his memory, and he said: “We do not even have the power to do that, but I shall only tell the story to G-d, so that he will help.” And so it happened, with G-d’s help.

▫ R. – abbreviation for Rebbe

▫ Besht – Abbreviation for the Ba’al Shem Tov

Sirius in the predawn sky

October 27, 2020, 5:30 AM Mountain Standard Time | Phoenix, Arizona

The bright star Sirius appears to the south-southwest, so the constellation Orion appears to the southwest. The belt of Orion (the hunter) points to Sirius.

Meanwhile, a bright Venus appears in the southeast predawn sky.

Sunrise is at 6:41 Mountain Standard Time.

Now I’m ready for a cup of hot tea with sugar. For real. It’s 48 degrees this morning. That’s about 50 degrees colder than the high temperature of a week ago. It’s also about 17 degrees colder than normal at this time of day.

Venus in the predawn sky

October 23, 2020 | Phoenix, Arizona

The planet Venus has appeared in the cloudless predawn sky for awhile now. I continued to see it until just about the time of sunrise as listed by the Naval Observatory. The sun isn’t actually visible over the local mountains here for about eight more minutes, though.

I don’t have the proper camera equipment to photograph something as small as Venus.

This photo shows what the Phoenix sky looked like at 6:39 AM Mountain Standard Time, the time of sunrise, when Venus disappeared from the view of of the naked eye. It will be another eight minutes before the upper limb of the sun appears above these mountains:


While I’m at it, here are two pictures of dawn. One was taken moments before the upper limb of the sun appeared above the horizon, and the second one as the sun appeared.

6:47 AM Mountain Standard Time
Moments later


These photos were taken with a simple point-and-shoot camera without any filters or a tripod. I then edit them with Microsoft Office Picture Manager.

Summer Blossoms in Phoenix, Arizona II

Mid-October 2020

This collection of photos reflects one specimen of small tree that has been flowering all summer and now into fall. I don’t yet know its name. In my front yard, it appears as a shrub rather than a tree.

It’s probably irrigated.

Bees are attracted to these trumpet-like flowers. I’ve seen them crawl all the way into these flowers for their nectar. I tried to get a picture of some bees, but I couldn’t keep them in focus because a breeze kept the flowers in motion. I don’t know how to activate any stop motion feature that my point-and-shoot camera might have. Many of my photos are slightly out of focus for this reason and because I have caffeine jitters. Actually, I’m amazed that I was able to get these photos. Realize that for every picture that I post, I may take a dozen more. I love digital cameras.

These red trumpet-like flowers grow on a shrub specimen in my front yard. It seems to be the same species:

Summer Blossoms in Phoenix, Arizona I

Late Summer 2020

I’ve been amazed that some shrubs here in Phoenix, Arizona, have been flowering all summer. Some or most of these shrubs are irrigated — “on water.”

All of these species are cultivated ornamentals.

This following shrub is in a street’s parkway in front of the local library branch. I doubt that it’s on water:



Soaptree Yucca surprise

Mid-October 2020

This Soaptree Yucca surprised me with its flowers at this time of year. This species blossoms in the spring, so why is this one sending up flowers now in October?

My guess is that it thinks that it’s spring since the nights have cooled off and since it receives water every day like spring rains.

This rabbit has made a home under this Soaptree Yucca, as far as I can tell. I first saw a rabbit in the morning when I was coming back from the mailboxes and the pool. The rabbit in the photo was out on the lawn toward evening. Could be the same rabbit.

The bird in the background is a Mourning Dove. They’re very common wherever I’ve lived.

My Canada Geese neighbors

This flock of Canada Geese just showed up along this lake near Phoenix, Arizona. Most Canada Geese summer in the northern tier of the U.S., in Canada, and in Alaska. Some live all-year-long in the middle tier of the U.S. I can’t say where this flock came from, but they will overwinter near lakes in the southern tier of the U.S. I don’t remember any geese here last winter, but I don’t trust my memory.

This lakeside park is perfect for Canada Geese. Grass is kept short, so geese have a full view of their surroundings, a protection from predators. And they have a lake.

The fact that geese are feeding on the concrete pad suggests that someone fed them seeds or crumbs.

Mid-October 2020

The lake is filled with what the authorities style as “reclaimed water.” It doesn’t seem to harm the health of the extensive wildlife population, though.

On the subject of what Canada Geese love, an office park is a popular place for them. Retention basins in office parks double as ornamental ponds — water — and the grass is kept short — food.

In my former Midwestern life (Chicago, then Kansas City), suburban geese were a part of the scenery during the winter. They must have gone off to a distance after a heavy snow storm, but then they were back when they could get to the grass. They do well eating browned grass.

Their abundant poop doesn’t smell but is a nuisance.

Two kinds of palm trees in Phoenix

Two kinds of palm trees (that I’ve noticed) are planted in the Phoenix, Arizona, area.

The leaves of this palm branch out from a single node. A tall one appears in the background. This species grows to enormous heights — taller than a three story building:

Red Mountain is in the background. Its reddish tint makes it unique among the region’s mountains.


This kind of palm tree is a fairly common sight in the Phoenix area. Its leaves branch out all along the stem of the frond. It might not get too much taller than the tree on the left. You see the first kind of palm from this post growing in the right-hand background: