The famous Reb Volf Kitzes was a staunch adherent of the Baal Shem Tov, to the extent that he took up residence in Mezhibuzh to be near his Rebbe. Now, Reb Volf also had a powerful desire to be oleh to Eretz Yisroel, but he was simply unable to part from the Baal Shem Tov, and so his desire for Eretz Yisroel remained unfulfilled. From time to time the Baal Shem Tov would leave on one of his many journeys, and in his absence, Reb Wolf would begin to make plans to move to the Holy Land. But before these plans could get very far, the Baal Shem Tov would return, and Reb Volf’s plans would be cancelled.
Once, the Baal Shem Tov was gone from Mezhibuzh for an extended period. Not only did Reb Volf succeed in finalizing his plans, but he actually sold all his possessions and bought whatever he needed for the journey. He calculated his needs, and discovered that he had exactly enough cash, to the penny, to cover the required budget.
There was a custom in those days that when starting out on a long trip, they would depart on Friday morning, just when the dough that the housewives had prepared for the Shabbos challos was starting to rise. This was as an omen of good fortune and success. And so Reb Volf too departed on Friday morning. Since it was Erev Shabbos, he traveled only as far as the first inn beyond the city limits, planning to stay at the inn over Shabbos, and resume his journey on Sunday morning. But after he arrived at the inn and paid for his Shabbos lodgings, he discovered that the Baal Shem Tov was also at the same inn, having returned from his own journey the previous night, and was now preparing to return to Mezhibuzh for Shabbos.
When the two met, Reb Volf explained to the Baal Shem Tov about his overpowering desire to be oleh to the Holy Land, and how, in the Rebbe’s absence, he had sold all his possessions and was now on his way. “Well,” said the Baal Shem Tov, “if your desire is so powerful, I will not stand in your way. But I beg you to do me one final favor and return with me to Mezhibuzh for Shabbos. After Shabbos, you can set out once more.” Reb Volf explained that his money had been budgeted to the last penny, and now that he had paid for his lodging at the inn, he could not afford the expenses of spending Shabbos in Mezhibuzh. “In that case, come with me, and you will be my guest for Shabbos,” replied the Baal Shem Tov. “I will even pay for your entry to the bathhouse and mikva.”
So Reb Volf returned with the Baal Shem Tov. When he went to the mikva, he immersed and remained under the water for a very long time. So long, in fact, that others at the mikva became frightened that something had happened to him. But at last he emerged from the water and announced that his plans were cancelled. He would not be oleh to Eretz Yisroel, but would instead remain in Mezhibuzh.
He explained his decision: When going down into the water, he had immersed with his eyes open, as was his custom. But he immediately felt an urgent need to shut his eyes. As soon as he did so, he saw himself in a vision, approaching the shores of Eretz Yisroel. Then he saw himself in Eretz Yisroel, going up to Yerushalayim, Next, he saw himself in Yerushalayim, going up to Har HaBayis. And then he saw himself entering the Courtyard of the Beis HaMikdash, and the Heichal itself, and finally he saw himself entering the Most Holy Chamber. But when he entered the Holy of Holies, he discovered that the chamber was empty – the Holy Ark was not there. Ribbono shel Olam! He cried out, “where is the Holy Ark?” And he heard a Heavenly voice proclaiming, “The Holy Ark is in Mezhibuzh!”
Shimon Neubort Crown Heights, Brooklyn, NY