Friday, June 8, 2012

Story Time with chickens

At a Friendship Circle adults event this week, I was asked to tell a story.
Part of the night was spent showing how these adults can be more independent, teaching them how to make simple chicken recipes.
So I thought of a great story that was a perfect match for the event. It was about the Ba'al Shem Tov, whose yahrtzeit was on Shavuos, it was about a chicken, which they were preparing and eating, and an integral character was a boy with special needs. Interestingly, the chicken could talk, while the boy could not.

Here's a summary of the story (there are a few versions):
The Ba'al Shem Tov was in the city of Pozna, and while speaking with the representatives of the community, a woman came in holding a slaughtered chicken, which the shochet had said needed to be inspected more carefully to determine its kashrus.
At once a heated rabbinic debate began among those present, since this was a complicated chicken they saw in front of them.
They turned to the Ba'al Shem Tov for his thoughts. He instructed that a certain boy in a certain house should be consulted.
The messenger hastily made his way to the boy's house, and explained to the father that his son was needed to answer the question of the chicken.
The boy's father was bewildered, for not only was his son just a mere 13 year old boy, he was severely disabled, and because of his special needs, had never spoken or in fact even moved from his bed.
If you were on a mission from the Ba'al Shem Tov, would you have acted any differently than our messenger, who refused to be sent away, and insisted on being led to the boy?
The messenger explained to the boy the complications the chicken had, and the doubt the rabbis had about its kashrus. Incredibly, the boy stood up, went into his father's study, took down an old sefer, and pointed to a section that very clearly addressed this issue. 
"It's kosher," the boy proclaimed, and immediately collapsed; dead with his first words ever spoken on his lips.
The messenger made his way back to the waiting Ba'al Shem Tov to repeat the entire episode.
Everyone was distraught about what had happened, and demanded an explanation for the poor boy's passing.

The Ba'al Shem Tov said:
[Here's a story within a story, so yeah- always a crowd pleaser!]
About twenty years ago there lived a great Talmid Chacham, named R' Sender Shor. Once a woman came to him with a slaughtered chicken, asking for his psak. He normally would give his full attention to whatever question came up, but this time he was in a hurry, and with a glance, told her it was Treif.
When he was niftar, his neshama came up to Heaven, and all the angels wanted to give him a huge spot as a deserving reward for his great accomplishment in Torah and Mitzvos.
"Wait!" bawked one little chicken. "I was a Kosher chicken, but this rabbi declared me unfit to eat for the Shabbos table I was destined to go to!"
The rabbi, knowing he had judged this chicken hastily, remained quiet, for he was filled with shame at this smudge on his otherwise perfect accounting.

The verdict was decided: R' Shor would be sent down back into the world, where he can rectify his mistake, and pasken the chicken (also being sent down) Kosher.
"But please," Rabbi Shor begged from the Heavenly Court, "I've worked so hard my entire life to guard myself from bad deeds, or even speaking bad words. For this one misdeed, I must go through the world one more time, with all its temptations? What if I cannot achieve the same near-perfection the second time around?"
This was a good point, the Court conceded, and decreed that his neshama would go back down, but into a boy who would have special needs. He would need no perfecting, since he was perfect already. He would not be able to speak, so that his mouth should remain pure of any bad speech....

The Ba'al Shem Tov finished the story, "Today was that boy's Bar Mitzvah. As soon as his neshama finally pronounced the chicken to be Kosher, it was able to return to the high spot in Heaven that it rightfully deserved."