Question: Why is it customary to tell stories of the Baal Shem Tov (the founder of the Hasidic movement) after Shabbos ends?
Answer: Thank you for your excellent question. For the most part, I have heard that it is customary to teach stories of the Baal Shem Tov and his disciples, and their disciples, etc., on Saturday night after Shabbos, at the Melaveh Malka meal which is eaten some time after the Havdalah ceremony. At this meal we sing songs of King David and Elijah the Prophet. It is called the Meal of King David because the prophet Nathan told King David that he would die on a Shabbos, thus King David would make a meal every week after Shabbos to celebrate being granted another week of life. Elijah the prophet is also a major theme on Saturday night because the Bible teaches that Elijah will come back at the end of days to announce the coming of the Messiah. The Sages teach that Elijah cannot come on Friday or Shabbos, thus Saturday night is special as it is the first opportunity for Elijah to come in the week after time when he could not have come.
The holy Ohr HaChayim (author of the Torah commentary by the same name) taught that the Torah actually tells us that God created the world for only six days, and when He saw the works of the righteous He decided to keep the world going. Some say that this is one reason we tell stories of the righteous people on Saturday night, as a reminder, as it were, to God to keep the world going.
The old Belzer Rebbe taught “everyone says that it is a segulah (good omen or charm) for Parnassah (livelihood and wealth) to tell stories of the Baal Shem Tov on Saturday night after Shabbos.” “I disagree,” he said. “It is not only a Segulah for Parnassah, it is a Segulah for all good things. It is not only Saturday night but any time. And it is not only stories of the Baal Shem Tov, but of all of the Tzaddikim (righteous people), even of us.”
There are different traditions of which Tzaddikim are Segulos for different good things.
Also, if one tells a story about something good happening to someone, particularly with a blessing from a Tzaddik, it is a Segulah that such things will happen in the world, either to yourself or to help others.
There is a statement in the Mishnah in Pirkei Avos (Chapters of the Fathers) that “Lo HaMedrash Ha’Ikar Eleh Ha’Maaseh” – “the main thing is not the study but the action”, meaning that a scholar that is not pious is empty. One Hassidic Rebbe noted humorously that the word “Maaseh“, which means “action”, also means “story”, which he taught that “the main thing is not the study, rather it’s the telling of stories.” Hasidic Jews consider story telling to be a divine devotion to God, and this is especially practiced on Saturday nights.
May you be blessed with all of the Segulos of all of the stories of the Tzaddikim.
All the best,