Monday, December 7, 2009
Alter Rebbe's Secret
Also in honor of yud tes Kislev a story of Reb Shneur Zalman of Liadi, first Rebbe of Lubavitch.
In the town of Liozna a chosid came the Rebbe with a question. His had faced difficult times, financially. He had struggled and failed in an array of ventures, and came to ask the Rebbe's advice concerning parnassah (making a living). The Alter Rebbe thought for a minute, and told this chosid that he should open a small market in town. The Rebbe told him that it would be a success, and told him to come back in a few months to report on how things were going.
After a few months he came back, and reported that, Baruch Hashem, the business had gotten off of ground, and the people of the town were regularly shopping in the store. He even had his daily customers. The Rebbe said was very happy to hear the news. When the chosid got up to take leave the Rebbe addded, "just one thing. From now on it would be a better idea to go to Vitebsk to buy the products for your store. There you could get them cheaper, and you'll buy enough so that you won't have to stock up as often. Report back to me in a few months."
After a few months the chosid came back, and reported, once again, that the business had really taken off, and he had his share of regular customers from the town. The Rebbe, once again, was pleased, but mentioned, "that's all very well, but from now on it would be best to take a trip to Moscow every few months where you could buy the products even cheaper. You will stock up so that you won't have to shop as often, and surely this will save you money, and you will make money, as well. Come back in six months."
The chosid made a trip to Moscow every few months, and after some time came to see the wisdom of the Rebbe paying off. All was going quite well. "Very nice," said the Rebbe, upon the chosid's next visit, "but from now I think the best idea would be to take a trip a bit farther away, to Leipzig, to the fair. There you could buy your products cheaper than anywhere in Russia, and you won't have to go as often." The chosid agreed, but before he left the Rebbe added, "oh, and when you're in Leipzig, relax a little. Buy a ticket for the theater and see a show." The chosid wasn't sure if he heard correctly, and from the look of astonishment on his face the Rebbe knew that he had to reiterate. "Buy a ticket for the theater and see a show while you're there. Relax a little. After all, it will be a strenuous day at the fair." The chosid, astonished, agreed, took leave of the Rebbe, and began to plan for his first trip to the Leipzig fair.
The work in Leipzig was tiring. All day at the fair, going from booth to booth, picking out the most suitable items for the store, and finding the cheapest prices. He bought his ticket to the theater, and almost as soon as the lights had gone down his head fell back, and he fell asleep. At the end of the performance, when all had left the theater, a janitor came over to wake him up. "Reb Yid, Reb Yid. Please wake up. The show is over." The chosid opened his eyes, and exclaimed, "who are you?" "I'm Karl," replied the janitor, "a fellow Jew." Karl inquired, "where are you from?" The chosid told him that he was from Liozna, and upon hearing this news the janitor said, calmly, "from Liozna. Then you must know my friend, Rabbi Zalman." The chosid opened his eyes wide, "Rabbi Zalman? Rabbi Zalman? You know the Rebbe? You call him Rabbi Zalman?" "Sure," said the janitor. "And if you see him please tell him that Karl says hi." "You know the Rebbe? But what are you doing here?" asked the chosid. "I work here. I'm the janitor," replied Karl. Amazed at the turn of events the chosid could not wait to get back to Liozna to tell the Rebbe about this unbelievable find in a theater in Leipzig, Germany.
Back home, the chosid reported to the Rebbe, and told him how everything had gone according to plan in Leipzig: cheap prices, superior goods, and he stocked up enough so that he would not have to go back for six months. But he was very anxious to tell the Rebbe about this Karl fellow. He related the entire story to the Rebbe, about how he had bought a ticket to the theater, fell asleep, and was woken up by a fellow Jew named Karl, the janitor, at which point the Rebbe's face lit up. "Please come back to see me before your next trip to Leipzig" said the Rebbe, simply.
Six months had passed. At the outset of the chosid's second journey to Leipzig he met with the Rebbe, as he was now accustomed to doing before any trip to buy goods. The Rebbe handed him a package, wrapped well, and told him to buy another ticket for the theater while in Leipzig and, at the theater, to hand the package to Karl.
The chosid was very busy in Leipzig, but managed to buy his ticket for the theater in the evening. Just as during his first trip to the theater he fell asleep almost instantly after the lights went down. Just as during the first trip he was woken up by the janitor, Karl. "Reb Yid, Reb Yid, please wake up. The show is already over, and everyone has left. I don't want to get into any trouble, so please wake up." Delighted to see the sight of Karl's very ordinary face the chosid quickly took out the package from the Rebbe, and handed it to him. Still wary and confused at the exact nature of his shlichus (his being sent by the Rebbe with this package) the chosid instructed Karl, "this is directly from the Rebbe. Whatever it is, you are to guard it with your life!" Karl responded calmly, "sure. No problem. And oh," he continued, "meet me back here at the theater tomorrow night at the same time." The chosid could not fathom what might be in that package, or what Karl might do with it overnight.
The next evening at the show, after the same routine, Karl appeared. "Tell Rabbi Zalman that I approve," said Karl, and he handed over the package. "That he approves? That he approves??" thought the chosid to himself. When he finally returned to Liozna he didn't even stop at the store with the wagon to unload. Nor did he stop home for a drink or a hot meal. Instead he went straight to the home of the Rebbe, and upon handing him the package he reported that he had seen Karl, and that Karl "approves" the contents of the package. The Rebbe's face seemed to light up with a special glow upon hearing this news and upon receiving the package back into his hands. He gave the chosid a very meaningful bracha (blessing), wished him well, and told him that as far as his store was concerned he was now on his own, because he would be assured further success. But the chosid wasn't content with just that. He looked across at the Rebbe deeply, but before he got a chance to speak the Rebbe said, "he's one of the lamed vav tzaddikim. And in this package is something I have been working on called Tanya. Now I could publish it." The chosid, quite astounded, but now able to make at least a little bit of sense out of all the events of the past couple of years, was sworn never to tell another soul.
(The lamed vav tzaddikim are the 36 righteous people in each generation that sustain the world. They are hidden tzaddikim; hidden righteous people; hidden to the world, usually appearing as simple and ignorant to the casual observer. It is only those with the keenest spiritual sensibilities, someone such as the Alter Rebbe, that can detect their identities.)