Wednesday, January 21, 2009
The following story (see here)was told concerning the Rebbe Maharash, the fourth Chabad Rebbe.
A severe decree was being formulated against the Jews. Rabbi Menachem Mendel, known as the “Tzemach Tzedek” (the third Lubavitcher Rebbe), sent his youngest son, Reb Shmuel to Petersberg in an attempt to get the decree rescinded. Traveling with Reb Shmuel was his older brother Reb Yehuda Leib, twenty years Reb Shmuel’s senior.
Before commencing the journey, Reb Shmuel insisted that Reb Yehuda Leib agree not to bless anyone during their trip. “Our father is the Rebbe and he is the only one who should give people blessings,” he declared. Having no other choice, Reb Yehuda Leib agreed to these conditions.
In every town they visited along the way, people converged on Reb Yehuda Leib. They begged him, as the son of such a great Tzaddik (righteous person), to give them a blessing for health, a living, children, etc. To each person, Reb Yehuda Leib replied, “Go visit my father, surely he will bless you.”
In one particular village, there was a woman who was especially persistent. She had not been blessed with children and was certain that, with the blessing of a Tzaddik, she would indeed merit to have children of her own.
The woman stationed herself in front of Reb Yehuda Leib. She begged and pleaded, screamed and cried that he must bless her to have children. But still Reb Yehuda Leib refused to bless the woman. “Go to my father, the Rebbe,” he stated simply. “Surely he will bless you.”
The woman was not satisfied with this answer. She continued to cry out to Reb Yehuda Leib that he should bless her. Finally, at wit’s end, Reb Yehuda Leib said, “Go to my brother. Perhaps he will bless you.”
The woman repeated the entire scene in front of Reb Shmuel. She begged and pleaded, cried and screamed that Reb Shmuel bless her to have children. But nothing could move Reb Shmuel. He insisted that only his father, the Rebbe, could do anything for the woman. Seeing that she would not take “no” for an answer, Reb Shmuel told his brother and the carriage driver to get ready to leave. They quickly got into the carriage to begin their journey home and away from the woman.
But the carriage didn’t budge. The woman had cleverly placed a stick in the spokes of the wheels to keep them from turning.
Reb Shmuel climbed down from the carriage and, in annoyance told the woman, “Go eat a bagel” - equivalent in today’s vernacular to “go fly a kite.”
Satisfied at last, the woman left Reb Shmuel and Reb Yehuda Leib to continue their journey. She promptly went home and made bagels, concentrating all the while on the blessing that the bagel would surely elicit. It occurred to the woman that just to be sure that the blessing would really be actualized, she should maybe eat two bagels. So that is exactly what she did.
The following year, Rabbi Menachem Mendel passed away and Reb Shmuel, though the youngest of his seven sons, was chosen to succeed him as Rebbe.
One day, a man came into Reb Shmuel’s study with two cakes which his wife had baked for the Rebbe. “You blessed my wife last year that she would have a child, so she has asked me to bring you these cakes in gratitude.”
Reb Shmuel had no recollection of the event so the man recounted the entire episode to Reb Shmuel. He finished by saying, “You said to my wife, ‘Go eat a bagel.’ That is exactly what she did and your blessing came true.”
“But why,” asked Reb Shmuel in amazement, “are you bringing me two cakes?”
“My wife had wanted to make sure that the blessing would really materialize so she ate two bagels and had twins!” said the beaming father.
“Know,” Reb Shmuel told the husband, “I saw that there was a heavenly decree that you and your wife were not destined to have children. It was only in exasperation that I told your wife to eat a bagel, not as a means of blessing. But because of her simple faith, her strong faith in the blessing of a Tzaddik, the decree was annulled and you and your wife were blessed with children.”
What’s amazing about this story is not that the Rebbe Maharash was able to give a blessing for children, for the powers of Tzaddikim over nature is well-known. Rather it lies in the woman’s pure faith in the powers of a Tzaddik. This was so effective that it enabled the Tzaddik’s inadvertent words to be fulfilled.
A Jew goes to a Tzaddik in order to be inspired to love and fear Hashem, to connect with Hashem on the lofty level of the Tzaddik, or to receive a spiritual or material blessing or advice. In order to accomplish these important goals, one needs to study the Tzaddik’s teachings and follow his instructions.
However, this relationship will only work if the person approaches the Tzaddik with total emunah in the Tzaddik’s power to provide these things.
Often people follow certain instructions of the Tzaddik, and see that they’re not getting inspired! It’s not working! And instead of searching within themselves for the root cause, they start to doubt the Tzaddik’s powers. In reality, the fault is in the person. The reason that the Tzaddik’s prescription isn’t working is that in order for the recipient to be a vessel, he has to believe with full confidence that the Tzaddik can do it. However, if the person the efficacy of the Tzaddik’s powers, then it become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The solution then is to study Torah sources concerning the level and holiness of a Tzaddik, and read stories of Tzaddikim.