Monday, December 5, 2011

A Matter of Perspective

The town of Hanipol had a rebbe and a rabbi. Rabbi Zusya was a Hasidic rebbe, and there was a rabbi who ruled on matters of Jewish religious law. Rebbe Zusya did not, however, have a congregation of Hasidim. The Maggid of Mezritch told his son Rabbi Avraham the Angel never to try to make Rebbe Zusya a leader of Hasidim because he was above that; he was on a higher level. But people did come to him for help and advice.
Rebbe Zusya, personally, had much trouble all his life, but he was always full of joy. The rabbi, by contrast, was rich and had a good salary, but he was always angry, always bitter. Now, a person who hates other people finally begins to hate himself. One day, the rabbi simply couldn't stand himself anymore. He decided to go to Rebbe Zusya. But he was worried about his prestige and what people would think, so he went at night wen nobody would see him. He came to Rebbe Zusya and asked, "Why are you always happy, and why am I always angry?"
He (Rebbe Zusya) replied, "Zusya* will explain it to you. Take the wedding of the rich man's daughter last week. (In those days, one did not send invitations to a wedding by mail. A rich man had a gabbai who went from house to house.) The gabbai knocked on your door and said 'Moshe the Rich Man has the honor and pleasure of inviting you to his daughter Feigeleh's wedding on such a date at such a time.'
You said, 'Let me see the the list.'
You thought, 'I'm number sixteen on the list. What chutzpah! I'm the rabbi of the city! I'm the one performing the wedding! And me, number sixteen?! I'm supposed to be number one!'
After the manager left, you said, 'I'll show him. I'll come three hours late. They won't be able to start without me. They'll see how important I am!'
So you came three hours late. Meanwhile, they found someone else to perform the wedding. By the time you arrived, everybody was sitting down at the table waiting for the meal. Nobody paid any attention to you. Finally, the rich man saw you and said 'Oh, our rabbi! We waited for you. But we couldn't wait any longer. Please come to the head table.' But the head table was completely filled. So they put your chair behind somebody else. When the waiter brought the food, he didn't see you, so you weren't served.
You were so angry! You were cursing the bride and groom; you were cursing God.
Finally, the rich man saw that you had nothing to eat. He said 'Oh, Rabbi, please forgive me. I'm sorry you didn't get food!' He went into the kitchen and collected some of the leftovers. When he brought it to you, you got even more angry. 'What chutzpah! I'm the rabbi of the city, and they bring me leftovers!'
As the wedding feast was coming to an end, you consoled yourself: 'Soon they'll honor me to recite one of the wedding blessings after the Grace.' But by now the rich man had already forgotten that you were there. He called on somebody else. You went home, cursing your wife, cursing your children, cursing the bride, cursing the groom, cursing God. You were angry!"

Rebbe Zusya continued: "But see what happened with Zusya. The rich man's gabbai came to Zusya's door and said 'Moshe the Rich Man has the honor and pleasure of inviting you to his daughter Feigeleh's wedding on such a date at such a time.' Zusya said to himself, 'Zusya can't understand it. Zusya's never done anything good to him. Why would Zusya have the privilege to be invited? And if he's such a good friend to Zusya, Zusya wants to be a good friend to him.'
So Zusya went three hours early, to help them set up everything. When you were late, they asked Zusya to perform the wedding. Zusya sat at the head table. Zusya was asked to recite one of the wedding blessings and the Grace After Meals. Finally, Zusya went home and was loving to his wife and children.
So you see, you expect everything, and whatever you receive is too little, so you're angry.
Zusya expects nothing, so he's always happy no matter what happens."Jewish Tales of Mystic Joy, by Yitzchak Buxbaum (as heard from Rebbe Shlomo Carlebach)

This is such an amazing story. The book that I got it from is a beautiful little gem of a book, worth every cent.

*Reb Zusya was one of those tzaddikim who eschewed the egocentric "I" when referring to himself, preferring to use his own name.


redsneakz said...

Buxbaum is a beautiful writer, and I suspect a beautiful man. He understands the point that is behind all of the maysos that are told about the Tzaddikim, and for that alone he should be only remembered for good.

Neil Harris said...

I first heard this story being told to me by Rav Menachem Mendel Blachman from KBY (I didn't learn at KBY, but heard him speak in NY).

I've said it over to my son when things haven't seemed to work out the way he has wanted them to.
Thanks for posting it.

Shmuel said...

Sneakz - I agree. The only quibble I have with him is that he takes artistic license with some of the stories by tweaking them or omitting things he doesn't like.

There is a concept of repeating stories exactly as they are...