Weekly Story: Obedience and True Obedience

by Rabbi Sholom DovBer Avtzon

As we are in the month of preparation for Yud Shevat shnas hashiviim, one of the points of hiskashrus is following and fullfiling the directives and guidance of the Rebbe and all of the Rebeiim. At the conclusion of a yechidus, the Rebbe Maharash would tell his son the [Rebbe] Rashab a story that was connected to the concept discussed in that yechidus.

The following is one of the stories he related, connected to the concept of obedience.

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The Alter Rebbe once sent a messenger to deliver a message to two of his chassidim, who lived near each other in the same town. The messenger traveled to the town and visited the first chossid, saying: “The Rebbe sent me to tell you that he is in need of funds [for one of his activities].”

“How much money does the Rebbe need?” asked the chossid.

“He didn’t specify an amount,” the messenger replied. “He simply instructed me to give you this message.”

“If that is the case,” the chossid said, “please wait a few moments, and I will put together some money for the Rebbe.”

The chossid searched throughout his house and put together all the money he had available. Putting it into an envelope, he gave it to the messenger and said: “This is all the money I have in my possession at the moment. Please bring it to the Rebbe, and I will see what else I can do.”

The messenger accepted the money, and then made his way to the second chossid. Once again he was received with the utmost respect, and he repeated the Rebbe’s message: “The Rebbe sent me to tell you that he is in need of funds.”

“How much money does the Rebbe need?” asked the chossid.

“He didn’t specify an amount,” the messenger replied. “He just instructed me to give you this message.”

“If that is the case,” the chossid said, “I will travel to the Rebbe tomorrow and ask him how much he needs, and I will give him whatever he requests.”

The messenger left the town and returned to the Alter Rebbe. When he arrived, he gave him a single envelope, identifying the chossid who had given it to him.

“And what about the second individual?” inquired the Alter Rebbe. “Did you visit him as well and relay the message?”

“Yes, I did,” replied the messenger. “However, he said that since he doesn’t know how much money the Rebbe needs, he will come here tomorrow and ask the Rebbe himself. He is then prepared to give whatever amount the Rebbe specifies.”

“The only question is,” the Alter Rebbe said quietly, “will that be before or after the incident?”

Baffled by the Rebbe’s cryptic words, the messenger left the Rebbe’s room and went home.

The following morning, the first chossid awoke and traveled to the Rebbe at once to ask him if there was anything else he should do. When he entered the Rebbe’s room, the Rebbe told him: “You should move from your town to a new location.”

Hearing these words, the chossid immediately returned home and sold or gave away much of his belongings. He then loaded his wagon with some essentials and began to travel, without knowing where to go and what he was supposed to do. “We will certainly receive some kind of sign that will show us where to settle,” he told his family. “In the meantime, we must obey the Rebbe’s instructions and leave.”

The second chossid also woke up early that morning with plans to travel to the Rebbe. However, reasoning that it was not proper to travel before davening, he first went to shul to daven. After davening, he went home, ate breakfast, instructed his workers what they were to do in his absence, put together a sizeable amount of money for the Rebbe, and began getting ready to leave.

As he was about to board his wagon, a storm suddenly broke out, and lightning struck a nearby house. In just a few moments the entire area turned into a raging inferno. The second chossid barely managed to save his life and the lives of his family, while the first chossid, who had already left the town, remained completely intact.

The Rebbe Maharash concluded:

“Both chassidim were eager to fulfill the Alter Rebbe’s request, but there was a significant difference between the two. The first chossid knew that listening to the Rebbe is paramount, and one must listen to the Rebbe’s words even if he doesn’t understand them and can’t figure them out. The second chossid also knew that one must listen to the Rebbe.

However, his listening followed his understanding. Once he knew exactly what the Rebbe wanted, he was prepared to fulfill his every request, but his commitment was based on his understanding.”

Rabbi Avtzon is a veteran mechanech and the author of numerous books on the Rebbeim and their chassidim. He is available to farbreng in your community and can be contacted at avtzonbooks@gmail.com

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