In the time of the great Maggid, there lived in Mezeritch a Jewish householder who was both wealthy and an accomplished Torah scholar. He was able to devote most of his time to Torah study and prayer. His wife ran the store that belonged to them, and he had to be there only two hours a day. The rest of his time was spent in the beit midrash learning Torah.

This man was opposed to the chassidic movement, and as a result he had never gone to visit the Maggid. One Friday morning, he came very early to the beit midrash and saw several young men sitting there studying. It seemed they had been there most of the night. He didn’t recognize any of them, and realized that they must be from out of town.

He went over to greet them with the traditional shalom aleichem,” and conversed with them a bit, asking them where they were from and why they had come. They told him they had journeyed from afar to see “The Rebbe.”

Their reply made him think. “People travel here from great distances to see the Maggid, while I, who live here in Mezeritch, have never gone to see him even once. I really should do so, at least one time.”

He was immediately struck by the Maggid’s holy appearance . . .

He thought some more. “Of course, I cannot justify interrupting my Torah studies for such a thing, but I suppose I can skip going to the shop for one day.” And that is what he did.

When he entered the Maggid’s room, he was immediately struck by the Maggid’s holy appearance and the divine illumination that seemed to radiate from him.

After that first encounter, he began to visit the Maggid more and more, even relinquishing some of his study sessions in order to do so. He eventually became totally attached to the Maggid as his rebbe, heart and soul, just like the other devoted chassidim.

Then, after a while, his business took a downward turn. As time went by, the decline became even more serious; his affairs continued to deteriorate, until he was nearly impoverished.

He couldn’t understand why this should have happened to him. Hadn’t he increased his merit in the eyes of heaven by becoming a follower of the great Maggid? But wait! It seemed that the beginning of his economic downfall could be traced to when he became a chassid!

He decided to present this burning question to his holy teacher. The Maggid answered him: “As a scholar, you must know what it says in the Talmud (Bava Batra 25a): ‘Whoever wishes to be wise should face south (in prayer); whoever wishes to be wealthy should face north.1 For the menorah was positioned in the south, and the showbread table stood in the north.

If a person makes himself as if he is nothing, then he becomes a spiritual entity . . .

“So, let me ask you: What if someone wishes to be both wise and wealthy? There is a vast distance between north and south!”

The man didn’t know what to answer. He waited silently.

The Maggid continued, “If a person makes himself as if he is nothing, then he becomes a spiritual entity. As that which is spiritual requires no space and is not restricted by space, he can then be both here and there.”

These words penetrated the new chassid’s heart. He worked on himself to become much more humble, shedding his scholar’s haughtiness. As he did so, he found that his business took an upward turn, and it was not long until he was wealthy once again, as he had been initially.

Note: This week’s Torah reading discusses not only the menorah and the showbread table, but also the Ark of the Law, which—if you examine its measurements against those of the surrounding Sanctuary carefully—seems to have taken up no space!

Based on Sippurei Chassidim, by Rabbi S. Y. Zevin, and other oral sources.

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