In one of his travels, Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov arrived in a town where he was invited to stay at the home of the local rabbi. Instead, Rabbi Israel chose to avail himself of the hospitality of a certain tavern-keeper—a coarse and ignorant man known for his vulgar speech and depraved behavior.

When asked why he preferred the company of a reputed sinner over that of a pious scholar, Rabbi Israel explained: The Torah tells us that the Divine Presence “dwells amongst [the Jewish people], in the midst of their profanities.”[11] On the other hand, the Talmud states that G-d says of an egotistical person, “He and I cannot dwell in the same world.”[12]

“The tavern-keeper might be a sinner,” concluded the Baal Shem Tov. “But if G-d says that He nevertheless dwells with him, I, too, can be his guest. The rabbi, on the other hand, might be a great scholar and a very religious person, but he is a proud and egotistical man. If G-d says that He cannot find place for Himself in the same world with him, how can I find a place for myself in his home?”

Adapted from the teachings of the Rebbe by Yanki Tauber

[11]. Leviticus 16:16.

[12]. Talmud, Erachin 15b.


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