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The Limitations of Space

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In the town of Mezeritch there lived a wealthy and scholarly young man. One day, he thought to himself: People come from far and wide to seek guidance from the famed Rabbi DovBer[30] who lives right here in Mezeritch, while I have yet to sample his wisdom. Ought I not go and see what this man is about?

The young man visited the Chassidic master and found a new world opened before him: a world of heightened awareness and deepened commitment, a world in which everything is imbued with purpose and significance. He soon became a devoted chassid of Rabbi DovBer’s.

But as his spiritual life richened, his material fortune plummeted. His business went from bad to worse; soon, he was a poor man. Finally, he mustered the courage to bring the matter up with Rabbi DovBer. “Rebbe,” he asked, “why is it that from the time I became your disciple I lost my wealth?”

“They say that you are something of a scholar,” replied Rabbi DovBer with a smile, “so I have a talmudic question for you. The Talmud says, ‘One who wishes to grow wise should orient himself southward; one who wishes to grow rich, should orient himself northward.’[31] But what if one desires to be both wise and rich? South and north are quite distant from each other…

“I see that you are silent,” continued Rabbi DovBer, “so I will answer my question myself. When a person humbles himself before G-d and man, and makes himself to naught, he ceases to take up space in this world. He now can he be south and north at the same time.”

Adapted from the teachings of the Rebbe by Yanki Tauber

 


[30] Rabbi DovBer, the “Maggid” of Mezeritch, leader of the Chassidic movement in the years 1761-1772.

[31] Baba Basra 25b

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