Weekly Chasidic Story #793 (s5773-22 / 24 Shevat 5773)
The Guru That Did Not Follow Torah
After experiencing a variety of what India was famous for–drugs, gurus, yogis, etc.–she was about to give up, when she heard about a small secretive group that was different, secluded deep in a forest.
Connection: Weekly Reading–Ex. 23:4
Avigayil (fictitious name) wasn’t like the other thousands of confused post-army Israelis searching the world for their ‘real’ selves. She had found what she was looking for.
After experiencing a variety of what India was famous for: drugs, gurus, yogis and other beckoning lifestyles, she was just about to give up, when she heard about a small secretive group that was different, deep in the forests of India.
It took her several weeks to find them but when she did she immediately sensed that this was for her. True, she had thought so tens of times before but this time it was real. Their guru was humble and calm, yet she sensed an inner fire burning; the same fire that was burning in her soul!
The group was very reluctant to admit new members, which made it all the more appealing. She made up her mind; she had to join no matter what. Finally her life would be worthwhile.
The initiation was difficult and demanding, but she passed and threw herself completely into a new life of purification and meditation. For months she rose higher and higher in devotion and spiritual purity until her instructor recommended to the head guru that, considering her amazing progress, she was ready to take the next big step: she had merited to be anointed as a priestess! Avigayil was headed for a life of bliss and total surrender to the eternal!
Interestingly, throughout this time she had managed to find a few minutes each week to call her parents in Holon, Israel. Although she usually kept the conversations short and vague, this time she couldn’t contain her joy.
A priestess? Her parents, although they were not religious Jews, were aghast; they never dreamed it would come to this! But their protests only aggravated her. She had her own life to live and her own soul to save.
After all, what did they have to offer? Money? Television? Marriage? Feh! She had found the truth and nothing would stop her.
But as ‘fate’ would have it, exactly at this time her beloved grandmother passed away in Israel; one day before her next call home. The bad news shocked her and when her parents suggested that she return she agreed and asked them to delay the funeral until her arrival.
* * *
She took the first plane out and made a point of buying a round trip ticket for two weeks; she would use the opportunity in Israel to say her last good-byes to everyone she knew before turning over her life to the guru.
But her parents thought otherwise; they were determined to do get this crazy idea out of her head. The day after the funeral they initiated a stream of rabbis, professors and even a psychologist or two. But they had underestimated her convictions. She remained untouched. Nothing they said or did had any effect whatsoever — and the days passed like minutes.
On her second Shabbat, the day before her flight back, her father requested that she accompany him to the local Chabad synagogue and speak to the Rabbi; Rabbi Meir Halperin.
When they arrived the Rabbi was in the middle of giving a class on the commandment of retuning lost objects (HaShevat Avaida). He cited several essays of the Lubavitcher Rebbe to illustrate his point: although this commandment seems to be logical, it really isn’t and must be done only because it is the will of G-d.
Avigayil exploded! “What!” She exclaimed. “What is wrong with doing good because it makes sense? Do you think people are so bad or stupid that they don’t know to return things? And who says G-d gives commands anyway? Maybe your G-d does, but not my god! My god is nature! Spirit! When one is in harmony with nature, one will automatically do good!”
After the class she calmed down and they spoke for a while. Although the Rabbi said some interesting things, especially about how nature without the Torah can bring man to be an animal or worse, Avigayil was unimpressed. She longed for her guru and the forests of India. The next day she boarded the plane and flew back…for good.
* * *
The ritual began early in the morning and was to reach its grand finale on the top of a high mountain at sunset. It was a clear, beautiful day. The previous night she had purified herself through fasting and prayer and now, along with five other prospective priests, she was slowly ascending the mountain led by their holy guru and several of his assistants, leaving the mundane world far below.
About an hour before they reached the summit, something on the ground caught the guru’s eye. It was a wallet. He gracefully and swiftly bent down, picked it up and put it in the small pouch he had strapped to his side.
But Avigayil happened to notice. She quickened her pace till she was next to him and softly suggested that he look in the wallet to see if there was identification.
“No” he answered calmly, looking at her with deep all-knowing eyes. “If god has caused it, then so it shall be. The ways of god are unfathomable.”
Avigayil continued in the procession but she was shocked. The words of Rabbi Halperin kept ringing in her mind: ‘Man without Torah can be like an animal.’ The response of the guru just didn’t ring true.
Finally they reached the top. A large bonfire was burning, it’s light was flickering off their faces and white robes with the darkening sky in the background.
The guru broke the silence. “Are you all willing to take the most important step in your lives?” he said majestically looking at all of them with compassionate eyes.
“Yes!” they all answered stoically, almost in unison — except for Avigayil.
The Guru turned his gaze to her. “And what about…?”
“NO!” She yelled out. “NO NO!!”
The guru calmly answered. “Very well, we cannot accept one who is not certain. Let you return to the city and when you are sure, we will return here.”
* * *
Avigayil descended the mountain with one of the guru’s assistants and early next morning took the first plane out, which happened to be to Australia. Her outlook had changed completely. She just wanted to get away; she didn’t really care where to, just so long as it was as far away as possible from the idolatry, impurity and lies of India.
She stayed a while with friends and it was there she met another Chabad representative, Rabbi Eli Riskin. This time she really found what she was looking for; Judaism. And it stuck.
The guru was right about one thing: the ways of G-d are indeed unfathomable.
Source: Edited by Yerachmiel Tilles from the translation/adaptation of Rabbi Tuvia Bolton (//ohrtmimim.org/torah) of the report by Rabbi Eli Riskin in HaGeula #237)
Connection: Weekly Reading–Ex. 23:4
Yerachmiel Tilles is co-founder and associate director of Ascent-of-Safed, and chief editor of this website (and of KabbalaOnline.org). He has hundreds of published stories to his credit, and many have been translated into other languages. He tells them live at Ascent nearly every Saturday night.