Weekly Chasidic Story #667 (s5770-52 / 28 Elul 5770)
Two Parables for Prosperity
The Modzitcher Rebbe rebuffed a chassid seeking advice on his parnassah, saying, “I don’t occupy myself with the frivolities of this world.” Immediately after this, another chassid entered the Rebbe’s room and spoke to the Rebbe for a full two hours – about hisparnassah.
Connection: Seasonal – Rosh Hashana
1) Puddles of Wine
Rabbi Zvi of Portziva used to lead the Musaf prayer on Rosh Hashana in the synagogue of Rabbi Yosel of Torchin, the son of the Chozeh of Lublin.
He was once asked by Rabbi Yitzchak-Meir, the Chidushei HaRim of Gur: “Perhaps you could repeat for me a teaching you heard from Reb Yosele?”
“I do not recall any words of Torah,” said Rabbi Zvi, “but I do remember a story. One Rosh Hashana, just before the blowing of the shofar, the Rebbe entered the shul and told his chasidim, some of whom were undoubtedly thinking at that moment about their own requests to the Al-mighty for the coming year, “I am not going to rebuke you, not am I going to teach you Torah. I am only going to tell you a story.
“In a certain city lived a learned and wealthy wine-merchant who was honored one day by a visit from the local rabbi. The host went out of his way to show the rabbi great respect. The merchant quickly sent his servant down to the cellar, where he was to fill a bottle of wine from the middle barrel of the third row –for this was the best wine he owned. All the while, he engaged in a scholarly conversation with his distinguished guest.
“When the merchant had waited quite a while for his servant to return, he excused himself and quickly descended to the cellar to find out what had happened. He was shocked at what he saw there. Some of the barrels were uncovered; others were being drained as their taps had been left open; broken bottles were lying in the puddles of wine on the floor; and the servant was nowhere to be seen.
“The merchant returned upstairs, very upset at the serious damage which his servant had caused him. He began to look for the servant, calling him by name. The servant finally answered, from a comfortable place over the fireplace, where he was sprawled at leisure. From up there, the servant called out to his master, ‘Listen here! I want you to increase my salary by so and so much. It isn’t nearly high enough.”
The Chidushei HaRim thanked Rabbi Zvi warmly.
“Now that is what I call a fine parable!” he exclaimed.
If you should happen to be mystified by this parable, here is another one with a somewhat similar message, which is explained.
2) Wagon Grease
A chasid approached Rabbi Yechezkel of Kuzmir seeking advice on his parnassah (making a living). The Rebbe pushed him away, saying, “I don’t occupy myself with the frivolities of this world.” Immediately after this chasid was rebuffed, another chasid entered the Rebbe’s room and spoke to the Rebbe for a full two hours — about his parnassah!
The first chasid returned to the Rebbe, and inquired why the Rebbe had refused to discuss his parnassah with him at all, yet subsequently had a lengthy discussion with his friend about the same subject.
The Rebbe answered, “I’ll tell you a parable. A wagon driver entered a store which sold a variety of expensive merchandise, and requested to buy a little oil to grease the wheels of his wagon. The store owner began screaming, “Get out of here, I don’t sell wagon oil!” The wagon driver retorted, “Why did you just give wagon oil to the customer before me?” The store owner explained, “The customer before you bought expensive merchandise and I earned a hefty profit. In appreciation, I also gave him oil for his wagon. You, however, are requesting only oil, and therefore I’m informing you that I’m not a wagon oil merchant.'”
The Modzitzer Rebbe continued, “Your friend has asked my advice many times on the education of his children, organizing his time better to learn more Torah, and other issues of serving G-d. Therefore, when he came now to ask about parnassah issues, I dedicated my time to discuss it with him because it’s impossible to educate your children and to serve G-d properly without parnassah. You, however, came only about parnassah, like wagon oil, and therefore, I told you that I’m not an oil merchant.”
A person sets aside time to learn Torah, fulfills the mitzvahs and gives pleasure to His Creator, and on Rosh Hashana, he requests his physical needs. G-d gives him what he desires in order that he can continue to serve Him. But someone who requests only parnassah, and forgets that the spiritual is the main thing, should take it to heart that the Al-mighty is not a parnassah merchant.
1) Adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from “Living Jewish.”
2) Adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from Revach.net (a.i.d.=2783)
Rabbi Yossel of Torchin (1782-1818) was the son of the Chozeh of Lublin, and some say that the Seer viewed him as his successor.
Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Rothenberg/Alter (1789 – 23 Adar 1866) of Gur was the successor to Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotsk and the founder of the Gur dynasty. He was popularly known as the Chidushei HaRim, the title of his classic work of Torah analysis and interpretation. His charisma and concern for the masses resulted in Gerrer chasidus having a very large following.
Rabbi Yechezkel of Kuzmir [? – 17 Shvat 1856], a disciple of the Seer of Lublin, was the grandfather of the first Modzitzer Rebbe, a famous chassidic dynasty best known for its creative and exciting chassidic music.
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.