326 (s5764-17/ 20 Tevet)
End of Two Treatises
Surely Rabbi Schneur-Zalman
of Chabad would appreciate the depth and insight of his works.
End of Two Treatises
Life in Czarist Russia
wasn't easy, but in spite of everything, the couple would have been very happy
if only G-d had granted them a child.
They prayed for years and even made
the long trip to the Rebbe for a blessing. Finally, their prayers bore fruit,
and they became the parents of a charming little boy. Not only was he an attractive
and appealing child; he was possessed of an intellect that was rare. He learned
with true dedication, and his mind and soul delighted in every word of Torah he
The boy soon outstripped all his teachers, and so he sat alone
every day in his room at home studying and making great progress in his studies.
His parents were as happy as could be.
One evening the father entered
his son's room and gazed down upon the page he was studying. To his shock and
dismay, the boy was reading one of the books of the "Enlightenment"
movement which disparaged Torah and Jewish tradition. Although his heart was racing,
the father spoke to his son calmly, in a voice filled with warmth and love, "What
are you reading, my son?" he asked.
"Father, don't think that I'm
reading this because I'm interested in their arguments. I just feel that I need
to know how to refute them when they speak." The father patted his son's
arm and said nothing.
The next time the father found his son reading similar
literature, his rebuke was stronger. Little by little the parents noticed a change
in their brilliant son. His behavior, his carriage and his dress all bespoke the
influence of the "enlightened." The words of his broken-hearted parents
seemed to make no impression on the boy.
One day the boy entered the kitchen
and made an announcement: "I'm going to the university in Berlin to study
mathematics and science." His parents were so shocked and broken that they
could not utter a word.
When he arrived in Berlin, the boy was greeted
as a genius, so brightly did his intellect outshine the other students. He excelled
in his studies, and after several years he had written two original scientific
treatises which were about to the published. In addition to all this distinction,
he found a girl whom he wished to marry.
Suddenly, he remembered his aged-parents,
and had an urge to obtain their blessing on his proposed marriage. He also wanted
to show them his scholarly manuscripts and prove to them that he had succeeded
in his chosen endeavors, despite their disapproval.
But then he reflected:
How could his parents, totally uneducated in secular ways, begin to fathom the
depth of his brilliant studies? Suddenly he had an idea. He would stop in Liozhna
on his way home.
There he would show his manuscripts to Rabbi Schneur-Zalman,
the "Alter Rebbe" of Chabad, a man of great erudition who would certainly
appreciate the depth and insight of his works. Then, his parents would hear about
him from a source that was more familiar to their unsophisticated shtetl world-view.
The young man made his way to Liozhna and presented himself at the Rebbe's
court --- an unusual sight in his moustache and Berlin garb.
Meizlish, a well-known Chasid, approached him, inquiring what the young man was
seeking, but he replied that he wanted only a private audience with the Rebbe.
When the request was presented to the Rebbe, he agreed, and the young scholar
was ushered into the Rebbe's room.
He entered with his two manuscripts
clutched tightly in his hands. The Alter Rebbe and the young man were closeted
in the study for several hours. The scholar finally left the room, his face flushed
red, his hands shaking. He still held the manuscripts, but paced nervously, looking
at one and then the other.
Then he took the papers and threw them all
into the fire which burned in the central room.
Reb Moshe had been watching
the whole scene, and now he approached the young man and asked him, "What
happened in the Rebbe's chamber?"
"I showed the Rebbe my manuscripts
-- scholarly concepts which I was on the verge of publishing. They had been very
well received in Berlin. He looked at the first page of the first manuscript,
made some notations, and quickly flipped through the remaining pages. Then he
did the same with the second work. When he had finished, he looked up at me with
his penetrating eyes and said, `Young man, your book is very well-written, except
that it is fallacious, for there are errors in your basic premises.'
was shocked to my core. I had spent years perfecting these works. All of my professors
were highly impressed by them. I started to argue my point of view but I was forced
to stop. For try though I may, I simply couldn't refute his objections to the
statements he had marked. I left the room completely embarrassed, and I continued
turning over in my mind the Rebbe's critique. I sorely wished to justify myself,
but I realized that I simply couldn't. That is when I threw my precious manuscripts
into the fire."
The young man remained in the court of the Alter
Rebbe, who personally taught this extraordinary young man. Not too many years
after, the young man passed away. The Rebbe explained that his soul was a reincarnation
of Rabbi Elazer ben Durdaya who had lived in the times of the Talmud. He had "committed
every sin," but had returned to G-d with all his heart. He had had several
reincarnations, and this completed his repentance. His soul was prepared to enter
the highest realms.
[Adapted by Yrachmiel Tilles from the rendition
on www.lchaimweekly.org (#396).]
Rabbi Shneur Zalman [18 Elul 1745-24 Tevet 1812], one of the main disciples
of the Maggid of Mezritch, is the founder of the Chabad-Chassidic movement.
He is the author of Shulchan Aruch HaRav and Tanya as well as many
other major works in both Jewish law and the mystical teachings.
Yrachmiel Tilles is co-founder and associate director of
Ascent-of-Safed, and editor of Ascent Quarterly and the AscentOfSafed.com and
KabbalaOnline.org websites. He has hundreds of published stories to his credit.