Monday, March 17, 2008
Sipur- The World to Come Only Contains What We Value in This World
I think that this story (from Sippuri Chassidim, p. 264-65) is one of the most important Chassidish stories that there are. It's message is so nogeiah to us and it's also straight out of what seems to be "the biggest chiddush" from the Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh seforim.
The Chiddushi Harim and a few of his Chassidim had to get to Kotzk for Shabbos. Now the Chiddushi Harim never traveled late Friday afternoon, lest he get stuck somewhere for Shabbos. Therefore, when the wagon he and his Chassidim were riding in got a broken wheel Friday morning, he was concerned that perhaps they should just stop there and make Shabbos in the nearest town. However, as he was repairing the wheel, the Wagon Driver assured them that they would still make it in plenty of time for Shabbos.
The Rebbe asked him to do his best to get there as early before Shabbos as possible, because it was very important to be there as early. They driver told him that he would do his best. He rushed and pushed the horses to go as fast as possible. Unfortunately, early Friday afternoon one of the two horses died from the strain. Brokenhearted, the driver pleaded with the Rebbe not to stop there for Shabbos, but rather to stay with him and he would still get the Rebbe to Kotzk well before Shabbos. The Rebbe reluctantly agree and they went on their way. And indeed, they did get there in plenty of time before Shabbos.
The Rebbe and Chassidim made Shabbos in Kotzk. But Friday night, after Shabbos had already begun, someoene in informed the Rebbe that the second horse, belonging to the driver, had also died from the strain of the trip. Knowing that virtually this entire man's source of livlihood had been lost due to his desire to be moser nefesh to get them there for Shabbos, the Chiddushei Harim had a messenger sent to the driver that as soon as Shabbos was over, the Chassidim would get some money together and buy him two new horses to pull his wagon. Unfortunatley, before the messenger was able to get to the man, he (the driver) was niftar, passed away, from the strain of the trip and brokenheartedness at losing both of his horses.
The Chidushei Harim told over that at this very simple Jew's Din Torah, heavenly trial, there were many many prosecuting angels due to the many aveiros, sins, that man had committed. However, since he was so ignorant, there were virtually no defending angels, since he had hardly done any mitzvos at all in his whole life. However, one very powerful defending angel spoke up and said, "It is not fitting that a man who was moser nefesh, sacrified, his whole source of livlihood and his very life as well for the sake of a Tzadik and for the sake of Shabbos should be punished in Geheinom! Due to his arguments, the heavenly court decided that indeed, he would not be punished with Geheinom for his aveiros. But on the other hand, he could not go to Gan Eiden either, because of his paucity of mitzvos. Therefore, they decided that he would be place in an intermediate place called the "Olam Hadimyon," the "World of Illusion." In this world, he would not realize that he had died, and would experience his greatest physical pleasure, the only kind of pleasure he knew, which was that he would be placed on a brand new wagon with four healthy stallions pulling the wagon. He would drive forever down wide, open, smooth roads, and would always have good weather.
In this version of the story, the Chiddushei Harim says that out of a sense of Hakaras Hatov, appreciation, for everything that the man had done for he and his Chassidim, he arranged that the man's eyes would be opened and that he would realize that he was dead, and would then be zocheh to enter Gan Eden and at least experience genuine schar, reward, of Deveikus with Hashem, closeness with Hashem on his own level.
To me, this is one of the most fundamental ma'asim I know, because it brings hope the point that if the only pleasures that mean anything to us in this world are physical pleasures, then the only thing available for us as reward in the World of Truth will be the same empty physical pleasures. It's scary but it's true. If you and I embrace the "World of Illusion" that we live in now, it may be the only world that we will ever have access to! We've got to unplug ourselves from a life where the only things that get us really going are a good meal, a vacation, a chance to "veg," new furniture, new clothes or whatever other empty pleasures there are. Even if we keep the mitzvos, but if they are not our source of chiyus, of life, then we're in trouble.
Hashem, please don't let us end up like that wagon driver, where the only things that mean anything to us are empty shells of hollow enjoyment. Let us get pleasure and Deveikus and Chiyus in this world from your Torah and your Mitzvos. That way, not only will we enjoy closeness to You in this world, but we will in the World of Truth as well!
(Picture of the Imrei Emes, Rav Avraham Mordechai Alter, the great-grandson of the Chiddushi Harim, courtesy of answers.com)
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