Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Many Paths ... Many Journeys.

In a recent conversation with my Mother, I remembered this special story -  which I'm sure does it's work within my subconscious, helping to ensure that I view others positively: 

In the town of Mezhirich during the 1760's dwelt was a saintly spiritual leader named Rabbi Dov Ber. Rabbi Dov Ber developed a large following of disciples, most of whom were spiritually advanced in their own right. Among other reasons, they were drawn to him largely to the learn the art of spiritual leadership. He was like a general training generals.

One day, Rabbi Dov Ber was visited by a wealthy admirer. During the visit, the time arrived for Rabbi Dov Ber to deliver an impassioned lecture to his inner circle of disciples. Being present, the wealthy man sat through the lecture drinking in every word with the excitement of someone who had just discovered the sweetness of nectar for the very first time. During the lecture, Rabbi Dov Ber heaped dear praises on the amazing spiritual benefits of living an ascetic lifestyle.  When the wealthy man heard these words, they cut through his heart like a knife. He thought to himself, "I must be at a tremendous distance from anything spiritual. I live in the lap of luxury, rolled up in delicate comfort, the very polar opposite from the blatant recommendations of my spiritual master."

As soon as the lecture ended, he approached Rabbi Dov Ber and pleaded, "Holy master please put me on a program of asceticism. I too want to be spiritual!"

"Your spiritual program is to keep doing what your already doing. Eat three sumptuous delicious meals a day. Please don't compromise on an iota on your usual culinary pleasures.", offered Rabbi Dov Ber.

As soon as the honored guest look leave, the inner circle of disciples converged on their master and questioned, "You had him so turned on. He was about to abandon the life of flesh for a life of the spirit. Why did you allow this precious opportunity slip away so easily?"

"What appeared to you to be an opportunity for this man, would have been a terrible mistake; actually, a lost opportunity for him," sighed Rabbi Dov Ber. "He's a soul that came down into the earthly realm for a very special spiritual purpose, to spend his life of giving charity.  Therefore, the Creator blessed him with plenty to give. This is his spiritual work. A lifestyle of asceticism will just get in his way and confuse him. When the needy come knocking on his door, he's liable to think to himself that if he can subsist daily on a few crumbs of dry bread then they can probably exist on rocks and pebbles. However, if he allows himself to cultivate a sensitive palate for the heights of culinary pleasures, then he'll also cultivate the emotional sensitivity to, at the very least, provision the needy with some nice moist bread."

Lesson: It's easier to view others positively when we realize that each person is placed by the Creator on a different, but equally valid, program of  spiritual growth. There are many paths and many journeys. No two people have the exact same journey.

(This story is retold from Rabbi Shlomo Yosef Zevin's Chassidic strories arranged by the weekly Torah portion - published in English by Artscroll)


  1. We all have different roles to play according to the part God made us. What's God's purpose for one is not necessarily his purpose for another. We're all on different levels. That's why there's so many religions in the world.

  2. To Angela: I agree. I think part of what makes this story particularly interesting in light of your comment is that this is a case of people who belong to the same religious community and still very much need individually tailored spiritual guidance.

  3. Yes, you're absolutely right.