Sometimes, when I’m doing hitbodedut and I feel like I need a bit of extra inspiration or guidance, I open up a Breslov book at random, and see what I get. This is what I got, this Shabbat, when I was praying about ‘the matzav’:
“Prior to this last Shabbat before Rosh Hashana, the Rebbe had been visited by two prominent Chassidim, who ate with him. In the course of the conversation, the two Chassidim started ridiculing a certain man in Nemirov who used to clap his hands a great deal, while praying. The Rebbe was upset by their comments, and told them sternly: “How do you know what it means to clap one’s hands while praying, and everything it involves?! What right do you have, to make fun of this man whose hand-clapping isn’t meeting with your approval?!”…
“A few weeks later, after Succot, this man who had been with the Rebbe before Rosh Hashana, and who had made fun of the man who clapped his hands in Nemirov, came to the Rebbe, and asked him to intercede for his son, who was now sick. The Rebbe showed him a passage in the Pri Etz Chaim…[and] afterwards, the Rebbe told him the lesson about hand-clapping in Likutey Moharan 46, discussing the three hands etc.
“However, the man refused to incline his shoulder to bear the yoke of Torah and become a follower of the Rebbe.
“The man returned home, and his son’s condition became more serious. He told me the entire story of how the Rebbe had dealt with him and the lesson he had given. He also told me that the Rebbe had told him a story about a certain aristocrat who was extremely hard, and brazen… The man asked me to remind the Rebbe about his son’s illness, next time I went to him, and to ask him for help.
“Soon afterwards, I went to the Rebbe and spoke with him about this. He said, ”The boy is still alive?” in a tone of surprise. I stood there trembling, because I understood from this that the boy’s decree of death was already sealed. The Rebbe said: “If this man had accepted what I said, the boy would already be healthy” – but now, it was impossible for the boy to stay alive. And indeed, the boy died shortly afterwards.
“When the Rebbe spoke to me about the man, I started making excuses for him, saying, “How can he become your follower, when he already has a leader?” – namely, one of the Rebbe’s opponents.
“The Rebbe replied: “If so, it is a big test for him.”
“In other words this did not mean it would be impossible for him to become the Rebbe’s follower, only that his test would be greater. He should certainly make every effort to withstand the test, overcome all the obstacles, and become a follower of the Rebbe.”
This passage hit me like a ton of bricks.
There’s more to say, but I’m strangely reticent to say it. Let each person understand what they will.
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