Friday, November 4, 2011

The Lamplighter

The previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, R. Joseph Isaac Schneerson, who brought Chabad-Lubavitch to America, once recalled a thought-provoking conversation between his father and predecessor, R. Sholom Dov-Ber, and a Chassid:

The Chassid asked: "Rebbe, what is a Chassid?"

R. Sholom Dov-Ber answered: "A Chassid is a street-lamp-lighter. A street-lamp-lighter has a pole with fire. He knows that the fire is not his own, and he goes around lighting all lamps on his route."

The Chassid asked: "But what if the lamp is in a desolate wilderness?"

The Rebbe answered: "Then, too, one must light it. Let it be noted that there is a wilderness, and let the wilderness feel ashamed before the light."

"But what if the lamp is in the midst of a sea?"

"Then one must take off the clothes, jump into the water and light it there!"

"And that is a Chassid?"

The Rebbe thought for a long moment and then said:"Yes, *that* is a Chassid."

The Chassid continued:"Rebbe, I see no lamps!"

"That is because you are not a street-lamp-lighter."

"How does one become such?"

The Rebbe replied: "One must be sur mera [avoid evil]. When beginning with oneself, cleansing oneself, becoming more refined, then one sees the lamp of the other. When, Heaven forbid, one is crude, then one sees but crudeness; but when himself noble, one sees nobility."

[This again reflects typical Chassidic thought. The Baal Shem Tov [in comment on Avot 4:1; Nega'im 2:5; and Kidushin 70a] teaches that what man sees in another is a mirror-reflection of himself: as he is himself, so he sees the other. Divine Providence brought him to see it in order to correct his own deficiencies.]

When the present Rebbe recounted this conversation, he added: The lamps are there, but they need to be lit. It is written, "The soul of man is a lamp of G-d" [Proverbs 20:27], and it is also written, "A mitzvah is a lamp and the Torah is light" [Proverbs 6:23]. A Chassid is he who puts his personal affairs aside and goes around lighting up the souls of Jews with the light of Torah and mitzvot. Jewish souls are in readiness to be lit. Sometimes they are around the corner . Sometimes they are in a wilderness or at sea. But there must be someone who disregards personal comforts and conveniences and goes out to put a light to these lamps. That is the function of a true Chassid.

Source and more: Chabad

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

wonderful article. very inspiring. esp the last paragraph. thanks.