Friday, March 23, 2012

Total Control

Related by Rabbi Zalman Shimon Dworkin a"h who heard it from Reb Shmuel Grunim a"h
by Rabbi Rafael Nachman Kahn, translated by Basha Majerczyk

A man once came to the Maggid of Mezeritch Rabbi Dov Ber and, before returning home, requested that the Maggid instruct him how to be a "baal habayis" - in full command and control of himself at all times.

"Go to Zhitomir" the Maggid told him, "and introduce yourself to my disciple Reb Zev. Tell him in my name to teach you how to be a baal habayis."

It was late one stormy night when the man arrived in Zhitomir and knocked on Reb Zev's door. There was no response, so he knocked again.  He finally peeked in through the window and saw, quite clearly, that Reb Zev was awake and about.  Still, he ignored the door.  Having no other option and being well after midnight by then, the man sat down on the doorstep to wait. He was soon drenched from head to toe.

An hour later the door opened and Reb Zev welcomed the visitor inside.  In response to his questions, the man explained that the Maggid had sent him to learn how to be a baal habayis. Reb Zev was silent and did not respond.

For a whole week the man was wined and dined by his host, but oddly enough, not once did Reb Zev mention the reason for his visit.  At long last the man could not contain himself, and asked Reb Zev why he failed to comply with the Rebbe's directive.

"Why, what do you mean?" Reb Zev replied in surprise. "I gave you a lesson the very first moment you arrived! A baal habayis only opens the door when he decides he wants to; when he doesn't, he keeps it closed."  The point was well taken. The guest understood that a person can prevent extraneous thoughts from intruding on his avodah.

[In another version, as related by the Rashag, a baal habayis is one who "stokes all the furnaces in his house early in the morning; in the evening he closes all the doors and latches his gate to prevent pigs from entering his domain".]

It is said in the name of the Alter Rebbe that when Moshiach comes, all Jews will be on the level of Reb Zev of Zhitomir.  Reb Zev will ascend to the level of the Baal Shem Tov, and the Baal Shem Tov will attain a level that completely transcends human understanding.

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