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It was nearly midnight; the wind was howling mercilessly. Severe Siberian cold waves swept across the remote forest region with a vengeance, as the bitter temperature plummeted further to torturous bone-chilling levels. It was week two of his treacherous trek, and the chassid pointlessly struggled to shield himself from the inescapable chill and heavy snowfall, shivering desperately in his fur-lined hat and sheepskin coat. Although he was accustomed to dealing with gnawing cold, he was unprepared for the hardship inflicted by the cruel elements when he undertook to brave winter’s bleakest hours to fulfill the directive of his rebbe, the Maggid of Mezeritch.

Reflecting on his last conversation with the Maggid broke up the monotony, as the team of horses hauled the buggy through the deep snowdrifts that engulfed the treacherous and sometimes impassable Ukrainian roads.

“Rebbe,” he had asked, “how is it possible to fulfill the Torah dictates that regulate dominion over one’s thoughts and feelings? It is difficult, but possible, to achieve mastery over deeds, or even speech. But thoughts and feelings cannot be restrained! They infiltrate one’s mind and heart randomly. How can these be restricted? What should a person do when prohibited or depressing thoughts invade his mind or heart?”

Rather than responding, the Maggid instructed him to immediately set out for the village of Zhitomir and the home of Rabbi Zev, one of the Maggid’s devoted disciples.

Warmed by his recollections of his rebbe, and inspired by the notion of clarification, the chassid endured the bitter cold with incredible stoicism. The frigid air felt like ice as it scraped the back of his throat, yet he persevered.

Arriving at his destination in the dead of night, the chassid was relieved to see light glowing from a window in Rabbi Zev’s home. To his consternation, however, his knocks on the door brought no response. Peering through an open slat, the chassid observed Rabbi Zev surrounded by piles of books, engrossed in study. Minutes turned into hours, as numerous attempts at louder knocking and banging were similarly ignored. Dismayed, but having no other recourse, the chassid remained in the biting cold, repeatedly pounding, to no avail. All the while Rabbi Zev seemed to be in a state of oblivion, burning the midnight oil, completely unaware of the clamor echoing in the dark.

At long last, just before dawn, Rabbi Zev acknowledged his visitor, making his way to the door and graciously welcoming him in. Thankful to be alive, the speechless chassid staggered in, allowing Rabbi Zev to seat him by the blazing fire and revive him with a glass of hot tea, reveling in the attention. After asking after the welfare of their rebbe, Rabbi Zev escorted the chassid to the most comfortable room he had, to recover his strength after his ordeal. Rabbi Zev continued to extend impressive courtesy to his guest for the next few days, attending to his every need.

Finally, his vitality restored, the chassid revealed to his host the objective of his journey. “The Maggid advised me that only you could provide me with an adequate answer and guidance,” he concluded.

Rabbi Zev quietly contemplated this heartfelt request. “My esteemed comrade, does a man have less ownership over his mind and heart than he does over his home? On the night that you appeared on my doorstep, I began to enlighten you. You attempted to gain entry into my home, of which I am the master. I grant admission to anyone I wish to receive. I deny access to anyone I do not wish to tolerate. It is my decision as to whether or not I let someone in.”

Batya Schochet Lisker is the founding principal of Bais Chana Chabad Girls' High School of Los Angeles, current executive assistant to Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky of Chabad World Headquarters in New York, and program administrator of the Machne Israel Development Fund Early Childhood Initiative.
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Mendy Balkany Brooklyn November 9, 2017

Beautifully and richly written! Reply

Dalia G.S. November 8, 2017

Omg Batya... an equisite rendition of an incredibly rich story. Thank you so much!! Reply

Yakov Khanin November 6, 2017

Good story, but the word 'Siberian' is somewhat out of place as the distance between Zhitomir and Siberia is no less than between Florida and Alaska. The word 'remote' is also somewhat strange as there are many towns and villages in the area of Zhitomir. (not to take away the fact that the chosid could have frozen to death in Zhitomir as well as in Siberia during the winter...) Reply

schellie ware roseville, mi. November 5, 2017

Omaine, thoughts are like birds of the air they can and will come, it is up to us to Not let, allow them to make a nest on our heads, in our hair. They will come, its up to us to decide whether to entertain them or not, thus bringing them into captivity. Reply

Esther Herat St John's, Newfoundland November 4, 2017

B'H
Thank you for this article Ms Lisker. Your simple article has taught me what one attempts to learn in a life time. Powerful. Every article, every teaching and every video I watch, i am elevated to where HaShem wants me to be. I have a deep love for Chabad. Shalom Reply

Marlene West Indies November 2, 2017

An excellent object lesson! Thank you. Reply

Anonymous NYC, USA November 1, 2017

I wish it were that easy to control my thoughts as the Rabbi stated. No way, for me. Every time I feel abused in a relationship (of all kinds), I harbor anger for extended time periods. I use my anger productively in the sense of protecting my spirit/ego. I seem to be a magnet for poor interrelationships !
Oh well.......any helpful thoughts out there ?? Reply

Sharon Fahey Goose Creek November 1, 2017

Amazing story, great lesson. Reply

S November 1, 2017

But if they climb through a window? Reply

Victoria Rialto,CA Rialto, CA September 14, 2012

Gratitude I was so grateful to find this site and read this little tale. It helped me actually envision closing out bad, disturbing, hateful thoughts. Thank you for the lesson and thank you for the LIGHT!!! God Bless You and Yours. Reply

Lasarusa Tehuda Sovea Ben-Zion Suva, Fiji Islands September 11, 2012

So True Madam Lisker, Thank you for the enlightment. May HaShem's Blessings Be Upon You. Reply

Lisa Aubert Long Beach, CA September 7, 2012

granting admission This article is truly worthy of thought. How many times have we refused to answer the knocking at the door or ringing of the phone yet a negative thought invades our mind and the struggle to ignore it seems so overwhelming. Thank you for enlightening our minds with this article. Reply

Julie Durham, UK September 7, 2012

Easier... said than done! It seems to me that there may be times when one feels like the master of ones thoughts and feelings but there are always new experiences that will suprise one. Reply

schellie ware November 5, 2017
in response to Julie:

It most definitely is a battle, the worst of kind- our selves... Reply

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