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Getting There

Getting There


One day, a visitor arrived at the home of Rabbi DovBer, the Maggid of Mezeritch. The visitor was an old friend of Rabbi DovBer’s, who had studied with him in their youth. With great interest he observed the behavior of his former study partner, who had since become a follower of the founder of Chassidism, Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, and had assumed the leadership of the chassidic community upon the latter’s passing.

The visitor was particularly struck by the amount of time that the chassidic master devoted to his prayers. He himself was no stranger to reflective prayer: when he and Rabbi DovBer had studied together, they had pored over the mystical teachings of the Kabbalists, and would pray with the prescribed meditations, or kavanot, outlined in the writings of Kabbalah. But never in his experience had prayer warranted such long hours.

“I don’t understand,” he said to Rabbi DovBer. “I, too, pray with all the kavanot of the mystics. But still, my prayers do not take nearly as much time as yours do.”

Rabbi DovBer’s visitor was a dedicated scholar. His wife ran the family business so that he could devote all his time to Torah study. Only once a year was he forced to break from his studies for a few weeks: his wife would give him a list of the merchandise she needed, and he would travel to the fair in Leipzig to wheel and deal.

“Listen,” said Rabbi DovBer to his visitor, “I have an idea for you. Why must you waste precious weeks of study every year? This year, sit at home. Envision the journey to Leipzig in your mind’s eye: picture every station along the way, every crossroads, every wayside inn. Then, imagine that you are at the fair, making your rounds at the booths. Call to mind the merchants that you deal with, reinvent the usual haggling and bargaining that follows. Now, load your imaginary purchases upon your imaginary cart and make the return journey. The entire operation should not take more than a couple of hours, and then you can return to your beloved books!”

“That is all fine and well,” replied Rabbi DovBer’s friend, “but there remains one slight problem: I need the merchandise.”

“The same is true with prayer and its kavanot,” said Rabbi DovBer. “To envision a particular attribute of G‑d in its prescribed section of the prayers, or to refer to a certain nuance of emotion in your heart at a particular passage, is all fine and well. But you see, I need the merchandise . . .”

From Once Upon A Chassid (Kehot, 1994), by Yanki Tauber.
Images by chassidic artist Shoshannah Brombacher. To view or purchase Ms Brombacher's art, click here
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Bobo brains LA, CA via July 9, 2011

Getting there. You have to go. Reply

Anonymous October 12, 2007

to confused "a single day" would mean Friday before sunset and Saturday after night begins. Reply

Elizabeth via October 10, 2007

Response to the Confused and Merchandize minds The gist of the article is that one desires to attain spiritual goods knowing the rest follows from G-d; the physical and material benefits.

The other prays for material goods and lives his life according to the measure of faith given to him. He has little time to pay lip service. We cannot bribe G-d.

Therefore, we are all called to serve G-d according to our faith. Some chase winds where there is no mist and others know well how to be connected to G-d at all times.

My sincere advice, more time you spend with G-d, the more dimensions you will climb and He will show you great and wonderful mysteries. It all depends where your heart is? Reply

Anonymous S.M., CA via October 7, 2007

confused it seems that was the reason that there is the Print option acompanying everu article :) Reply

Stephen Weinstein Camarillo, CA via October 7, 2007

I am confused by the comment "I could have gone a single day without reading something from this site." Are you operating a computer on Shabbos? Reply

Chaim Leime Teleshevsky S.M., CA via October 7, 2007

Merchandise Merchandise - in this context would in my guestimation be, actual feelings of Love and Fear of G-d that take real time and effort to develop. Reply

Anonymous August 6, 2004

I wonder what my life would be like without things from in my life. At times I've looked back and wondered how I could have gone a single day without reading something from this site.

Regarding this story - thank you so much for writing it. It's not just a good story; it's a great story.


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