He was a noted scholar who had accomplished much in his years of Torah study. Now he had discovered in an obscure tome of Kabbalah that if a suitable person were to go forty days and forty nights without uttering a single unnecessary word, he would merit the exalted spiritual state of ruach hakodesh (divine inspiration).

Excited, he decided to attempt it. He spent as much of the time as he could studying Torah, and avoided social contact as much as he was able. The required time-period passed without mishap, and he exhaled deeply in relief. But then his breath became short again, as he began to tremble in anticipation of the blessed revelation.

After the evening prayer, he isolated himself in his room and waited. And waited. And waited.

He couldn't understand. What had gone wrong? He knew with certainty that he hadn't failed the requirement. Perhaps he had miscounted the days?

But another day and night went by, and another, and another, and still the blessed bestowal did not happen. How could this possibly be?

He decided to ask the Chassidic rebbe he had heard so much about, Rabbi Yisrael, the "Holy Rhyzhiner." When he arrived at the Rebbe's court, he was astonished at what he saw. The Rebbe lived in extraordinary luxury! Home, furnishings, clothing and appurtenances were all made of the most expensive materials and were of a quality fit for the highest level of aristocratic decadence. Was this any way for a spiritual leader to live, and a Chassidic rebbe no less?

He wondered if he had made a mistake in coming here, and as the days passed he became convinced of it. How could a person who lived in such opulent style possibly have anything to tell him about divine inspiration? He decided to leave for home without even speaking to the so-called holy master.

As he passed by the Rhyzhiner's house, he saw the Rebbe emerge. Four magnificent white steeds had been harnessed to a carriage worthy of royalty. As the Rebbe was about to mount to his seat, he paused, and then patted one of the horses on the head, three times.

This was too much for the frustrated scholar to bear. He dashed over to the Rebbe and challenged, "Explain to me, please, exalted sir, what spiritual work is a Chassidic master engaged in during the time he is petting a horse?"

The Rhyzhiner gazed at him a moment before answering benignly, "Ah, but you do not understand. This horse has just gone forty days and nights without uttering an unnecessary word!"

Biographical note: Rabbi Yisrael of Rhyzhin (1797-1851) was a great grandson of the Maggid of Mezritch and one of the most respected Chassidic Masters of his time and all times, referred to by chassidim and other rebbes alike as "The Holy Rhyziner."