More than a week passed, and Reb Mordechai still remained in the grave diggers’ beis hamedrash, arguing with his erstwhile companion (who was now a porush), about the false path the porush was following. At present, he had not yet succeeded in convincing him at all, but at least he had accomplished this much: while speaking to Reb Mordechai, [the porush] now kept his eyes open.

During the years Reb Mordechai spent with the Baal Shem Tov he had forgotten the manner in which misnagdim observe the Three Weeks between the Seventeenth of Tammuz and the Ninth of Av. When the seventeenth of Tammuz arrived and the Three Weeks began, Reb Mordechai observed the avodah of his former companion (who had become a porush) during this period; this sight caused him much pain.

By coincidence, it was just then that Reb Chayim Porush had a notion to begin studying Kabbalah, and he asked Reb Mordechai to study with him. Reb Mordechai agreed, hoping that he might thereby be able to achieve his real purpose: to tell him about the new path that he had learned from the Rebbe.

The two former companions continued studying the revealed and the mystic aspects of Torah together. Reb Chayim was now studying Kabbalah very diligently, and had begun to appreciate the importance of the ritual immersion. He still found it difficult to walk about with open eyes, for he was unaccustomed to it, but he had removed the blindfold.

Reb Mordechai was quite pleased with his progress, and had told Reb Chayim of the new path of avodah that he had learned from the Baal Shem Tov. Reb Chayim proved receptive to these ideas. The townspeople began to notice that since the arrival of the stranger, Reb Chayim had undergone a change. It was an unexpected change, but people considered it a change for the better.

Reb Chayim had been known in town as a great gaon; whenever a group of scholars had a difficult question concerning some Torah subject, they would approach Reb Chayim Porush, who always supplied an ingenious solution. Now, whenever people came to Reb Chayim with a problem in their studies, they found the two of them — Reb Mordechai and Reb Chayim — sitting and studying together. When the people posed their question, Reb Chayim would point to Reb Mordechai and say to them, “Here is my companion from the yeshivah; we both studied together at the yeshivah in Smorgon, but his understanding is superior to mine.”

When they began discussing the problem posed by the questioners, Reb Mordechai and Reb Chayim would engage in a complex analysis of the subject. The scholars were deeply impressed by the astute insights that they heard, and each one reported this in his own beis hamedrash. The whole city was now in agreement that the visitor should be appointed Town Maggid.

During the few weeks that Reb Mordechai learned with Reb Chayim, a radical change occurred in Reb Chayim’s conduct. On one occasion, Reb Chayim engaged Reb Mordechai in an intense discussion, and unburdened his heart to him. For seven or eight years he had been learning Medrash; for five years he had been learning the holy Zohar; but his heart remained as impenetrable as a stone. His learning of Zohar and Medrash failed to provide him with the spiritual attainments he expected from learning these subjects.

In this confession that he heard from Reb Chayim, Reb Mordechai perceived an indication that the time was ripe for him to transmit the message the Rebbe the Baal Shem Tov had sent: “To Reb Chayim, say that ....” He had inferred from the Baal Shem Tov’s words that the message was to be delivered in reply to some story or confession of Reb Chayim’s.

All this time, Reb Mordechai had been wondering when the message to Reb Chayim should be delivered. Careful contemplation of the Rebbe’s words, “To Reb Chayim, say that ...,” implied that it was to be said in response to something that the recipient would say. Now that Reb Chayim had made his confession to Reb Mordechai, he understood that the time had come to convey the message.1

Transmitting a message from the Rebbe, however, requires certain preliminaries; one can’t just come right out and deliver the message. A twofold preparation is needed before the Rebbe’s message is delivered: the messenger must make the proper preparations, and even more important, the recipient needs a certain preparation. Thus, Reb Mordechai postponed delivery of the Rebbe’s message until after the necessary preliminaries were attended to.

Reb Mordechai then began an intensive dialogue with Reb Chayim, to enlighten him about the new path taught by the Rebbe, the Baal Shem Tov. He interpreted the concluding Mishnah in tractate Sotah: “Eagerness leads to propriety, propriety leads to purity ....” He elucidated all the virtues listed there: eagerness, propriety, purity, abstinence, holiness, humility, fear of sin, piety, and ruach hakodesh, explaining that these qualities are to be interpreted in a far loftier sense than the way the misnagdim understand them.

Reb Mordechai pointed out to Reb Chayim that the qualities of humility and fear of sin, according to the old definitions, are nothing special. After all, what normal person does not fear to sin, and what ordinary person is not humble? And yet, Rabbi Pinchas ben Yair, who was a truly G‑dly person, did not mention the attribute of humility until after five prerequisite attributes: eagerness, propriety, purity, abstinence, and holiness; and fear of sin was not reckoned until after the prerequisite of humility.

The very first of these virtues is eagerness, which reflects vitality and spirit. In this vein, Reb Mordechai demonstrated all the errors of the old way, and the superiority of the new path taught by the Baal Shem Tov. He related to Reb Chayim the complete story of his journey to the far-away places where he had first heard of the holy Baal Shem Tov, whom he had later visited, and with whom he had spent such a long time. Reb Mordechai described all his experiences at the Baal Shem Tov’s court, and how he had remembered his companions from the yeshivah days, about whom we spoke previously.

Finally, Reb Mordechai revealed that he had a message for Reb Chayim from his Rebbe, the holy Baal Shem Tov. He was, however, unable to deliver the message until Reb Chayim first made the necessary preparations, so that he might become worthy of receiving it.

The fact that Reb Mordechai’s Rebbe — who was such a great gaon and tzaddik — had sent him a message, made a deep impression on Reb Chayim. He resolved to do whatever was necessary to become worthy of receiving the message.

Reb Chayim had great respect for Reb Mordechai; in fact, since they had started learning together, Reb Chayim had discovered that Reb Mordechai’s study was extraordinary, even in the revealed aspects of Torah.

Whatever subject matter they studied, at the end of the study Reb Mordechai would meditate deeply. Then he would say that he had heard from a great gaon that the verse,2 “This is the Torah of man” means that whatever subject appears in the Torah is also to be found within “man.”3 Then Reb Mordechai would consider the subject matter they had studied in the Gemara, and try to find its counterpart in man’s [Divine service].

At first, Reb Chayim found this approach to study very strange, sometimes even comical. What sort of relevance could there be between “Two people hold a garment,”4 or “One who trades a cow for a donkey5,” and “man,” that one should expend so much mental effort in searching for the connection?

Once when Reb Mordechai and Reb Chayim finished studying a complex passage on which they had spent several days, and that they had studied exhaustively and skillfully (in yeshivos this was called “thoroughly kneading and baking” the subject), Reb Chayim felt quite pleased with himself. The subject matter dealt with sacrificial law. Reb Chayim considered studying such subjects to be Torah lishmah, the highest rung of Torah study. For at the present time (until G‑d, blessed be He, sends us our righteous Redeemer, rebuilds the Beis HaMikdash, and instructs us to resume the sacrificial offerings) such subject matter is pure Torah; it has no application in actual practice. As such, this study is Torah lishmah.

Reb Chayim considered the happiness he felt after this study to be simchah shel mitzvah. In his opinion, the proper reward for such study of Torah lishmah and for such simchah shel mitzvah ought to be no less than the revelation of the prophet Eliyahu. In fact, he felt offended that the Heavenly Court had not bestowed upon them this reward they had justly earned.

At the time, Reb Chayim debated with himself whether it was permitted to question the judgments of the Heavenly Court. He concluded that the Heavenly Court was not, after all, the Holy One Himself. One may not question the judgments of the Holy One, blessed be He, but it is permissible to question the Heavenly Court.

Actually, he also entertained some slight doubts about the Holy One Himself, for it was inconceivable that the Holy One was unaware (G‑d forbid) that he and Reb Mordechai had studied Torah lishmah, and that they had derived much pleasure and joy from this study (which was simchah shel mitzvah). So if the Holy One was aware of all this, why didn’t He send the prophet Eliyahu to them?

Nevertheless, Reb Chayim was unwilling to challenge the Holy One’s judgment, and he decided that no matter how unjustly the Holy One treated him, he would not question it. However, the Heavenly Court was another matter; he could question their judgment, and indeed he felt some resentment toward them.

When they had finished studying the passage of sacrificial law, Reb Mordechai became very sad, and began meditating deeply. Reb Chayim at first wondered why Reb Mordechai had become so sad; on the contrary, he ought to be joyful, for they had learned Torah lishmah, which should result in simchah shel mitzvah, rather than in sadness.

Reb Chayim concluded that Reb Mordechai’s sadness stemmed from the same problem that was troubling him: the terrible injustice of the Heavenly Court, that had denied them the revelation of the prophet Eliyahu. And so, he attempted to console Reb Mordechai.

“I myself have also considered at length the problem that troubles you,” said Reb Chayim. “How could the Heavenly Court perpetrate such a gross injustice? After all, we have studied Torah lishmah; thank G‑d, this gives us much pleasure, which is simchah shel mitzvah. For these two mitzvos we deserve a great reward. Now the Holy One certainly knows that we are perushim who have no use for the enjoyment of earthly rewards. Our sole desire is to merit that the prophet Eliyahu be revealed to us, so why does the Heavenly Court perpetrate such an injustice and deny us our reward?

“Now one might ask, what role does the Holy One Himself play in all this? He certainly knows that the Heavenly Court has treated us unjustly, so why doesn’t He do something about it? The answer is that, as everyone knows, the Holy One is awesomely great — very exceedingly great. And as great as the Holy One is, so great a Master of Humility is He — an awesomely great Master of Humility! As the Talmudic sages put it,6 ‘Wherever we find G‑d’s greatness, there we find His humility.’ And thus, He leaves decisions concerning reward and punishment to the discretion of the Heavenly Court, and He refrains from interfering with them.

“One might further point to our Sages’ statement:7 ‘The Holy One does not deny any creature its reward.’ How can the Holy One justify the denial of our reward for these two great mitzvos: the study of Torah lishmah, and simchah shel mitzvah? True, the Holy One is an Master of Humility, but here we are dealing with gross injustice! In fact, the Holy One Himself also suffers grief because of it, but He is unable to interfere.

“The sages tell us of many instances where G‑d Himself (were this possible) suffered grief when tzaddikim suffered. Now one could ask: He Himself is omnipotent, and He is able to prevent the suffering of tzaddikim, so why doesn’t He do so? We must therefore conclude that this is the Holy One’s way: He simply refuses to interfere. Such matters are under the jurisdiction of the Heavenly Court, and He allows the Heavenly Court to do as it sees fit.

“In my humble opinion, therefore, the solution is that we should be joyful; though it is a gross injustice, and we are suffering because of it, let us nevertheless be joyful. This will demonstrate that we accept the judgment with love, whereby we shall earn yet a third mitzvah, which may be even greater than the first two mitzvos. Thus, even the Holy One will be unable to contain Himself, and He will intercede on our behalf. Then, the Heavenly Court will receive its well-deserved chastisement.”

Reb Mordechai had listened patiently to Reb Chayim’s monologue. At first, he was unable to comprehend what Reb Chayim was talking about, but eventually he understood what ideas were troubling him. Reb Mordechai reminded himself of the ridiculous notions and outrageous fantasies that had crept into his own head while he was still a misnaged. Now, when he heard Reb Chayim prattling the same absurdities, he nearly broke into side-splitting laughter. But the pity he felt for Reb Chayim and for his ignorance of the true nature of G‑dliness caused him to sob heavily instead.

Reb Chayim was quite pleased with himself over the profound intellectual analysis he had presented to Reb Mordechai. But he was even more overjoyed because of a far greater accomplishment, for which he would be rewarded with a special place in the World to Come. And this reward would be his alone. The reward in the World to Come for having studied Torah lishmah would have to be shared equally by the two of them: Reb Chayim and Reb Mordechai. The reward in the World to Come for the happiness he experienced in the mitzvah of studying Torah lishmah was certainly owed to him. But Reb Mordechai also deserved part of the credit, though not as much as he himself deserved it, for he himself had experienced true joy (thank G‑d). In fact, dimples had appeared on Reb Chayim’s cheeks; he had felt his cheeks dimpling as though he were the world’s greatest laugher.

There is a Talmudic expression,8 “His mouth did not cease laughing all day.” Now we cannot accuse the Talmudic sages of laughing out loud (G‑d forbid), for the sages explicitly ruled that “It is forbidden to fill one’s mouth with laughter in this world.”9 Therefore, the sages’ laughter must have consisted of no more than a dimpling of the cheeks.

Reb Chayim knew for a fact that his own cheeks had become deeply creased, and that he was therefore surely deserving of the reward for simchah shel mitzvah. Now it appeared Reb Mordechai’s cheeks had also dimpled (at least a little bit). Had he been in Reb Mordechai’s shoes, thought Reb Chayim, [he would have done more, for] he would not want to rely on how favorably the Heavenly Court would evaluate this minimal dimpling.10 But as for Reb Chayim’s intellectual analysis, whereby he had concluded that they should accept their judgment with love, and for the benefit for people at large that would be derived from this analysis — this reward was Reb Chayim’s exclusively.

Reb Chayim told Reb Mordechai that the injustice perpetrated by the Heavenly Court would have negative repercussions.11 It would not affect them, for Reb Mordechai and Reb Chayim were tzaddikim. As tzaddikim they would (thank G‑d) continue to study Torah lishmah and to experience simchah shel mitzvah, even if the Heavenly Court denied them their reward. Although this constituted an injustice on the part of the Heavenly Court, they were willing to overlook it, since the Holy One Himself also refrains from interfering. And although it was difficult to comprehend why, they would nevertheless remain tzaddikim and would not question the Holy One, no matter how badly He treated them. But there would still be repercussions.

This was the way Reb Chayim presented his argument to Reb Mordechai. In his own mind, however, [Reb Chayim] had a deeper insight into the affair. His idea of “accepting the judgment with love” would please the Holy One so much that He would confront the Heavenly Court saying, “You have cheated these two tzaddikim out of the reward for their two great mitzvos: Torah lishmah, and simchah shel mitzvah. But My friend Reb Chayim is ready to overlook the fact that his reward has been withheld, and he accepts your judgment with love. For this he deserves an even greater reward.”

Now the Heavenly Court might try to justify itself before the Holy One by pointing to some flaw in the intent of his Torah study, or in his happiness over the performance of the mitzvah. This the Holy One would never allow. True, interfering is contrary to His custom; but since the Heavenly Court has upset the Holy One, as it were, He would not keep silent!

Thus, Reb Chayim’s decision to accept the judgment with love would achieve two objectives: first, it would increase the power of the Holy One (were this possible), motivating Him to interfere in matters that He ordinarily leaves to the Heavenly Court; second, it would ensure that the Heavenly Court would never again deny the proper reward to people who do mitzvos. And the reward in the World to Come for these two accomplishments would go to him exclusively.

After waiting for a short interval, Reb Mordechai began explaining to Reb Chayim that he — Reb Chayim — had no concept at all about either the Holy One or the Heavenly Court. Nor did he have any idea what constitutes “Torah lishmah,” or what “simchah shel mitzvah” means. At first, Reb Chayim was unreceptive, and assumed that Reb Mordechai was only speaking in that vein out of humility. But eventually Reb Mordechai told him the whole truth. With harsh words, he told Reb Chayim that his ideas would ordinarily be considered heretical and blasphemous. In this case however, they were merely foolish notions and fantasies, stemming from his coarse attributes as a misnaged.

Upon hearing such words, Reb Chayim became flustered, and at first he was unable to comprehend it at all. Later, in several talks, Reb Mordechai explained to him the opinion of the non-Jewish philosophers, that G‑d abandoned the universe, leaving it in the care of the stars and constellations. But the truth is that G‑d, blessed be He, supervises all created things individually, and this Divine providence constitutes the life-force of all created things.

After this, Reb Chayim began to realize that his own way of thinking had consisted of nothing but absurd fantasies. Then Reb Chayim began studying Kabbalah. Reb Mordechai taught him several fundamental concepts elucidated in the works of the Ramac, and Reb Chayim studied the kabbalistic works Avodas Hakodesh and Toras Ha’olah. This enabled Reb Chayim to appreciate the teaching that Reb Mordechai had repeated to him in the name of one of the geonim on the verse, “This is the Torah of man.”

There now remained only a few days until Rosh Hashanah arrived, and Reb Chayim greatly desired to daven the High Holiday prayers with the accompanying Kabbalistic meditations taught by the Ari. Therefore, he began to repeat these meditations to himself constantly, in an effort to become thoroughly familiar with them.