“Zalmanye,” called the Maggid of Mezrich to his youngest student, using his nickname for Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi. “It’s time for you to go out for a trip.”

Rabbi Schneur Zalman didn’t ask any questions. Gathering his few possessions, he began his journey. With no destination to guide him, he slowly traversed sprawling forests and small towns, hoping to finally encounter what his rebbe had in mind.

Rabbi Schneur Zalman spent the holy day of Yom Kippur in a small village and continued on his way until he reached Amdur, Western Belarus, where he secured a lodge for himself hours before Sukkot. After the festival prayers were concluded, someone approached Rabbi Schneur Zalman with an invitation to dine in his sukkah.

Rabbi Schneur Zalman accepted the offer and, together with a few other guests, followed his host home. Noticing his guest’s scholarly air, the host asked that he share some Torah thoughts. Like a sea with no end, Rabbi Schneur Zalman began to expound upon the rich, inner meaning of Sukkot. Drafts of wine punctuated the beautiful words of Torah. A warm and close bond spread over all the guests, who pushed to huddle closer around Rabbi Schneur Zalman.

The pitter-patter of a fresh drizzle drummed outside the sukkah for a few minutes before turning into a roaring downpour. Yet, not a drop spoiled the special atmosphere contained inside the sukkah, as though some miraculous canopy repelled the rain. As the evening progressed into late night, the wine supply began to run low. Fearing the lively mood would be cut short by the lack of spirits, one of the participants volunteered to hunt for some more.

Stepping outside the sukkah, he found himself pelted by the cascading rain. It had been raining for quite a while too, as clearly evident by the puddles of mud in the sopping grass. Pressing his coat collar tighter for protection, the volunteer sprinted through the deluge to the house of the local rabbi. He saw the rabbi standing at his window, watching the storm with unease. One of the holiday’s chief observances was dining in the sukkah, and the rain hadn’t abated enough to allow him to do so.

“What in the world are you doing outside during such a downpour?” asked the rabbi.

The man explained in wonderment that there was a guest—a young rabbi—in their sukkah teaching sublime Torah thoughts, mesmerizing everyone gathered. They had been enjoying themselves for so long that he was now on a hunt for some more wine.

“But the rain?” spluttered the rabbi.

“Our sukkah doesn’t have rain!” the man shrugged.

The rabbi accompanied the man back to the sukkah where the mysterious rabbi sat. Indeed, the sukkah was as dry as his house!

Respectfully, Rabbi Schneur Zalman fell silent at the rabbi’s entrance. He motioned to the new arrival to begin speaking, but the rabbi waved it off, choosing to listen instead. Rabbi Schneur Zalman honored the request and continued speaking.

The following day, the rabbi invited Rabbi Schneur Zalman to sit in his sukkah as a guest. For three days, the pair discussed a range of Torah topics.

“Who are you?” the rabbi finally burst out.

“I am Schneur Zalman,” Rabbi Schneur Zalman said. “I’m a student of the Maggid of Mezeritch.”

“You have a rebbe as well?” The local rabbi failed to understand why such a great man needed a rebbe to guide him.

He then asked, “Do you have friends—students of the Maggid—that are perhaps interested in a match? I have a daughter who would like to get married, and we are looking for an appropriate Torah scholar.”

As the two deliberated over the subject, the chants of a peddler slowly grew louder through the open windows.

“Bagels for a kopek! Bagels for a kopek! Bagels for a kopek, kopek for bagels!”

“And what’s wrong with the bagel peddler?” Rabbi Schneur Zalman inquired, speaking up over the hollers.

“Our family comes from a long line of Torah scholars,” responded the rabbi, sounding wounded at Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s suggestion. “His, on the other hand . . . Well, he’s a bagel peddler!”

Rabbi Schneur Zalman sighed. “You can now understand why a rebbe is required even for scholars. If you were to travel to the Maggid in Mezeritch, such a sentence would have never left your mouth. The Rebbe teaches us how to value each and every individual soul.”

The words, said with such honesty, entered the rabbi’s heart. It was sometime later when he decided to travel to Mezeritch. He quickly developed a love for Chassidic teachings and a love for the Maggid. In time, he became one of the Maggid’s greatest students. Future generations remember him as Rabbi Chaim Cheikel, Rebbe of Amdur.

When Rabbi Chaim returned home, he followed Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s suggestion and pursued a match between his daughter and the bagel peddler. His perception of simple Jews had gone through a transformation.

With his fresh perspective, he soon discovered that the groom, beneath his seemingly simple and coarse exterior, possessed a lofty and sensitive soul.