The poverty of Rabbi DovBer, the Maggid of Mezeritch, was legendary. Meals, when they were, were a crust of bread; the “furniture” in his hovel was an assortment of wooden planks and stumps. Once he was asked by his disciples: “Rebbe, why is it that you must endure such abject conditions, while others, much less deserving than yourself, enjoy the blessings of G‑d’s world?" Rabbi DovBer replied with a story:

A wealthy man once married off his daughter. The father of the bride was a most generous and charitable man, and desired to share his joy with the unfortunate. So he put up notices in all the synagogues and poorhouses in the vicinity, inviting every beggar and vagabond to partake of the wedding feast.

The day of the wedding arrived. Hundreds of beggars took their places around tables laden with the best and the tastiest food money could buy. But then tragedy struck. The bride suddenly fell ill. The greatest doctors were rushed to her side, but to no avail. The bride died, and the wedding was transformed into mourning.

The beggars were divided into two camps. One group said: “The food is on the table. Who knows when, if ever, another such opportunity to fill our stomachs will present itself? Surely, our host would not want all this delicious food to be wasted. If we remain hungry, would this alleviate his grief?”

The second group of beggars, however, would not touch the food that lay before them. “How can we eat and drink,” they cried, “when the one who provided all this mourns? How can we enjoy a feast whose purpose and cause has been transformed into calamity?”

“The world is a wedding feast,” concluded Rabbi DovBer, “created for the sake of G‑d’s union with His bride, Israel. But then the wedding was disrupted, the nuptial home—the Holy Temple—destroyed. Yes, the feast is there for the taking, but its soul is devastated, its provider is in mourning.

“There are those who have no difficulty enjoying what they can of the feast. I, however, belong to the second group of beggars. I cannot bring myself to partake of the leavings of this aborted wedding . . .”