It was nearly midnight; the wind was howling mercilessly. Severe Siberian cold waves swept across the remote forest region with a vengeance, as the bitter temperature plummeted further to torturous bone-chilling levels. It was week two of his treacherous trek, and the chassid pointlessly struggled to shield himself from the inescapable chill and heavy snowfall, shivering desperately in his fur-lined hat and sheepskin coat. Although he was accustomed to dealing with gnawing cold, he was unprepared for the hardship inflicted by the cruel elements when he undertook to brave winter’s bleakest hours to fulfill the directive of his rebbe, the Maggid of Mezeritch.

Reflecting on his last conversation with the Maggid broke up the monotony, as the team of horses hauled the buggy through the deep snowdrifts that engulfed the treacherous and sometimes impassable Ukrainian roads.

“Rebbe,” he had asked, “how is it possible to fulfill the Torah dictates that regulate dominion over one’s thoughts and feelings? It is difficult, but possible, to achieve mastery over deeds, or even speech. But thoughts and feelings cannot be restrained! They infiltrate one’s mind and heart randomly. How can these be restricted? What should a person do when prohibited or depressing thoughts invade his mind or heart?”

Rather than responding, the Maggid instructed him to immediately set out for the village of Zhitomir and the home of Rabbi Zev, one of the Maggid’s devoted disciples.

Warmed by his recollections of his rebbe, and inspired by the notion of clarification, the chassid endured the bitter cold with incredible stoicism. The frigid air felt like ice as it scraped the back of his throat, yet he persevered.

Arriving at his destination in the dead of night, the chassid was relieved to see light glowing from a window in Rabbi Zev’s home. To his consternation, however, his knocks on the door brought no response. Peering through an open slat, the chassid observed Rabbi Zev surrounded by piles of books, engrossed in study. Minutes turned into hours, as numerous attempts at louder knocking and banging were similarly ignored. Dismayed, but having no other recourse, the chassid remained in the biting cold, repeatedly pounding, to no avail. All the while Rabbi Zev seemed to be in a state of oblivion, burning the midnight oil, completely unaware of the clamor echoing in the dark.

At long last, just before dawn, Rabbi Zev acknowledged his visitor, making his way to the door and graciously welcoming him in. Thankful to be alive, the speechless chassid staggered in, allowing Rabbi Zev to seat him by the blazing fire and revive him with a glass of hot tea, reveling in the attention. After asking after the welfare of their rebbe, Rabbi Zev escorted the chassid to the most comfortable room he had, to recover his strength after his ordeal. Rabbi Zev continued to extend impressive courtesy to his guest for the next few days, attending to his every need.

Finally, his vitality restored, the chassid revealed to his host the objective of his journey. “The Maggid advised me that only you could provide me with an adequate answer and guidance,” he concluded.

Rabbi Zev quietly contemplated this heartfelt request. “My esteemed comrade, does a man have less ownership over his mind and heart than he does over his home? On the night that you appeared on my doorstep, I began to enlighten you. You attempted to gain entry into my home, of which I am the master. I grant admission to anyone I wish to receive. I deny access to anyone I do not wish to tolerate. It is my decision as to whether or not I let someone in.”