The story is told of how the Rebbe, Rabbi Sholom DovBer, was shown three paintings.

The first painting depicted a war and its accompanying horrors. It showed a wide battlefield with many soldiers in combat. The officers were observing the soldiers through a telescope. The scene evoked tremendous fear. There were streams of blood as well as wounded and dismembered people everywhere.

The second painting was of a planted field with stalks growing. It had a pleasant ambiance: the sun shone brightly, and a small bird stood on top of a stalk. Many art experts were impressed by the scene, because it was captured so brilliantly as to appear real.

A simple farmer who viewed the painting commented that it did indeed look real, except for the bird on the stalk. Although the bird was small, the weight of its body should still have bent the stalk—and in the picture, the stalk stood tall as those surrounding it.

The third painting depicted a courtroom scene from an earlier era. Both the prosecutor and defendant were present; the prosecutor demanded the death penalty for the defendant. The defendant’s son was shown entering the room to proclaim his father’s innocence. One could discern two expressions on the defendant’s face: the fear that gripped him, and the pleasure he felt as his son tried to save his life.

The Rebbe drew valuable insights from each of the scenes.

In the war picture, we can see a depiction of the internal spiritual battle which each person has with his evil drives.

The scene of the field teaches a profound lesson. One’s divine service can look beautiful, and give the impression of being alive. However, if it is lacking the ability to “bend” in submission to G‑d’s will, it ceases to be real. True goodness can be achieved only by setting aside the limitations of personal ego.

Finally, the courtroom painting shows that when a person is being judged, if he even once performed a good deed for another Jew, this gesture of kindness acts as a defender—a character witness. The pleasure he feels as a result of this defense is great indeed.

(Sefer HaSichos 5696, p. 46)