#111 (s5760-11/15 Kislev)
Once a year this learned man, who also happened to be quite wealthy, would travel to the great fair in Leipzig. There he would invest some of his capital in merchandise, which he would then sell in his home town upon his return at a good profit. He was able to live off the proceeds from these transactions for the rest of the year while he devoted his time to Torah-study and prayer. On his next such business trip, he made a point to pass through Mezritch and stop there.
Witnessing the Maggid's lengthy prayers for himself, he was amazed. At his first opportunity to speak privately to the Maggid, the wealthy scholar said to him: "I also pray according to the kavannot, the special mystical intentions, taught by the holy Ari, yet I don't find the neccessity to extend my prayers for so long."
Instead of answering directly, the Maggid expressed interest in how his guest made a living. The man explained how it was enough for him to travel once a year to Leipzig to invest in merchandise, which he then sold for a good profit in the area where he lived.
"But how do you know that you have made a profit?" inquired the Maggid.
"Simple. I enter all my capital expenditures and travelling expenses in my ledger, and subtract their sum from the total amount of income from sales. The remainder is my profit," replied the merchant, wondering why the Rebbe was so interested in the details of his business.
"But why," the Maggid asked innocently, "do you waste all that time and money travelling to Leipzig and back? Why don't you just write all the credit and debit figures down in your ledger and calculate your profits that way, without fuss?"
"Ha, ha, ha!" laughed the merchant. "Is it possible to think that from writing numbers can come a profit without bothering to do anything else? Ha, ha, ha. Of course you have to travel and buy and sell before the profit can be real, not just theoretical."
"Well," said the Maggid, "the kavannot are like merchandise: if they are not fully possessed in your mind and heart as if you were 'there,' it is like writing profit figures on a piece of paper without doing the business work. On the other hand, if you are firmly attached 'there,' you can then acquire some excellent 'merchandise' and make a handsome profit with the kavannot.
"But that," concluded the Maggid to his astonished visitor, "requires extended time and investment in prayer."
[Translated-retold by Yrachmiel Tilles from Reshimas Devorim vol. D; first published in Kfar Chabad Magazine.]
Tilles is co-founder and associate director of Ascent-of-Safed, and editor of
Ascent Quarterly and the AscentOfSafed.com and KabbalaOnline.org websites. He
has hundreds of published stories to his credit.