326 (s5764-17/ 20 Tevet)

The End of Two Treatises

Surely Rabbi Schneur-Zalman of Chabad would appreciate the depth and insight of his works.


The End of Two Treatises

Life in Czarist Russia wasn't easy, but in spite of everything, the couple would have been very happy if only G-d had granted them a child.

They prayed for years and even made the long trip to the Rebbe for a blessing. Finally, their prayers bore fruit, and they became the parents of a charming little boy. Not only was he an attractive and appealing child; he was possessed of an intellect that was rare. He learned with true dedication, and his mind and soul delighted in every word of Torah he studied.

The boy soon outstripped all his teachers, and so he sat alone every day in his room at home studying and making great progress in his studies. His parents were as happy as could be.

One evening the father entered his son's room and gazed down upon the page he was studying. To his shock and dismay, the boy was reading one of the books of the "Enlightenment" movement which disparaged Torah and Jewish tradition. Although his heart was racing, the father spoke to his son calmly, in a voice filled with warmth and love, "What are you reading, my son?" he asked.
"Father, don't think that I'm reading this because I'm interested in their arguments. I just feel that I need to know how to refute them when they speak." The father patted his son's arm and said nothing.

The next time the father found his son reading similar literature, his rebuke was stronger. Little by little the parents noticed a change in their brilliant son. His behavior, his carriage and his dress all bespoke the influence of the "enlightened." The words of his broken-hearted parents seemed to make no impression on the boy.

One day the boy entered the kitchen and made an announcement: "I'm going to the university in Berlin to study mathematics and science." His parents were so shocked and broken that they could not utter a word.

When he arrived in Berlin, the boy was greeted as a genius, so brightly did his intellect outshine the other students. He excelled in his studies, and after several years he had written two original scientific treatises which were about to the published. In addition to all this distinction, he found a girl whom he wished to marry.

Suddenly, he remembered his aged-parents, and had an urge to obtain their blessing on his proposed marriage. He also wanted to show them his scholarly manuscripts and prove to them that he had succeeded in his chosen endeavors, despite their disapproval.

But then he reflected: How could his parents, totally uneducated in secular ways, begin to fathom the depth of his brilliant studies? Suddenly he had an idea. He would stop in Liozhna on his way home.

There he would show his manuscripts to Rabbi Schneur-Zalman, the "Alter Rebbe" of Chabad, a man of great erudition who would certainly appreciate the depth and insight of his works. Then, his parents would hear about him from a source that was more familiar to their unsophisticated shtetl world-view.

The young man made his way to Liozhna and presented himself at the Rebbe's court --- an unusual sight in his moustache and Berlin garb.

Reb Moshe Meizlish, a well-known Chasid, approached him, inquiring what the young man was seeking, but he replied that he wanted only a private audience with the Rebbe. When the request was presented to the Rebbe, he agreed, and the young scholar was ushered into the Rebbe's room.

He entered with his two manuscripts clutched tightly in his hands. The Alter Rebbe and the young man were closeted in the study for several hours. The scholar finally left the room, his face flushed red, his hands shaking. He still held the manuscripts, but paced nervously, looking at one and then the other.

Then he took the papers and threw them all into the fire which burned in the central room.
Reb Moshe had been watching the whole scene, and now he approached the young man and asked him, "What happened in the Rebbe's chamber?"

"I showed the Rebbe my manuscripts -- scholarly concepts which I was on the verge of publishing. They had been very well received in Berlin. He looked at the first page of the first manuscript, made some notations, and quickly flipped through the remaining pages. Then he did the same with the second work. When he had finished, he looked up at me with his penetrating eyes and said, `Young man, your book is very well-written, except that it is fallacious, for there are errors in your basic premises.'

"I was shocked to my core. I had spent years perfecting these works. All of my professors were highly impressed by them. I started to argue my point of view but I was forced to stop. For try though I may, I simply couldn't refute his objections to the statements he had marked. I left the room completely embarrassed, and I continued turning over in my mind the Rebbe's critique. I sorely wished to justify myself, but I realized that I simply couldn't. That is when I threw my precious manuscripts into the fire."

The young man remained in the court of the Alter Rebbe, who personally taught this extraordinary young man. Not too many years after, the young man passed away. The Rebbe explained that his soul was a reincarnation of Rabbi Elazer ben Durdaya who had lived in the times of the Talmud. He had "committed every sin," but had returned to G-d with all his heart. He had had several reincarnations, and this completed his repentance. His soul was prepared to enter the highest realms.


[Adapted by Yrachmiel Tilles from the rendition on www.lchaimweekly.org (#396).]

Biographical note:
Rabbi Shneur Zalman [18 Elul 1745-24 Tevet 1812], one of the main disciples of the Maggid of Mezritch, is the founder of the Chabad-Chassidic movement. He is the author of Shulchan Aruch HaRav and Tanya as well as many other major works in both Jewish law and the mystical teachings.


Yrachmiel 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.

back to Top   back to Index   Stories home page
Redesign and implementation - By WEB-ACTION