longing

Rebbe Nachman had a vision after lighting the first candle of Chanukah, December 21st, 1808. A guest entered the house of a homeowner and asked him some questions. They continued speaking until they discussed matters of the heart. The homeowner began to pine and long greatly, asking the guest, “how can a person reach and attain any matter of holiness”? The guest said to him, “I will teach you how”. The homeowner was shocked, and began to wonder: Perhaps this is not a human being at all? But then he observed more and saw that the guest was speaking with him in the way of a human being. Immediately the homeowner’s faith became strengthened to believe in the guest. [Later, the guest said] I must leave here now. The homeowner asked him, “how far should I accompany you”? The guest answered, “until after the doorpost”. The homeowner began to think, “How can I go outside with him? For now we are together among others, but if I leave with him alone, who knows who he is [or what he will do to me]”? The homeowner told the guest, “I am afraid to leave with you alone”. The guest answered him, “If I can teach you like this even now, then no matter what I wish to do with you, no one can stop me. So the homeowner exited the doorway with him. The guest grabbed him and began to fly with him. Meanwhile, the homeowner noticed that he was back in his home again. And he couldn’t believe that he was talking with people, eating and drinking, like the way of the world. Then he looked, and behold, he was flying as before. Then again he was in his home, and again he was flying…And the homeowner was perplexed how sometimes he was here and sometimes there. He wanted to discuss this with other people, but nobody would believe him. He asked the guest, “how can this be”? The guest answered him, “When you agreed to go with me, I took your neshamah and gave it a garment from the Lower Garden of Eden, but your nefesh and ru’ach remained with you. When you connect your thoughts there, you are there, and you bring a ray from me to you, and when you return here, then you’re back here. (paraphrased from Chayei Moharan 85).

It goes without saying that every word of Rebbe Nachman’s stories have multiple meanings. I don’t claim to know what those meanings are, but I just want to highlight a few thoughts about binding ones self to the tzaddik, which might be what this story is about. The homeowner asks, “how can a person reach and attain any matter of holiness”? That’s a very vulnerable and deep question. When we make ourselves vulnerable, we can receive light from places that beforehand were closed-off to us.

Also, we see that the homeowner had doubts, as it says “How can I go outside with him? For now we are together among others, but if I leave with him alone, who knows who he is [or what he will do to me]”? This is so real. We are so afraid to leave our comforts and pursue the truth. We know the truth in our hearts, as the guest shows easily shows him, but we are afraid what will happen to us if we leave our home. What will people say if I’m doing something different? How can I keep it up etc?

Finally, the homeowner is in and out of this world and he feels like he has no one to share the experience with. This limitation of language when believing in Hashem and in the tzaddik is sometimes a difficult reality. You know that you’re sometimes flying with the Rebbe, and then you find yourself other times so mundane. It can be confusing. But as the story ends off, “I don’t know from which world he was from, but he’s surely from a good world…”

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