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The Talmud (Taanis 21b) tells of a certain surgeon named Abba, who was on such a lofty spiritual level that he received daily greetings from the Heavenly Academy. The great amora Abaye, who only received weekly greetings, felt dejected because of the great honor given to Abba the Surgeon. Others told Abaye that the honor is given to this blood-letter and not you, because you can’t do what he does.

The Talmud offers a few examples: Abba the Surgeon designed a special garment for women to wear during their procedures with him, so he wouldn’t see their exposed bodies. He also kept a box out of public gaze where the patients deposited their fees. Those that could afford it put their fees there, and those who couldn’t pay were not embarrassed. Not only did he not charge young Torah scholars, but he would also give them some of his own money, telling them to go regain their strength.

One day Abaye decided to test him, sending him two scholars. Abba the Surgeon received them warmly, giving them food and drink and in the evening, he prepared fine woolen mattresses for them to sleep on. In the morning the scholars stole the precious bedding and took them to the market to sell. While in the market, they met up with the kind surgeon and asked him, “how much are these linens worth”? He replied, “Such and such”. They said to him, “Perhaps they’re worth more”? He replied, “that’s what I paid for them”. They said to him, “They’re yours and we took them from you. Tell us, please, what did you suspect when you saw us with your linens”? He replied, “I said to myself, maybe the Rabbis needed money to redeem captives and they were ashamed to tell me”. They replied, “Please take them back” and he answered, “from the moment I saw they were gone, I dismissed them from my mind and I devoted them to charity”.

In Torah 34, Rebbe Nachman briefly mentions this story to show how every Jew has something precious, a nekuda (unique point), that no one else has. Even the great Abaye, one of the most often quoted Talmudists, in some way couldn’t reach this simple surgeon’s level. And as we see from Abaye, we are too often comparing ourselves with others and feeling unimportant because of how we perceive ourselves in comparison. “וְעַמֵּךְ כֻּלָּם צַדִּיקִים; Every Jew is a tzaddik” (Isaiah 60:21). This means, says the Rebbe, that just like the world is sustained because of the tzaddikim, so too, at least, in a small way every single Jew has something that the world must have, and could only attain through him. We need to stop comparing ourselves to the perceived perfect people we dream of our neighbors. Instead we must use those powers of imagination to examine the mysteries of our own minds and souls and find that point we must share with the world.

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