Translation:Tales of Rabbi Nachman/8
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The Rabbi and His Only Son
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A tale. There was once a rabbi who had no children. Later, he had an only son and he raised him and made him a wedding. The son would sit in an attic room and learn [i.e. study], as is the way with the wealthy. He would study and pray constantly, except that he felt in himself that he's lacking [due to] some deficiency, but he did not know what, and he had no taste in his learning and praying. He told this to two young people and they advised that he should travel to a certain tzaddik. Now, this son had done a mitzvah through which he had come to the aspect of the Smaller Luminary. The only son went and told his father inasmuch as he feels no taste in his service (in other words, in his serving God, that is, praying, learning and other mitzvot) and it’s lacking for him but he doesn’t know what; therefore he wants to travel to this Tzaddik whom they had told him about, as above. His father answered him, “How can you come to travel to him? You are, after all, more of a scholar than he and more pedigreed than he. It doesn’t suit you to travel to him. Desist from this way!” Until the father thus prevented him from traveling to the Tzaddik.
The son returned to his learning and again he felt the deficiency as mentioned above, and again he took counsel with those young people; again they gave him the advice that he should travel to the tzaddik. Again he went to his father and again his father diverted him and prevented him. Thus it happened several times. And the son kept feeling that he is lacking something and he greatly wanted to fill his lack (in other words, he should make corrections with something so that he should not be lacking) but he did not know what the lack is, as mentioned earlier. He went yet again to his father and implored him a great deal until his father had to travel with him, for the father did not want to let him travel alone, since he was an only son for him. So the father said to him, “Look, I will go with you. I’ll show you that he’s nothing at all (in other words, that the Tzaddik is nothing).” They harnessed the carriage and set out. The father said to his son, “With this I will make a test: if everything it goes orderly, it is from Heaven, and if not, it is not from Heaven that we should travel and we will return.” They set out, and they reached a small bridge and a horse fell and the carriage turned over and they nearly drowned. His father said to him, “You see that it’s not going orderly and the journey is not from Heaven.” They returned. Again the son returned to his studies and again he saw that something is lacking and he does not know what. Again he implored his father, as above, and his father had to once again travel with him. As they were traveling, his father again set up a test as before: if it goes orderly (then etc., as mentioned). As they were traveling, both axles broke. His father said to him, “See that [things are] not going so that should travel, for is it a natural occurrence that both axles should break? How many times we have traveled with this carriage and such a thing has never happened!” Again they returned. And the son returned to his learning and so forth as above, and again he felt the deficiency as mentioned earlier, and the young people advised him to make the journey. Again the only son went to his father and again pressed him; once again he had to travel with him. The only son said to the father: that we should no longer set up such a test, for this is a natural occurrence, that sometimes a horse falls or axles can break — unless it will be something very wild.
They traveled and came to an inn to spend the night. They met a merchant there, and they began to talk with him as merchants are wont to, not telling him that they are going there (to one good Jew), for the rabbi was embarrassed to say that he is traveling to the good Jew. So they were speaking worldly things until in the conversation they began to talk about good Jews [Heb. tzaddikim]; where tzaddikim are found; he (the merchant) told them that there (in a certain place) there is a tzaddik, and there and there. They began to speak about the tzaddik whom they are traveling to. The merchant answered them, “That person (in an expression of amazement)? He is plainly a qal [lit. “light”] (in other words, not at all an earnest Jew)! Just now I am traveling from him; I was there when he did a transgression!” The father spoke up (to the only son), “Do you see, my son, what this merchant is telling [us] innocently (in other words, he is not intending trash-talk, to speak evil of the tzaddik; only through the conversation did he tell it)? Look, he’s coming from there.” They returned home (that is, the father and the only son).
The son died and appeared in a dream to his father and his father saw him standing in great anger. His father asked him, “Why are you so angry?” He answered him (that is, the son, who’s dead, answered his father in the dream) that he should travel to that tzaddik (whom they had wanted to travel to), “and he will tell you why I am angry.” He awoke and thought to himself: it’s a chance occurrence (in other words, just a dream; not any truth). Afterwards he dreamed the same again and again he thought it’s a false dream, and so it happened three times. He understood that this is no empty thing and he traveled there (that is, the rabbi traveled to the Tzaddik whom he had previously traveled toward with his son). On the way he again encountered the merchant whom he had previously encountered when he traveled with his son, and the rabbi recognized him and the rabbi said to the merchant, “Aren’t you the one I saw at that inn?” He answers him, “Certainly you saw me!” and opens up his mouth and says to him, “If you want, I’ll just devour you now!” He says to him (that is, the rabbi to the merchant), “What are you talking [about]?” He answered him, “Do you remember when you traveled with your son and initially a horse fell down on the bridge and you returned, then the axles broke, then you met me and I told you that he is a qal? Now that I have exterminated your son — now you may travel. For your son was an aspect of the Smaller Luminary, and that tzaddik whom he wanted to travel to is an aspect of the Greater Luminary, and if they both would have assembled together, Mashiach [Messiah] would have come. And now that I have exterminated him, you are permitted to go.” And in the midst of speaking, he disappeared (in other words, the merchant vanished suddenly while talking) and he didn’t have whom to talk with. The rabbi traveled to the tzaddik and cried, “Woe! Woe! What a loss in the perished and no longer present (woe for the one who has become lost and cannot be found)!” (Heb. only: Hashem Yitbarakh return our exiled ones soon, Amen.)
[Notes Following the Story]
And the merchant was the Samekh-Mem himself, who disguised himself as a merchant and deceived them, and then when he met the rabbi the second time, he himself teased him for having followed him, for such is the way of the yetzer hara` [evil inclination]; initially he incites a person, and when the person follows him, Heaven forbid, he himself teases the person afterwards and personally takes vengeance upon him for having followed him. Hashem Yitbarakh save us from him and return us to the right truth, Amen.
- mitzvah: commandment or good deed, the root tzaddi-vav indicating a cleaving together of commander, performer, and means, brought about by the command and the performance thereof
- do not pronounce the name: Samael, the accusing angel and the angelic prince of Esav