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Translation:Tales of Rabbi Nachman/8

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Tales of Rabbi Nachman (Sipurei Ma'asiyot) by Nachman of Breslov, translated by Wikisource
The Rabbi and His Only Son


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 Torah], as is the way with the wealthy. He would study and pray constantly, except that he felt in himself a lacking [due to] some deficiency, but he did not know what, and he had no taste [satisfaction] in his learning and praying. He told this to two young people and they advised he should travel to a certain tzaddik [saintly Jew]. Now, this son had done a [certain] "mitzvah" [commandment or good deed] through which he had reached the aspect of the Smaller Luminary. The only son went and told his father inasmuch as he feels no taste in his service [meaning in what he serves God, namely praying, learning and other mitzvot] inasmuch that something is missing for him but he doesn't know what — therefore he wants to travel to this tzaddik about whom they had told him, as above. His father answered him, "How do you come [to decide he's worthy for you] to travel to him? You are, after all, more scholarly and more pedigreed than he. It doesn't suit you to travel to him. Desist from this way!" Until the father thus dissuaded 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. This happened several times. And the son kept feeling his lack and he yearned to fill the void (in other words, to correct something so he should not be devoid), but he did not know what was missing, as mentioned earlier. He went yet again to his father and begged him direly until his father felt compelled to travel with him. For his father did not want to let his son travel alone, since he was his only son. So his father told him, "Look, I will go with you. I'll show you that [this tzaddik] is nothing at all." They harnessed the carriage and set out. The father said to his son, "With this I will make a test: if everything 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, a horse fell, 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 felt something lacking and he know not 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, events are not [indicating] we should travel. For is it a natural occurrence that both axles should break? How many times have we 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 youths 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 told his father that "we should no longer set up such a test, for this is natural that sometimes a horse falls or axles can break — unless it will be something very shocking."

They traveled and came to an inn to spend the night. They met a merchant there, and they began talking with him as merchants are wont, not telling him that they are going there (to one "good Jew" [gutter yid, a tzadik]), for the rabbi was embarrassed to say that he's traveling to that tzaddik. They were speaking about worldly matters until the conversation came around the subject of tzaddikim; where tzaddikim are found. He (the merchant) told them [in this certain place] there is a tzaddik, and there and there. They began speaking about the tzaddik to whom they are traveling. The merchant answered them, "That person (in an expression of amazement)? He is plainly a qal [lit. "light one"] (in other words, not an earnest Jew)! Just now I am traveling from him; I was there when he committed a transgression!" The father replied to his 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 by way of the conversation did he tell it.) Look, he's coming right from there!" They returned home (that is, the father and the only son).

The son died, and appeared in a dream to his father. His father saw him standing in great anger. His father asked him, "Why are you so angry?" The son answered that he should travel to that tzaddik (to whom they had wanted to travel), "and he will tell you why I am angry." He awoke and thought to himself, "It's a coincidence." (In other words, just a dream, not a truth.) Then he again had the same dream, and again he thought, "It's a meaningless dream." When he dreamed it a third time, he understood that this is no empty thing and he traveled [to that tzaddik]. On the way he met the merchant whom he had previously encountered when traveling with his son. The rabbi recognized him and said, "Aren't you the one I saw at that inn?" He answers him, "Certainly you saw me!" [The merchant] opens up his mouth [supernaturally wide] and says to him, "If you want, I'll swallow you up!" [The rabbi] tells him, "What are you saying?!" He answered him, "Do you remember when you journeyed with your son, and the first time, a horse fell down on the bridge and you returned? Then the axles broke. Then you met me and I told you that he [the tzaddik] is a qal? Now that I have exterminated your son — now you may travel. For your son was an aspect of the Minor Luminary, and that tzaddik [whom he wanted to meet] is an aspect of the Major Luminary. If they would have assembled together, Mashiach [Messiah] would have come. And now that I have exterminated him, you are permitted to go." And as he was speaking, [the merchant suddenly] vanished. The rabbi didn't have with whom to talk, so he traveled to the tzaddik and cried out, "Woe! Woe! Such a pity for that which is lost and unfindable!" (Heb. only: May Hashem Yithbarakh return our exiled ones soon, Amen.)

[Notes Following the Story][edit]

The merchant was the Samekh-Mem[1] himself, who disguised himself as a merchant and deceived them. Then when he met the rabbi the second time, he himself taunted the rabbi for having followed his advice. 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 taunts the person afterwards and takes vengeance on him for having listened. May Hashem Yithbarakh save us from him and bring us back to the truth proper, Amen.


Footnotes[edit]

  1. do not pronounce the name: Samael, the accusing angel in charge of Evil and the angelic prince of Esav