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Translation:Tales of Rabbi Nachman/9

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Tales of Rabbi Nachman (Sipurei Ma'asiyot) by Nachman of Breslov, translated by Wikisource
The Clever Man and The Simple Man


[Introduction][edit]

Once there were two home-owners in a city who had great wealth, large houses and two sons; that is, each one of them had a son. The two children learned together in the same schoolhouse. One of them was a khakham [clever, smart, sophisticated, wise] and the other was a tam [simple, innocent, artless, wholesome] (not that he was a fool; rather, his intellect was simple, without sophistication). The two sons loved each other very much. Even though one was khakham and the other was tam, they nevertheless loved each other very much.

Came a time when the two householders began to decline. They continued to decline until they lost everything and became destitute with nothing remaining but their houses. As the sons began to grow up, their fathers told them: We do not have enough to pay for you, to sustain you. Do for yourselves what you can.

[The Simple Man and the Clever Man Learn Trades][edit]

The tam went and learned shoemaking. The khakham, who was a bar-havana, [an astute, discerning person], didn't want to apply himself to such a common trade. He decided he would travel the world and see what to do. As he was going about the marketplace, he saw a large wagon with four horses in harness speeding through. He called out to the merchants, "Where are you from?" They answered him, "From Warsaw." "Where are you going?" "To Warsaw." He asked them, "Perhaps you need workers?" They saw that he was astute, motivated, and looked good. So they accepted him. He traveled off with them and served them very well on the way.

When they arrived in Warsaw, since he was a bar-havana, he decided, "Since I am already in Warsaw, why should I remain with these [merchants]? Maybe there is a better place than [with] them. I shall go search and see." As he walked around in the marketplace, he began to investigate and inquire about the men who had brought him, and whether there would be a better place than [with] them. They answered that these people [who had brought him] are honest people and it's good to be with them. However, it is very difficult to be with them since their business dealings are in very distant places.

So, he went on. He noticed clothing shop workers as they were going around in the marketplace, with all their customary charm, with their caps and pointy shoes and the rest of the affectations and flair in their gait and appearance. Since he was so sharp and discerning, this occupation looked very proper, being pleasant and local. So he went to the men who had brought him, gave them his praise and appreciation, but told them that it is not comfortable for him to be with them. As [for recompense] for them having brought him, he had served them on the road.

So he went and offered himself to a proprietor. And the way with servants is, at first one has to be hired for less and do the heavier work. Then later, one advances to better jobs. The proprietor would use him for very hard work, sending him off to nobility carrying merchandise in the manner of servants--prominently displaying the garments on their extended arms; this work was very hard for him. Sometimes he needed to carry the merchandise to upper floors, and this work was very hard for him. He decided, since he was a philosopher, a discerning person: "Why do I need this work? Is not the main point the ultimate purpose--to get married and make a living? I don't need to see to that yet; I will be free for that later, in the years to come. Meanwhile, it would be better to travel, visiting countries, feasting my eyes on the world."

He went about the marketplace and saw merchants riding on a large wagon. He asked them, "Where are you going?" "To Lagorna.[1]" "Would you take me there?" "Yes." They took him there. From there he traveled to Italy, and from there, to Spain.

Meanwhile, many years passed and he became even more knowledgeable on account of having been in many countries[2]. He decided, "Now, it's time to look at the ultimate purpose." He began to philosophize about what he should do. It seemed to him that he should learn goldsmithery, which is a major occupation, a nice craft, entailing great insight and very profitable. And since he was such a bar-havana and philosopher, he didn't need to study the trade many years; merely in a quarter year he received the skill, and he became quite a great craftsman, even more of an expert than the one who had trained him.

Afterwards he concluded, "Even though I have such a trade in hand, nonetheless I do not have enough with this. Today, this is an important [profession], but maybe at another time some other thing will be considered important." So went ahead and placed himself with a gem cutter. And on account of his cleverness he acquired this skill in a short time as well — in a quarter year.

Then he philosophically decided, "Even though I have two trades in hand, who knows, perhaps neither of these will remain important. It would be better for me to learn a craft that will always be important." Probing with his insight and philosophy, he determined to learn medicine, which is always needed and always esteemed. Now, the way of learning medicine is to first learn Latin, the language and its writing, as well as the wisdoms of sophistry. And this too, on account of his brilliant mind, he mastered in a short time--a quarter year--and he became a big doctor, a philosopher and expert in all fields of wisdom.

[The Clever Man Afflicted, the Simple Man Joyful][edit]

After all this, the world began to seem, in his eyes, as nil. For due to his genius, and since he was such a great craftsman and so wise and such a doctor, every person in the world was like nil to him. He decided that he would now accomplish the purpose and take a wife. He opined to himself: "If I marry here, who will know what has become of me? Let me rather go back home, so that people will see what has become of me. I left as a young boy and now I have come to such greatness." And he picked up and traveled home, experiencing great afflictions on the way. For on account of his sophistication he didn't have anything in common with people about which to converse. [He was so worldly and refined that] he found no lodging up to his standards and so, he felt constantly afflicted.

For now, let us set aside the story of the clever man; and we will begin to tell the story of the simple man. The simple man learned shoemaking, and since he was a simple person he had to study the trade a great deal until he got it, and [even then,] he did not have complete expertise in the craft. He took a wife, and he sustained himself from his work. And since he was a simple person and was not such an expert, therefore his livelihood came with a great deal of pressing and was very limited. He didn't even have time to eat because he always had to work, due to his inability to [be more proficient] in his craft. Only while he was working--when he had inserted the nail and pulled through the cobbler's thread--only then would he take a bite of a piece of bread and eat.

[The simple man's] customary behavior was to be always very joyful. He was constantly full only of happiness. And he had all the foods, all the drinks and all the clothing. He would say to his wife, "My wife, give me to eat;" and she would gave him a piece of bread and he ate. Then he would say, "Give me the sauce with buckwheat groats," and she would cut him off another slice of bread and he ate. And he would praise and say, "How very good and nice is this sauce!" Similarly he would order himself served meat and other delicacies, and for each dish, she would give him a slice of bread from which he would have great pleasure and give great praise. "How well prepared this is!" as if he had actually eaten that very dish. For he would really and truly feel, in the bread that he ate, the taste of all the foods he wanted; on account of his great temimuth [the quality of being tam; simplicity; wholesomeness; naivete; innocence] and his immense joy.

And similarly he would say, "My wife, give me a drink of beer;" she would give him water and he would praise, "How nice is this beer!" [Then he would summon,] "Give me mead;" she gave him water and he would praise it the same way. "Give me wine" or other drink; she gave him water and he would delight in and praise the drink as if he really drank [wine, etc.]

So too with clothing. He and his wife shared one peltz [Yid. pelt coat; an unfinished piece of fur used as a coat]. He would say, "My wife, give me the peltz, when he needed it namely, to go to the market. She would give him the peltz. When he needed a tulep [fancy overcoat with fine fur on the inside which rolls over onto the collar] to go out socially, he would say, "My wife, give me the tulep," and she would give him the peltz. He would take great delight in it and praise, "What a beautiful tulep this is!" When he needed a kaftan [long suit coat] for instance, to go to synagogue, he would summon and say, "My wife, give me the kaftan," and she would give him the peltz. He would praise and say, "How nice and beautiful is this kaftan!" And so too when he needed to don a yupa [a long silk robe worn for formal occasions] she would also give him the peltz, and he would also give praise and delight: "How beautiful and nice is this yupa!" And the like. Thus he was full only of joy and delight constantly.

When he would finish a shoe — and the shoe probably had three corners [i.e., it was not symmetrical] since he did not have complete proficiency in his craft — he would take the shoe in his hand and praise it highly. And he would take great pleasure from it and would say, "My wife, how beautiful and wonderful is this shoe! How sweet it is! What a honey, what a sugary shoe this is!" She would ask him, "If that is so, why do other shoemakers take three gulden for a pair of shoes, and you take only a half thaler (one and a half gulden)?" He replied, "What's that to me? That's the other person's business and this is my business. And besides, why do we have to talk about other people? Let's just start calculating how much I earn with this shoe "from hand to hand" [from his hand to the hand of the customer--i.e., considering all factors in the process of making and selling the shoe]. The leather costs me this much, tar and thread cost this much, the filling between the skins this much, and likewise other items this much; comes out that I profit ten groschen from hand to hand. And with such a profit from hand to hand, what is there to be concerned about?"

So he was only happy and cheerful at all times, but to the world he was a laughingstock; in him, they had just what they wanted--someone to mock however they pleased, for he seemed like a lunatic. People would come and start speaking with him intending to make fun and mock. And the simple man would say to them, "Just without mockery." And as soon as they answered him, "No kidding," he listened to them and started talking with them, for he did not want to further suspect witticisms — that perhaps this itself [their reply] is mockery — for he was a tam. But when he would see that their intention was indeed to ridicule, he would say, "So what if you are more clever than me? Would you not then be the real fool? For what do I amount to? So if you'll be more clever than me, you'll still be a fool!" (All this were the usual ways of the simple man. Now we will return to the original subject [i.e., the clever man].)

[The Clever Man Arrives Back in Town][edit]

In the meantime, there was a commotion--the clever man is traveling and coming here with great pomp and sophistication! The simple man also came running to greet him with great joy. He said to his wife, "Give me quick the yupa! I shall go and greet my dear friend; I will see him." She gave him the peltz and he ran to greet him. Now the clever man was riding pompously in a horse-drawn carriage; the simple man came out to greet him and welcomed him joyously, with great love, "My dear brother, how do you do? Blessed is God for bringing you and giving me the privilege of seeing you!" And the clever man, for whom the entire world was like nothing, as was stated above [that everyone and everything in the world was insignificant to him, for he considered himself above all the world] — all the more so such a person as [the tam] who seems crazy. But nonetheless, on account of their shared childhood love, he drew him close and traveled with him into town.

Now the two householders, the fathers of these two sons, had died during the time when the clever son was traveling the world. Their houses had been left [as an inheritance]. The simple son, who had remained local, moved into his father's house claiming his inheritance. The clever son, however, had been in foreign countries and had no one to receive the house. So the clever man's house became ruined and was lost--nothing remained of it. Thus the clever man had no house to enter when he arrived. He traveled to an inn but was anguished there because it wasn't up to his standards.

The simple man now found himself a new occupation--he would constantly run from his house to the clever man with love and joy. He noticed that the clever man was suffering from the lodgings. So the simple man said to the clever man, "Brother, come over to my house and stay with me! I will gather all my belongings into one bundle and you'll have my entire house at your disposal." This was agreeable to the clever man, so he moved into his house and stayed with him.

Now the clever man was always full of suffering, for he had left behind a reputation of being a wondrous sage, an artist, and a great doctor. A nobleman came and ordered him to make him a gold ring. He made him quite a wonderful ring and etched out engravings in very amazing ways. He engraved in it a tree that was a total marvel. The nobleman came and the ring did not please him at all. He had enormous suffering because he knew, in himself, that if this ring with the tree would be in Spain, it would be esteemed as an amazing work of art. And similarly, one time a great nobleman came and brought a rare precious gem, brought from distant lands. He also brought with him another gemstone with an engraved image and bid him to etch out that exact image onto the rare gemstone he had brought [from distant lands]. [The khakham] precisely engraved that exact image, except he made a mistake in one thing which nobody at all would discern except him alone. The nobleman came and took the gem and he liked it very much. But the clever man had great agony from his mistake, "As smart as I am, and this mistake should happen?!"

And similarly in his doctoring, he suffered as well: when he came to an ill person and he gave him treatments of which he knew clearly that if the patient would only survive, it would certainly have to be these treatments through which he had healed, for it was an excellent course of treatment. Then however the patient died. The public said that he died because of him, and he had huge suffering from this. Likewise, sometimes he gave an ill person treatments and the ill person became healthy, and the public said that it was a chance occurrence. So, he was always filled with pain.

Similarly, when he needed a garment. He summoned the tailor and took pains with him until he taught him to make the garment to his specifications, according to his knowledge of fashion. The tailor understood the directions and made the garment just as he wanted, except on one lapel, he erred by not shaping it well. [The khakham] suffered great anguish from that because he knew in himself that, although here it would be considered handsome, because no one would perceive [the defect], but "if I were to be in Spain with this lapel, I would be a laughingstock and I would look like an imbecile." And so he was always full of suffering.

The simple man would joyously run over to the clever man all the time; but he always found him afflicted and full of suffering. He asked him, "How could it be? A wise and wealthy person such as you — why do you always have anguish? [Look!] Am I not constantly happy?" This was a big joke in the eyes of the clever man. [The tam] seemed crazy to him. The simple man said to him, "Even plain people, when they make fun of me, are fools as well, for if they're already smarter than me, they are first fools themselves [as mentioned above]! All the more so such a clever person as you. So what if you are smarter than me?" The simple man spoke up, saying to the clever man, "May the One Who gives grant that you should come up to my level [and become a simple person]!" The clever man replied, "It is possible that I could reach your level — if my intellect would be taken away, God spare us; or if I became sick, God forbid, I could also become insane. For what are you anyway, but a madman? But that you would come up to my level? No way! It is completely impossible that you would become wise like me!" The simple man answered, "With Hashem Yithbarakh, everything is possible. It could happen in the blink of an eye that I ascend to your [level of brilliance]." The clever man made great fun of him.

[The King Sends for the Clever Man and Simple Man][edit]

Now these two sons were known in public by their nicknames: "Khakham--Clever" and "Tam--Simple." Even though there are many clever and simple people in the world, still, in this case, it was unusually apparent. For they were both from the same town, went to school together, and the one had become such an extraordinary genius, while the other was so extremely simple. Even in the public registry (the book listing the citizens) where they record everyone's given name and family name, these two were registered only by their nicknames--"Khakham" and "Tam."

One time, the king was perusing the registry and found these two recorded solely by their nicknames, "Clever" and "Simple." The king was amazed and very much wanted to see them. He realized, "If I suddenly send for them to come before me, they will be very frightened. The clever one won't know at all what to make of this, and the simple man might go crazy from fear." So, the king decided to send a khakham to the khakham and a tam to the tam. But where does one get a tam in the royal [capital] city? For in the royal city [where the king lives] the majority are smart people. However, the one who is appointed overseer of the treasury — he is intentionally a simple person. For they do not want to appoint a clever person overseer of the treasury. Perhaps through his cleverness and his intellect he will embezzle all the funds; therefore they expressly put a simple person in charge of the treasury.

So the king summoned a clever man and the above-mentioned simple man (the treasurer) and sent them to the two sons. He gave each one a letter. And he gave them an additional letter to the provincial governor under whose authority the two sons dwelt. In it, the king commanded that the governor should send letters of his own to the clever son and the simple son so that they shouldn't be frightened. He should write to them that the matter is not obligatory, that the king is not explicitly decreeing that they should come, but rather the choice is theirs: if they want, they should come. Just that the king desires to see them.

The emissaries traveled off, the clever one and the simple one, arriving at the governor, delivering the letter. The governor inquired after the two sons. They told him that the "khakham" is an extraordinarily clever person, quite a wealthy man and the "tam" is an exceedingly simple person who [believes he] has every kind of garment from the single peltz [piece of fur] as mentioned before. The governor took counsel that it is certainly inappropriate to bring him before the king dressed in a peltz. So he arranged for appropriate garments and placed them in the simple man's carriage. And he gave them the aforementioned letters.

The messengers traveled off and arrived there. They delivered the letters to them; the clever one delivered to the "khakham" and the simple one to the "tam." Now the "tam", as soon as he was delivered the letter, spoke up to emissary (who was also simple, as above) saying, "See here. I don't know what is written in the letter. Read it to me." He answered him, "I'll tell you by memory [Yid. oysveynik < Ger. auswendig; Heb. be`al peh by rote] what is written in it. The king wants you to come to him." Immediately he asked, "Are you making fun of me?" He answered him, "It is the absolute truth; no kidding." [The tam] was instantly filled with joy and ran, saying to his wife, "My wife, the king has sent for me!" She asked him, "What is it about? Why [has he sent for you?!]" He had no time to answer her at all. He immediately and joyfully rushed off to travel with the emissary, right away entering and sitting down in the carriage. There he found the above-mentioned clothes and he became happier and happier.

[The King Appoints the Simple Man as Governor, Minister][edit]

In the meantime, reports were sent that the governor was corrupt, and the king deposed him. The king made up his mind: it would be good to have a simple person be governor, for a tam would conduct the country with truth and justice, since he would not know any sophisticated or contriving ways. So, the king decided that he should make the above-mentioned simple son the governor. He issued orders that the "tam," for whom he had already sent, be appointed governor immediately upon entering the provincial capital. For that would be the route the "tam" must travel. Therefore they should watch the city gates so that as soon as the "tam" arrives, they should detain him and install him as governor. They did so. They stood over the gates and as soon as he drove through, they stopped him and told him that he had been appointed governor. He inquired, saying, "Please don't clown around with me." They answered him, "Of course! No joking at all! The "tam" immediately became governor, with authority and power.

Now that his mazal went up [mazal: constellation; lit. "flow"; one's destiny or potential as provided by God via arrangement of the constellations] — and [as the Talmud teaches,] mazal machkim[3] [as the mazal (flow) goes up, so does one's wisdom]-- the "tam" acquired a bit of discernment. Nonetheless, he did not make use of his wisdom at all but just conducted himself with his temimuth (simplicity) as before, and he led the state with temimuth, with truth and with integrity, with not a drop of corruption. For management of state requires no great intellect nor special knowledge, just uprightness and temimuth. When two people came before the "tam" for judgment, he would say, "You are innocent and you are liable," purely according to his simplicity and truthfulness, without any crookedness nor deceit. And thus he conducted everything truthfully.

The country loved him very much and he had loyal advisers who truly loved him. And on account of love, one of them advised him: "Inasmuch as you will certainly be summoned to appear before the king--and behold, he has already sent for you--and moreover, the procedure is that a governor has to come before the king. Now, even though you are very sincere and the king will not find any fault in you of your leadership of the country, still however it is the routine of the king, when he converses that he digresses into discussing philosophy and languages. Therefore, it will be pleasing and of proper etiquette if you are able to respond to him; therefore it will be good for me teach you philosophy and languages." The simple man accepted this saying, "Why shouldn't I learn the wisdom of philosophy and languages?" It immediately came to his mind that his friend, the clever man had said to him that it would be impossible in any manner that he should reach his [level]. "Here I have already arrived at his wisdom!" (And still even though he now knew wisdom, he did not use the wisdom at all, but rather conducted himself only with simplicity as before.)

Afterwards the king dispatched that the "tam", the governor, should come to him. He traveled to him. At first, the king discussed the leadership of the country with the "tam", and the king was very well pleased. For the king saw that he was conducting himself justly and with great honesty, without any wrongdoing or scheming. Then the king began speaking about wisdom and languages; the simple man replied appropriately, and the king was even more pleased. The king said, "I see that he is such a smart person and yet conducts himself with such innocence." The king esteemed him more and more, ending up making him the minister over all the ministers; mandating a special place for him to stay, and commanded to wall him about with very beautiful walls as is befitting, and gave him a writ of appointment that he be chief minister. And so it was; they built him very fine beautiful buildings in the place where the king had ordered, and he received his sovereignty with full effect.

[The Clever Man Denies There is a King][edit]

[Returning to] the khakham--the clever man. When the letter from the king came to the "khakham," he replied to the clever person who had delivered it, "Wait. Spend the night here. We'll talk it over and we'll come to a decision." That evening, he prepared him a great feast. During the meal the khakham waxed wise, analyzing with his cleverness and philosophy. He spoke up and said, "What can this mean, that such a king should send for such a lowly person as me? What am I that the king should send for me? Such a king with such authority and prestige! And me, so insignificant and despicable compared with such a great king — well, how is it conceivable that such a king should send for so unimportant a person as me? If I should say on account of my wisdom, what am I next to the king? What! The king doesn't have any wise men? Moreover, the king is certainly a great sage himself. So what is this, that the king should send for me?" He was very, very astonished by this. He spoke up, saying (that is, the original khakham, who was the simple man's childhood friend--for all this conjecture was the original khakham's monologue describing his astonishment and surprise, to which he now answers his own rhetoric, saying to the clever messenger), "You know what I say? My opinion is that it clearly must be that there is no king whatsoever in the world. That the entire world is mistaken in this foolishness; that they think there is a king. See! Understand — how can it be possible that the entire world should give itself over to depend on one man, that he should be the king? There is certainly no king in the world at all."

The clever messenger replied, "Haven't I brought you a letter from the king?" The original khakham asked him, "Did you yourself receive the letter from the king's hand directly?" He answered him, "No. Just another person gave me the letter in the king's name." He answered up, saying, "Now see with your own eyes that my words are correct--that there is absolutely no king." He returned to asking him, "Tell me, are you not from the capital city and did you not grew up there all your life? Tell me, have you ever, in all your days, seen the king?" He answered, "No." (For in fact it is so, that not everyone is privileged to see the king, for the king does not reveal himself [publicly] except on rare occasion.) The original khakham declared, "Now open your eyes and see that I am correct, that there is definitely no king whatsoever, for even you have never seen the king." Once again the messenger answered the khakham, "If it is really so, who then rules the country?" The first khakham responded, "That — I'll make clear to you, for it is [specifically] me you should ask, since I am an expert in this. I have wandered about in [many] countries; I've been to Italy. The customary practice is that there are seventy ministerial advisers [senators] who go up and lead the country for a certain time. Then the authority is given over to the next group until each and every resident takes a turn." His words started to penetrate into the clever messenger's ears until they came to agree and conclude that there definitely is no king in the world at all.

Again the original khakham spoke up, "Wait until morning and I will show you one example after another that there is no king in the world at all." The original khakham (that is the khakham who is the friend of the tam--we are always referring to him as the "original khakham;") got up early in the morning, woke his friend, the clever messenger, and said to him, "Come out with me. I will show you clearly how the whole world is mistaken and that there is really no king whatsoever. Everyone is making a huge mistake. They went through the marketplace and noticed a soldier. They got his attention and asked him, "Whom do you serve?" He answered, "The king." (They asked him,) "Have you ever, in all your days, seen the king?" "No." [The original khakham] answered up and said, "See! Could there be a foolishness like this?" They went on to an army officer and entered into conversation with him until asking him, "Whom do you serve?" He answered, "The king." "Have you seen the king?" "No." He proclaimed, "Now see with your own eyes! The matter is clear. Everyone is mistaken. There is no king at all."

The original khakham furthermore declared, "Come! Let us travel the world; I will show you more how the entire world is in great error." They went and traveled the world and wherever they arrived they always found the public in error. The matter of the king became an example for them. In other words, just like the public was in error in their belief in the existence of the king, so too everything held to be true by the populace must be mistaken. With this attitude, they traveled the world until they ran out of [money and supplies.] They began by selling one horse and then the other until they had sold everything and had to go on foot. Incessantly they kept examining the world, finding fault. They became poor vagrants, their status disintegrated, for no one would give consideration to such paupers.

[The Clever Man Meets with the Simple Man][edit]

The circumstances played out that they were wandering about until they came to the city in which the minister lived (that is, the "tam," the simple man, the friend of the "khakham," the clever man). There in that city was a genuine Baal Shem [lit. "Master of the (Divine) Name;" a holy man and miracle worker]. The Baal Shem was held in high esteem because he had done truly amazing things, and even among the nobility he was important and famous. The two clever men came into the city, walked about and came before the house of the Baal Shem. They saw many wagons stationed there--forty or fifty--with sick people. The khakham figured that a doctor must live there. He wanted to go into the house, for since he too was a great doctor, he wanted to go in to make his acquaintance. He asked, "Who lives here?" They answered him, "A Baal Shem." This filled his mouth with laughter and he said to his friend, "This is another lie and an outrageous mistake! This is even more nonsense than the mistake about the king! Brother, let me tell you about this fallacy, how very much the world is fooled by this lie.

Meanwhile they became hungry and found that they still had three or four groschen. They went into a soup-kitchen type restaurant (Yid. gorkekh, everyman's kitchen) where food is available for even three, four groschen. They ordered food and they were served. While they were eating, they talked and made fun of the "lie" and the "error" of the matter of the Baal Shem. The restaurant owner (gorkekher) heard their talk and was very annoyed, because the Baal Shem was highly esteemed there. He said to them, "Eat up what you have and get out of here." Then a son of the Baal Shem arrived there, and they kept on ridiculing the Baal Shem right in front of his son. The restaurateur growled at them for making fun of the Baal Shem in front of his son, until he lashed out, beating them with injurious blows, and shoved them out of his home. It made them furious and they wanted to seek judgment against the one who had beaten them. They decided to go to their innkeeper, where they had left their luggage, to take counsel with him as to how to obtain judgement for the above assault. They came and told him that the restaurateur had severely beaten them. He asked them, "Why [did he hit you]?" They told him that they had spoken against the Baal Shem. He responded, "It definitely is not right to hit people, but you behaved completely improperly by talking against the Baal Shem, for the Baal Shem is highly regarded here." They saw that he was not for real, that he too was in "error." They left him and went to the city clerk, (who was a gentile). They told him the story that they had been beaten. He asked, "What for?" They responded that they had spoken against the Baal Shem. The clerk beat them bloody and shoved them out of his office.

They went from this one to that one, each time to a higher authority until they came before the above-mentioned minister. There, in front of the ministry, were stationed soldiers, i.e., sentries. They announced to the minister that a person needs him, and he ordered him to enter. The khakham came before the minister who immediately recognized him, that this khakham is none other than his friend. However, the khakham did not recognize [the tam] due to his superior status.

Immediately the minister initiated, saying to him, "See my temimuth (my simplicity), to what it has brought me — to greatness such as this! And to what has your cleverness brought you?" The khakham spoke up and said, "That it turns out that you are my friend, the tam — about this we can speak later. Right now, give me a judgement against them for having hit me." He asked him, "Why [did they hit you]?" He answered him, "Because I spoke against the Baal Shem, that he is a lie and a great fraud." Answered up the tam prime minister saying, "You still adhere to your contrivances? Look, you once said you could easily reach my [level], but I could not reach yours. Now see that I have already long reached your [level], as mentioned above [that the tam had already become exceedingly wise as well] but you still have not reached mine. And I see that it is far more difficult for you to come to my temimuth [level of simplicity]." However, since the tam minister had known him from long ago when [the khakham] was still great, he ordered that he be given garments in which to be attired and he bid that he dine with him.

While they were eating, they began to converse, the khakham started trying to prove his aforementioned opinion that there is no king at all. The tam minister snarled at him, "What!? I myself have seen the king!" The khakham answered him glibly, "Do you know personally that it was the king? Do you know him, his father and his grandfather to have been kings? From where do you know that this is the king? People have told you that this is the king. They have deceived you with a lie." The tam became deeply vexed about the king, that he should deny the king's [existence].

Meanwhile someone came and said, "The Devil (Heb. `Azazel,Yid. Toivl) has sent for you (plural)." The tam shook with terror and ran and told his wife with great trepidation how the Devil had sent for him. She advised him to send for the Baal Shem. He sent for him; the Baal Shem came and gave him kame`as [amulets containing holy names] and [other] protections and told him that he need no longer fear at all. He had great faith in this.

So the khakham and the tam were again sitting together as before. The khakham asked him, "What were you so terrified about?" He answered him, "Because of the Devil, who had sent for us." The khakham ridiculed him, "You believe that there is a Devil?!" He responded, "If not, then who sent for us?" The khakham answered him, "This is definitely my brother. He wanted to be seen with me, and set up a scam to send for me." The tam asked him, "If this is so, how did he get past all the sentries?" He answered him, "He certainly bribed them, and they are saying fraudulently the lie that they did not see him at all."

Meanwhile again someone came and said as before, "The Devil has sent for you." This time, the simple man was not shaken at all and had no fear whatsoever, on account of the protections from the Baal Shem. He spoke up, saying to the khakham , "Now what do you say?" He said, "I will inform you that I have a brother who is angry at me. He has set up this scam in order to frighten me." He stood and asked the one who had come for them, "What does he look like, the one who sent for us? Which type of facial [structure] and hairstyle does he have, etc., and the like. He answered him, such and such. The khakham answered up, saying, "See! That is my brother's appearance!" The tam said to him, "Will you go with them?" He responded, "Yes. Just give me a few soldiers as zalaga (escorting guards) so that they shouldn't hurt me." He gave him a zalaga and the two clever men [the original khakham and the messenger] went with the man who had come for them. The soldiers of the zalaga returned and the tam, the minister asked them, "Where are those sophisticates?" They replied that they do not know at all how they disappeared.

The Devil had snatched those two sophisticates and carried them off to [a place of] slime and mud. There the Devil would sit on a throne amidst the muck. He threw them into the mire which was thick and sticky, literally like glue, and they were completely unable to move in the muck. They (these clever guys) screamed (at those who were afflicting them, that is the Devil and his henchmen), "Wicked ones! What are you torturing us for? Is there really a Devil in the world? You are evil, torturing us for no reason!" (For these smart men still did would not believe that there is a Devil; instead they insisted that evil thugs were persecuting them without cause.) The two sophisticates were left in the thick mire and were trying to figure out, "What is this? These are nothing but hooligans with whom we had once quarreled, and now they are afflicting us so harshly." They remained there, tortured and horribly abused for a number of years.

[The Clever Man Admits There is a King on the Earth][edit]

One time the tam--the simple man [who became the prime] minister--passed by the Baal Shem's home and was reminded of his friend, the khakham, the clever man. He went in to the Baal Shem and leaned in to him (as is the way of officials [wishing not to be overheard]), asking whether it would be possible to show him the khakham and whether he could extricate him. He said to the Baal Shem, "Do you remember the khakham whom the Devil sent for and carried away, and who has not been seen since?" He answered him, "Yes." He bid him to please show him the place [of the khakham] and to extricate him from there. The Baal Shem said to him, "I can certainly show you his place and take him out. Only no one but you and I may go." So they went together. The Baal Shem did what he knew [to transcend space and time in order to locate and go to the place] and they arrived there. He saw how they lay there in the thick muck and slime. When the khakham noticed the minister, he screamed to him, "Brother, look! They are beating and torturing me so intensely--these hooligans--for no reason!" The minister snarled at him, "Still, you hold to your contrivances and don't want to believe in anything at all?! You say these are people?? Now see here! Look! This is the Baal Shem whom you had denied. He is specifically the one who can take you out (and he will show you the truth)." The tam, the minister, beseeched the Baal Shem to take them out and show them that this is the Devil and that these are not humans.

The Baal Shem did what he did, and they were left standing on the dry land with no mire there at all. And the damaging demons became plain dust. Then the khakham saw and begrudgingly was forced to admit to everything, that there is indeed a king [and there is indeed a genuine Baal Shem], etc.

[Notes Following the Story][edit]

[Rav Nosson adds the following:] Regarding this story [Rebbe Nachman] gave over the teaching (Likutei Moharan Tinyana #12) which discusses khakhmoth (wisdoms/sophistication/cleverness) and temimuth, (innocence)--that the essence of personal wholeness is only temimuth v'pshituth (innocence and simplicity). [It further discusses] the matter of Amalek who was [the epitome of] a "khakham" [casting doubt through constant clever over-analysis], who heretically denied the main point [i.e., Hashem and the True Purpose of life] etc. (See there on the verse in Mishlei (Proverbs) 24, "ShevA` yipoL tzaddiK wekaM/ Seven [times] the tzaddik falls, but rises" — the end-letters of each word spell out `AMaLeK. For the main reason for spiritual falls is khokhmoth [cleverness--always trying to be smart in analyzing and figuring out everything]. Likewise, King Agag, who was a descendant of Amalek, even though he could see his imminent downfall when Samuel arrived...to execute him, he still did not believe, as it says (1 Sam. 15:32), "Agag went ma'adanoth" which Targum Yonatan translates as "went in a self-indulgent manner." For he still did not believe in his immanent demise. Not until the the very end did he see his vanquishment with his eyes, as then [he says], "Has the bitterness of death indeed turned unto me?" For until then, he still did not believe.

(If you will look into this tale, you will perceive wonder of wonders:) And if prayer is not as it needs to be, this is [an example of] the "three-cornered shoe" [Yid. a shikhele mit drei ecken]. Understand this well.

And see also at the end of the book the Rav's explanation, and you will see wonderful analogous commentaries.


Footnotes[edit]

  1. This may refer to Leghorn/Livorno, the main port of Tuscany in central Italy, or perhaps the name refers to Lugano, Switzerland. It is unclear since the text says that he travels into Italy from Lagorna.
  2. chakham; see Sefer Hamidot: Derekh (Travel) II #4: By traveling, a person becomes discerning (mevín)
  3. Shabbat 156