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My Rebbe, My Mekubal: Remaining Fools Forever

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Postcards from Kotzk
4: My Rebbe, My Mekubal: Remaining Fools Forever

Provided by Revach L'Neshama (

Revach L'Neshama

Rav Simcha Bunim MiPishischa tells a story of three men who were imprisoned by the king in a dark cell. Two were wise men and one was a fool. Every day the guards would lower down food packages for the three of them to eat. In their cruelty the guards would change utensils every day to keep the prisoners guessing how to eat without spilling. The wise men figured out in the darkness what were the utensils and what was the food and had no trouble eating. The fool however could not make heads and tails of his package and ended up spilling his meager rations every day. One of the wise men pitied him and showed the fool everyday what was what.

This went on for a few weeks until the wise man helping the fool asked his friend, "why is it that you never help the fool with his food? Do you not pity him?" The other wise man replied "I am truly helping him but you are wasting your time." He explained "Don't you understand that no matter how many times you teach the fool how to eat he will never get it. Every day you will need to teach him anew. While you labor for naught I am sitting here digging a hole in the wall to let in some light. With the light shining in even the fool will be able to eat without any trouble."

This Mashal from his Rebbe Rav Simcha Bunim epitomizes the attitude of the Kotzker Rebbe towards the Chassidic Rebbes and the throngs of followers that run to him to ask about every decision they need to make in life. The Kotzker fiercely believed in independent thinking. In order to grow and equip yourself to face the daily challenges in life youmust think for yourself and not shift the responsibility for your actions to an outside source.

The Mishna in Pirkei Avos says "Asei Licha Rav". Everyone needs a Rav to guide them and teach them the ways of Hashem. In order to be truly independent one needs the proper foundation. If you do not have a Rav that can teach you Daas Torah, from where can you learn the truth and derive the emotional and intellectual tools to make proper decisions; popular culture? Newspapers? Television? Novels? The street?

A real Rebbe in the eyes of the Kotzker is not one who teaches you how to hold your fork or how and when to eat or when to quit your job or who to marry or advises you on medical issues without any medical knowledge simply by lifting his eyes to Heaven. A real Rebbe opens up your eyes and lets in the light. With this light you dig deep into your own unique soul and forge your own independent path to true service of Hashem.

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