Monday, March 21, 2005

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Doing vs. Thinking About It

(A lesson in a story...)

Before joining the select circle of the Baal Shem Tov's disciples, Reb DovBer – (known as) the Maggid (preacher) of Mezritch - had studied Kabbalistic teachings with a childhood friend. Years later, when he met his friend again, the Maggid was asked about his method of prayer. "Why do your prayers take such a long time?" his friend ques¬tioned. "I also pray according to the Kabbalistic meditations of the AriZal (the holy Ari, Rabbi Yitzchok Luria), yet my prayers take nowhere near as long as yours. What takes you so long to pray?"

The Maggid did not immediately offer an explanation. Instead, he began conversing with his friend, inquiring after his welfare, his daily life, and his business. "Thank G-d, I spend my days immersed in Torah study," explained his friend. "My wife runs a small store that ably supports our family. However, once a year, during the annual country fair, I help my wife in running the busi¬ness. She supplies me with a detailed list of merchandise and a purse full of money."

"I take my time traveling to the fair," continued the Maggid's friend. "I learn Torah every day during my journey, and only then do I continue traveling. Due to this, it takes me many weeks to get to and from the fair. When I finally come back home, my wife takes care of the merchandise and I return to my studies."

"Such a waste of time!" exclaimed the Maggid. "I don't understand why you need to spend weeks traveling to the fair and home again. Why not just sit at home, closeted in your room, and imagine you are at the fair. Having traveled there every year, you are certainly familiar with the route, and you can picture yourself in the various stops and stations along the way. Visualize the entire trip there, the business dealings at the actual fair, and the journey home. Say to yourself, 'Now I am stopping at the first motel; now I am stopping at the second rest area,' until you have enumerated all the stops. Then say, "Now I have arrived at the fair; now I am taking out my purse to buy some; now I am checking if the merchant overcharged me ...'

"If you do this," explained the Maggid, "the entire process will take merely a few hours, instead of many weeks!"

"B-but I need the actual merchandise!" stammered his friend in confusion.

"Really?" said the Maggid. "This is precisely the answer regarding the difference between your prayer and mine. Meditation alone hardly suffices when you need the 'actual merchandise.' Therefore, I am forced to pause in every stop within the Heavenly spheres, and this takes plenty of time."

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