Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Baal Shem Tov's Sleight of Hand

There is a story that says a depressed tailor came to the Baal Shem Tov and asked him how to understand the place of man in the world.  The Baal Shem Tov gave him a giant hug, said that life was beautiful and that we were meant to enjoy.  He then said that at dawn the next morning, before he even said his morning prayers, the man should check his coat pockets for an guidance. Now, the hug of the Holy Besht was a very good thing indeed, and the man went home happy.  But, as the sun set, and he went to bed alone in his cold empty house, his sadness returned.

Upon awakening, the tailor thought that the Baal Shem Tov was just a ridiculous old man.  After all, he had gone to him with a real problem, and all he had gotten was a hug!  He put on his coat, and started heading toward the Besht's house.  It was cold, and so he stuck his hands in his pockets.  In the man's right hand pocket, he found a scrap of paper, and on it was written "Compared to the Holy ONE, you are tiny mote of dust, floating in a mostly empty universe.  To the HOLY ONE, your life passes in an instant, almost before you are alive, you are dead again."

This made the man sad and angry, but in his left pocket, he found another scrap of paper.  This one said, "The Holy ONE created the entire universe, infinite space, eternal time, all for you.  You are its center, and it relies on your holy spark to continue being created."  Upon reading this, the man was satisfied, and he went back home again.  At home, he took the two pieces of paper, and read one and then the other, the second and then the first, over and over again.  He could not understand why he had been told these two seemingly incompatible things.  Eventually, he sighed, and he said in exasperation "Who needs all this hooey?  Infinity, Nothingness, it's all the same thing!  I know who I am, and only I can find my path through the world!" and at that moment, the tailor achieved enlightenment.

Soon thereafter, taking his own advice, knowing who he was, making his own path through the world, the man began to sew the most beautiful clothes he could imagine.  They were not only beautiful, but very functional, ideally suited to their every purpose.  The man's business became quite successful, and he married a beautiful fat widow who brought her three lovely children to his home.  He was happy, content in himself and his life.  Soon thereafter, the man once again met the Master of the Good Name on the street.  The Besht could see his new happiness, and asked what he had learned.  The man told him, "Why do you always spout all that claptrap about good and evil, meaning and unmeaning?  All that matters is that people enjoy the things I make, and appreciate their beauty, that my wife is content, our union is joyful, and my children are happy.  These are the things that really matter."

The Baal Shem Tov looked at him a little funny, and then said, "Yes, that's what God is always telling me too!" and then he winked at the man, spun about in a little circle, and danced off laughing to himself.

The End.

No comments:

Post a Comment