Monday, August 25, 2008

The Mistaken Messenger

Once, a fairly wealthy man was in the middle of davening with the minyan of the Kotzker Rebbe, zt”l, when a breathless messenger burst into the shul. He pounced upon the wealthy man and said, “I am sorry to have to tell you this, but there was a fire on the edge of town and your factory was burned to the ground!”
The factory was the wealthy man’s sole source of livelihood. Apparently, the blaze had dragged him down from riches to rags. Completely overwhelmed by grief, he fainted dead away. After a few minutes, his fellow worshipers managed to revive him. As soon as he regained consciousness and he realized that all his wealth was lost, he fainted yet again.
When he woke up for the second time, he again recalled his loss and seemed on the verge of losing consciousness once again. At that moment, the Kotzker Rebbe, zt”l, interjected. He reassured the prostrate man, “Don’t worry, your factory is intact.”
The wealthy felt bolstered by the Rebbe’s words and slowly seemed to come back to himself. Just then, a second messenger arrived. He burst into the shul and trumpeted, “What the first messenger reported was a mistake! Your factory is safe.”
The relieved man was astounded that the Rebbe had known the truth and asked him whether this was ruach hakodesh.
The Kotzker Rebbe replied, “No, it was nothing like that. I could see that the challenge was far too much for you to handle, so it wasn’t possible that the first messenger had told the truth.”
The Chidushei HaRim, zt”l, explained this concept further, “In Kesuvos 33b, we find that if Chananiah, Mishael, and Azarya had actually been subject to torture they would have indeed bowed to Nevuchadnezzar’s idol. Why does the Gemara record this apparently insulting hypothesis? Clearly the object is not to denigrate these great tzaddikim! Chazal shared this with us so that we would understand that these three were not subject to torture because Hashem knew they couldn’t overcome the trial of torture! We learn a very important lesson from our Gemara: Hashem doesn’t give us more than we can handle!”

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