Monday, November 10, 2008

Serving a Tzaddik

Rav Chaim of Volozhin, zt”l, learned with tremendous diligence from a very young age. By the age of twenty-two, he had already mastered all of Shas and poskim. By the age of nineteen, he had already learned a huge amount and served two of the greatest sages of his generation: Rav Refael Hakohain, zt”l, and the famous Sha’agas Aryeh, zt”l.
Despite his vast knowledge and dedication, the young Rav Chaim did not rest on his laurels. He knew that he was still a long way to completion and yearned to grow. His greatest aspiration was to serve the man known to be the greatest sage of his generation: he wanted nothing less than to serve the famous Vilna Gaon, zt”l, himself.
But how does one approach the Gaon who never stopped learning in his private room? How can one merit to serve one whom everyone yearns to serve? His family was completely uninterested in his help; for them, serving the Gaon was a privilege and a pleasure.
But the young Rav Chaim who yearned so much for a chance to get close to the Gaon finally saw his chance. A close relative was getting married and the word got out that the Gaon would be attending the wedding in a different city. Perhaps there he would have an opportunity to serve the tzaddik? He decided to travel to the same town for the duration of the Gaon’s stay and discovered there that the tzaddik would be the guest of one of the mechutanim.
On Erev Shabbos, the mechutan’s house was as busy as a beehive. Rav Chaim understood that it was likely that they would forget to prepare warm water for the tzaddik’s washing in honor of Shabbos.
He attained permission to enter the house and waited with baited breath. Finally, the Gaon opened the door and looked out in an inquisitive fashion, like one who needed something. Rav Chaim immediately asked, “Perhaps I can serve his honor by bringing warm water in honor of Shabbos?”
The Gaon agreed, and from this modest start blossomed their thirty year Talmid- Rebbi relationship!

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