Sunday, August 23, 2009

Local Customs

As is well known, the Maggid of Dubno, zt"l, would often travel to different locations to give over his inspiring parables and teachings. On one journey, the Maggid stopped at the home of a villager who had rooms for rent, but he was very surprised when they did not serve supper.
“We do not really serve food since we are so poor,” the proprietor explained.
The Maggid ruefully went up to his room to try to sleep, but he had no food with him and was wracked with hunger pains. Some time after he had gone to his room, the Maggid heard what appeared to be the family eating their evening meal. Sure enough, when he walked out of his room he found that the proprietor did have food to serve everyone else; he just did not want to be bothered with feeding his paying guest. So they had waited quite some time and only ate when they were sure their honored guest was fast asleep.
The Maggid would retell this story and say, “Through this experience I understood the gemara in Bava Metzia 86 which teaches that one should always follow the local custom, since our teacher Moshe did not eat or drink for forty days when he ascended on high to receive the Torah. This seems strange. Why not say that he didn't sleep for forty days since one cannot naturally live without sleep for even three days, while one can live without food for longer? The answer is that if Moshe didn’t eat since the angels did not, it is clear that he also didn’t sleep—if he had, perhaps they ate while Moshe slept!”
The Modzhitzer Rebbe, zt”l, would learn a very inspiring lesson from this very same gemara. “The gemara tells us, 'אל ישנה אדם מן המנהג'—one should not deviate from the prevalent custom. We can learn from this that no matter how he is treated from heaven he should not complain and say that he wishes things were different!”

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