Pure Water

“Many are the thoughts in the heart of man, but it is the counsel of the Lord that endures” (Proverbs 19:21).  With this preface, the old rabbi from Alexander began his story about the Maggid of Mezritch, Reb Dov Ber:

Amongst those who spent a lot of quality time with the Maggid, was one particular sagacious young man named Reb Azriel, who truly spent his days and nights engaged in Torah study.  Reb Azriel was well-liked by all those who encountered him, and the Maggid himself treated him very dearly.

For a long time, his family was sustained– with great difficulty – by various sundry jobs that his wife did.  With time, his family grew, his children got older, and their parnassa was no longer sufficient.  Reb Azriel’s wife entreated him that he should search for some type of job – anything.  Reb Azriel told his family situation to his Rebbe, and requested advice how to proceed.

“Each week you will receive a stipend from me, which will allow you to continue and increase the time that you have dedicated to holiness and Torah study,” responded the Maggid.

With the passing of time, the stipend no longer sufficed to support Reb Azriel’s family.  His wife once again pleaded with him that he find work.  Reb Azriel once again told the Maggid, and the Maggid increased their weekly stipend.

This satisfied Reb Azriel’s wife, who, after all, was not interested in being wealthy – she just didn’t want to leave a life of penury.  However, Reb Azriel’s family continued to grow, and his wife once again requested that he leave the study hall and make a parnassa. After asking the Maggid for advice, Reb Dov Ber gave him a sum of money and advised him to purchase lentils with it, which his wife would be able to sell in the market place.

Reb Azriel did as his Rebbe suggested.  The following day, as his wife stood in the market with a basket full of lentils, the carriage of the landowner of Mezritch pulled up.  Out stepped the landowner’s wife and purchased the lentils.

“Don’t you have anything other than lentils for sale?” the landowner’s wife asked incredulously.

“This is all I have money for,” responded Reb Azriel’s wife, downcast.

The landowner’s wife extended her hand to the saleswoman, and gave her a sack of coins.  “Take these and get on your feet!”

With the money that she received, she purchased some of the basics, and sold them in the market place.  Little by little, her business expanded, until she was able to open her own small store.  She had good luck, and her small store quickly turned into a larger store, in which she sold assorted foods and household items.

With the added responsibility of her growing store, she needed help running it.  She asked Reb Azriel to help her run her business.  “Just dedicate a few hours a day to help me,” she requested.

Reb Azriel was unable to deny the adamant request of his wife, and joined her in the store every day.  He quickly became caught up in the vicissitudes of business, and as their store became more and more successful, Reb Azriel and his wife became quite affluent.

One day, Reb Azriel was summoned to the home of the landowner.  “I certainly don’t need to remind you how much you owe me,” said the landowner, “or specifically, shall I say, to my wife.  I am in need of a reliable person to transport a very large sum of money to a distant location.  I know that I can rely on you – it is my request that you fulfill this mission.”

Reb Azriel knew he had no choice.  He had to accept this assignment.

Before departing on the journey, he went to the home of his Rebbe, the Maggid of Mezritch, to receive his blessing for a safe trip.  The door, however, was locked.  The hour was late, and Reb Azriel was forced to leave without receiving a blessing from the Maggid.

Reb Azriel boarded a ship, and the ship eventually docked at an island along the way.  He disembarked to stretch his legs, and, in a pensive mood, became preoccupied with his thoughts, and did not even realize when the ship left without him.  Azriel was stranded on the island.  He had nothing, and worst of all, the package with the landowner’s money remained on the ship.

Reb Azriel wandered around the island until, utterly exhausted, he fainted and collapsed on the ground.  When he eventually awoke, he was parched with thirst and struggled to stand up in search of a source of water.  From a distance he noticed a spring; he hoped that it was not an illusion.  As he approached, he saw that indeed it was a spring of fresh water.  With his last ounce of strength, he leaned over, recited the blessing she’hakol nihiyah bidvaro – He who creates all through His word – and drank from the pure water.

After he drank a little, he felt stronger in body and spirit.  “Heaven helped me find this water, and heaven will help me get off this island,” Azriel said.  An hour or so later, he discerned a ship not too far away.  After much effort and exertion he succeeded in catching their attention.  The ship turned towards the island to rescue Azriel.

Reb Azriel joined a group of paupers who wandered from city to city and land to land.  A number of years passed, and he eventually found himself back in Mezritch.  He didn’t know what to do.  He was scared of the landowner’s wrath for having lost his money, and he was embarrassed from his wife and acquaintances who would see his sorry state and hear his story.

He quickly became aware of two facts: First of all, the landowner died just over a year earlier.  Secondly, his wife had lost the store, and she and their children had returned to a life of poverty.  Only after hearing this news did Reb Azriel gather the strength and courage to return home.

The following day he returned to his Rebbe.  The Maggid welcomed him warmly.  Reb Azriel recounted with a broken heart all that had occurred to him.  The Maggid comforted him and said, “You should know: In the water of the spring that you discovered on that island, the sparks of certain holy souls remained, requiring spiritual rectification.  Through the blessing she’hakol nihiyah bidvaro which you uttered with great focus and devotion, you retrieved all those lost souls and returned them to their source.  Your entire journey was worth it just to rescue those holy sparks.”

After a moment, Reb Dov Ber added, “And with regards to you and your family: I will renew the weekly stipend which I gave you before your wife opened the store…”

From that day on, Reb Azriel’s wife no longer mentioned anything about their parnassa, for she understood that, indeed, “Many are the thoughts in the heart of man, but it is the counsel of the Lord that endures.”