Friday, October 28, 2005

What is a Chasid?

Parshat Bereishis
Let there be light (Genesis 1:3)

What Is A Chassid?

In 1907, when Rabbi Sholom DovBer of Lubavitch was staying at the health spa in Wirtzburg, Germany, a group of chassidim came to spend a Shabbos with the Rebbe. Among them was Reb Yosef Yuzik Horowitz, his son-in-law Reb Feivel Zalmanov, and Reb Elimelech Stoptzer.The Rebbe prayed for many hours that Shabbos morning, as was his manner. Meanwhile, the chassidim made kiddush and consumed a respectable quantity of 'l'chayim's. Later, when the Rebbe had finished and they sat with him to the Shabbos meal, Reb Yosef Yuzik asked:"Rebbe, what is a chassid?"
Replied the Rebbe: " A chassid is a lamplighter. The lamplighter walks the streets carrying a flame at the end of a stick. He knows that the flame is not his. And he goes from lamp to lamp to set them alight."
Asked Reb Yosef Yuzik: "What if the lamp is in a desert?"
"Then one must go and light it," said the Rebbe. "And when one lights a lamp in a desert, the desolation of the desert becomes visible. The barren wilderness will then be ashamed before the burning lamp."
Continued the chassid: "What if the lamp is at sea?"
"Then one must undress, dive into the sea, and go light the lamp."
"And this is a chassid?" Reb Yosef Yuzik asked.
For a long while the Rebbe thought. Then he said: "Yes, this is a chassid."
"But Rebbe, I do not see the lamps!"
Answered the Rebbe: "Because you are not a lamplighter."
"How does one become a lamplighter?"
"First, you must reject the evil within yourself. Start with yourself, cleanse yourself, refine yourself, and you will see the lamp within your fellow. When a person is himself coarse, G-d forbid, he sees coarseness; when a person is himself refined, he sees the refinement in others."
Reb Yosef Yuzik then asked: "Is one to grab the other by the throat?"
Replied the Rebbe: "By the throat, no; by the lapels, yes."

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