Because What You Expect Holiness To Be Is Often Wrong…

Because What You Expect Holiness To Be Is Often Wrong… July 25, 2013

Like at my house after dinner, but without the habits…

Have you ever noticed how when you haven’t experienced something before, be it a person, a place, or a thing, your idea of what that experience would be like, and how it actually turned out to be, didn’t always jive? In fact it’s probably not much of a stretch to say that usually what you expected, and what you actually experienced, were as different from each other as night is to day.

Break: I’m sort of back from vacation, but blogging may still be light. That’s because I’ve been spirited away by Shusaku Endo’s novel The Samurai. More on that in another post.

Back to my line of thought. This story I saw on Lifehacker (H/T Tom McDonald) reminded me of this fact. It also reminds me of a similar story I came across (in an unlikely place) while doing research related to genealogy.

I’ll share it with you here.

The story is told that a disciple of Shmelke of Nikolsburg asked his rebbe to teach him the mystery of serving God. The tsaddik told him to go to Rabbi Abraham Hayyim, who in those days was still an innkeeper. The student did as he was instructed and took up residence in the inn for several weeks. During all this time he failed to observe any special indication of holiness in the man. He seemed only to attend to his business. Finally, in desperation, the disciple went up to the innkeeper and asked what he did all day.

“My most important job,” said Rabbi Abraham, “is to make sure the dishes are cleaned properly. I do my best to make sure that no trace of food remains on the dishes. I also clean and dry the pots and pans carefully so that they do not rust.”

“That’s it?” asked the student incredulously.

“That’s it,” replied the innkeeper.

Whereupon the disciple returned home and reported what he had seen and heard to his master.

“Now you know everything you need to know,” Rabbi Shmelke said.

See kids? It’s like Qoheleth says,

“See what I discovered: God made man simple, but they get lost in their many thoughts.”–Ecclesiastes 7:29

Explore more Hasidic tales here.

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