Solely for the Sake of Heaven
A chasid of the Rebbe from Zlotshov used to go to his Rebbe in Zlotshov on the first Motzaieh Shabat of Slichot. He was happy like a Chasid who goes to his see his Rebbe. On his was he filled himself with rebuke and Mussar which he had recently heard from the Darshins, Mussar Rebbes and Maggids.
He was making merry during his walk by singing like those public speakers when they stand on the Bimah in front of the community. Sometimes he asks them, “My fellow brothers…” and other times he threatens them and calls them “idiots and simpletons.” While this Chasid was walking he did not notice that he had raised his right hand while “threatening” his bag with his Tallit and Tefillin fell on the path.
The clear evening sky now filled with clouds and started pouring. He found himself in a forest which he had never seen and was not on his path. When a great lightning struck he saw a house. He found a door to the house and entered.
In the house he saw human like creatures with long ears that reached below their legs to the floor and below. Each had a scribes pen with fat notepads. The pages of the notepads were of unworked skins which had never been to a tanner. Strange sounds were coming out of the floor to the end of each pen. The pens were rushing in great hurry over the notepads from which a screams were coming.
The Chasid realized that he had arrived at a bad place. He hoped in his mind that what could happen would not. He reached for his bag with his Tallit and Tefillin which he did not find because he had lost them on the way. The chasid thought in his mind that at the time when your sin is taken into account you are not left with anything to strengthen your faith.
One of these creatures lifted his head from his notepad for a moment and looked like he was drowning in deep water. If the Chasid’s eyes were correct he saw that each of them had two left hands. However their writing was as fast as seventy normal hands. While they were writing they cursed and said, “the spirit of public speakers should be destroyed! To every activity there is a purpose but for stupidity there is no end.” The Chasid could not figure out which drashot were being referred to. The Chasid was hiding himself. he hid himself so well that in the end only fear was left.
The Chasid realized that it is unhealthy from him to remain so frightened. He gathered his strength and started telling them that he was on his way to his Rebbe when it started raining and that he had entered the house to get away from the rain. He said, “Now that the rain has ceased I will go.” When he stood up to leave he looked on all of the walls and could not find the door. No matter how hard he tried he could not find the door through which he had entered.
The Chasid strengthened himself and told them that he was accustomed to go to his Rebbe in Zlotshov every year from the beginning of Slichot until the end of Simchat Torah. However, those long ears which extended all the way down were closed to hearing truth.
After the Chasid found no way out the leader told his “people” to open the door for him. When the Chasid started to leave the leader said that the Chasid can go on condition that he returns in thirty one days. If you do not return we will come and take you even if you are under your Rebbe’s Talit.
The Chasid had no choice but to agree so he nodded his head and left. When he left the house he found himself in the same spot where he was before he entered the forest. His Bag with Tallit and Tefillin were there in front of him.
He soon arrived at his Rebbe’s prayer house. After the morning prayers his Rebbe did not welcome him with “Shalom.” The Rebbe welcomed everyone else including ordinary people but closed the door in his face. This went on for the whole month.
At the end of the month the Rebbe called the Chasid into his study. The Rebbe stood in silence for a few moments. He then raised his head and said, “Do you know what kind of house that was? It is not a good house. A house of impurity. The outsiders live there and write every sermon which is said by public speakers to show there strength, sharpness and broad knowledge in order to beautify themselves in front of the students and aggrandize themselves in front of all of the people. Similarly they write down the words of rebukers who rebuke others and do not first rebuke themselves.”
“What was the cause of your finding yourself there? The drashot which you have been craving.
Even on the first night of Slichot when a person is supposed to repent you were enjoying them.
Since you agreed to return you must go back. Tell them that you are a Chasid of the Rebbe from Zlotshov. Do not fear them. They will make fun of you. You should tell them that if they find one word of mine which was not for the sake of heaven they can do to you as they please.”
The Rebbe concluded, “I am sure that all will be well. They will not find a single word which I did not say solely for the sake of heaven. Go in peace and happiness because these creatures will not be able to harm you.”
The Chasid went on his way. He arrived at these creatures house around midnight. He was sure that all will be fine. He entered the house and saw the same creatures sitting in the same places with their ears stuck to the ground and below. Each one had his pen in his left hand. Bad voices were coming out of the floor and sticking to the ends of the pens which were hurrying along. None of them paid any attention to that Chasid.
The Chasid did not want to stay in this impure place. He said to them that he was the one who was here for the first night of Slichot. He thought that when he said this that they would deal with him. But they were too busy because the generation had many sermons which were multiplying all the time. Any person who entered never leaves so they did not bother with him.
He bent himself over to them and said, I promised to return but did not promise to stay. If you do not let me go I will go myself.” Being surprised they lifted their ears from the ground and gazed at him as if he was strange. They had never met a man who was not frightened by them even more so some one who was nasty to them. They wrapped their ears around him and shoved him around. He pushed them away and said that he was a Chasid of the Rebbe from Zlotshov.
They burst out in laughter and made fun of what they heard. The Chasid was not frightened. He brazenly looked at them. They started to get intimidated. Great Rabbis who were as great as ten Jews had rotted away here just out of fear. This little man less than a grade school teacher was relying on the Rebbe from Zlotshov and was not at all afraid.
The asked their leader if he had heard of The Rebbe from Zlotshov.
They reviewed their records. These records contained everything that happened to everyone. If the words were for the sake of heaven they brought them in front of the Majestic Thrown for the enjoyment of the Creator. However, if they were said in order to show how great the speaker was they were thrown to the ground and these creature grabbed them. They would write them down and charge the speaker for their work when they wrote them in their notepads.
Why was this Chasid punished? Why did he find himself with these creatures on the first night of Slichot? Since there were many speakers in that generation who go around to the different synagogues. They would say their sermons with Midrashim and Mussar. They would tell the people to repent and to fear heaven. However, in their hearts they did not believe what they said. Instead they wanted to show how great and knowledgeable they were. Since this Chasid enjoyed these shows he was punished. Because enjoying something which is not solely for the sake of heaven is punishable.
When they searched through the records they did not find any record of the Rebbe from Zlotshov. They were very surprised because even the greatest of rabbis whose action were solely dedicated to heaven always slipped and said at least a little statement to show how great they were.
Therefor they let this Chasid go.
This is based on S.Y. Agnon Pleasent Stories of the Baal Shem Tov.