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Beit Midrash Series Chassidish Stories

Chapter 8

The Lugubrious Bed

The Chozeh of Lublin senses that the bed which has been prepared for him by the carpenter is not a rejuvenating bed but a bed of lugubriousness and anxiety. From such a bed it is impossible to rise invigorated with a thirst for renewed creativity.
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Hasidim relate the following anecdote:
Chassidish Stories (17)
Rabbi Eliezer Melamed
7 - The Lugubrious Bed
8 - The Lugubrious Bed
9 - Playing Hide-and-seek with God
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One day, it became known to Reb Yossele of Ostila that Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchak of Lublin, popularly known as the Chozeh ("the Seer"), was planning to pass through his city and was intending to sojourn there.

Reb Yossele wanted the Chozeh to stay with him. He was aware, however, that the illustrious rebbe often found it difficult to sleep on another person's bed; it was told that he would sometimes shout out, "I feel pricking!" Reb Yossele therefore employed a God-fearing carpenter and ordered him to fashion a special bed for the Chozeh. He asked the artisan to immerse himself in the mikveh (ritual bath) before beginning his work, and he made it clear that the task must be carried out with the holiest of intentions.

However, the carpenter was not enthusiastic about the idea. He would have preferred to demur, but he could not get up the courage to refuse Reb Yossele's request. With submission and humility of spirit he set about the task, all the while aware that a great and holy saint was destined to sleep on this bed.

Finally, the Chozeh of Lublin arrived, and Reb Yossele led him to the room where the specially-made bed stood waiting. The moment that the Chozeh lay down on the bed he begin to shout: "Oy! I feel pricking! I feel prickling!" Reb Yossele wanted to offer his own bed, but he was apprehensive lest the saintly Chozeh feel prickling there as well. Finally, he overcame his fear and invited the pious rebbe to sleep in his own bed. The Chozeh agreed. He laid down, and immediately fell asleep.

When the Chozeh awoke he exclaimed, "Reb Yossele, you have infused new life into all of my organs." Reb Yossele was astonished. He said, "I am puzzled by the rebbe: Regarding the newly made bed you claimed that it pricked you; how could this be, after all, it was made especially for the rebbe by a pious Jew."

The Chozeh replied, 'Heaven forbid! The new bed was perfectly kosher, yet it reeked of melancholy because it was made during the Nine Days of Mourning, and the craftsman, being a God-fearing man, was lamenting the Destruction of the Holy Temple while he worked on it."

At first glance, it appears that the objective of this story is to describe the greatness of Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchak from Lublin: He was able to sense, by merely laying down on a bed, who the carpenter was and what his intentions were while he made it. Let us, though, approach the story from a different direction.

The carpenter was not overjoyed by his assignment to begin with. He felt threatened, as if his thoughts would be discovered as soon as the Chozeh slept on the bed. However, he had no choice but to acquiesce to Reb Yossele's request. Submissively and with humility of spirit he set about fashioning the bed.

Ostensibly, what we are dealing with here are the great and mighty intentions of a God-fearing Jew. However, we discover that these are not the desired intentions for building and creating something new. The artisan must be full of creative joy and a sense of regeneration. If he approaches his labor submissively with diffidence, he will not succeed in doing his work whole-heartedly. Creativeness and construction demand joyfulness - and our carpenter does not approach his work joyfully.

The great rebbe senses this. Sleep is meant to allow a person a bit of tranquility, relaxation, and preparation for renewed activity. The Chozeh from Lublin senses that the bed which has been prepared for him by the carpenter is not a rejuvenating bed but a bed of lugubriousness, anxiety, and disappointment. From such a bed it is impossible to rise invigorated with a thirst for new creativity.

Here the Chozeh ties the feelings of the carpenter at the time he constructed the bed to the Nine Days. It therefore reeks of melancholy. We know the content of the carpenters feelings while making the bed. He was worried about the response of the Chozeh and therefore built the bed with a broken heart. But the Chozeh associates these feelings with the period of mourning over the Temple ("Bein HaMeitzarim").

People are accustomed to seeing the days of Bein HaMeitzarim as days of sadness, a period during which Israel lacks good fortune. True, we are obligated to mourn, but it is important to make sure that the sadness and bereavement do not lead to a dampening of a persons creative faculties. With Bein HaMeitzarim in full swing, it is important to believe that a period of construction and rectification lies before us. Let the carpenter bring his hammer; the blacksmith, his sledgehammer; and the painter, his brush; and all of us together will build a world of construction and renewed creativity.
It is at this point that the Chozeh's constructive criticism of the carpenter is given voice: Humility is a good trait, but a person must take care not to stifle the create capacity. Man must draw new strength from the faith that rectification, construction, and creation are attainable.

What's more, on many occasions we find the sages likening the Exile to sleep. They base themselves upon the verse in the Song of Songs, "I am sleeping, but my heart is awake." The Chozeh from Lublin goes to sleep. The carpenter has prepared for him a bed of melancholy and brokenheartedness. The Exile can lead a person to sadness mixed with despair, a loss of faith in the possibility to rectify things. The Chozeh is not ready to go to sleep on such a bed.

A person must revolt against the despair of the Exile. Even if "sleep" and exile are decreed upon a person, one must approach such trials with an unbending faith in one's ability to rectify matters and escape the Exile.

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