A story of “Curiosity killed the cat”-The need for strict obedience to instructions and how some commands may weigh more heavily than others:

A story of “Curiosity killed the cat”-The need for strict obedience to instructions and how some commands may weigh more heavily than others:

The following fascinating story is related in a number of sources which speaks about the above subject:[1]

There was a famous Chassid by the name of the Rashbatz, who was also later to be one of the teachers of the Rebbe Rayatz. This Chassid had studied under the tutelage of Rabbi Michal of Opchiker. After many years of tutelage, in the winter of 1848, his teacher told him that he, the Rashbatz, was ready to part from him and move to the city of Lubavitch to visit the Tzemach Tzedek. Prior to his departure, his teacher gave him a note, otherwise known as a Pidyon Nefesh, for him to hand over to the Tzemach Tzedek. He warned him that he should under no circumstances open the note and that if he does so his children will be severely punished. At first the Rashbatz did not even entertain the thought of opening the note after such a dire warning from his beloved teacher, however with time, his curiosity and mind games got the best of him, and he opened the note to see what’s inside. He was shocked by what he saw, both sides of the paper were completely blank. Nothing was written on it at all. Shocked, he continued on his journey until he arrived in Lubavitch. When he arrived, he went straight for the house of study, and being tired from his journey, he fell asleep near the oven. Unbeknownst to him, the Tzemach Tzedek had sent his aid to call him several times asking for the person who brought the note from Reb Michal to come into his study immediately. Only after several hours did the Rashabatz finally wake up and hear the announcement being made, and he then told the Rebbe’s aid that it is he who was carrying the note. The aid was very angry with the Rashabtz over the fact that he had delayed his mission for so long. He told him to immediately get up and go with him right away to the study of the Tzemach Tzedek. However, the Rashbatz tried to refuse, under the claim that he is not yet ready to enter to Yechidus and that he must first immerse in a Mikveh. The apprentice however gave him little choice, grabbing him by the arm and forcing him in. When he entered the study of the Tzemach Tzedek, the Rashbatz was so petrified and stricken with fear that he froze like an ice cube and could not move or budge any of his limbs, or even utter one word with his mouth. The Tzemach Tzedek asked him for the note, chastising him for not having done his mission right away and giving it to him as soon as he arrived to Lubavitch. The Tzemach Tzedek stated to him that a Chassid must have obedience and listen to instructions exactly as they were given. Seeing that the man in front of him was not moving, the Tzemach Tzedek had to personally remove the note out of his pocket. The Rashbatz testifies that the Tzemach Tzedek read the blank note for what seemed like several minutes, with the Rashbatz not knowing at all what is in the note that he is reading. The Rashbatz unfortunately later suffered tremendously with the health of his only son due to his disobedience, in his opening of the note against his teacher’s instructions.


The lessons of the story:

Kabalas Ol: One of the great lessons that can be learned from the story is the importance of obedience and the need to successfully battle mental and emotional urges which try to persuade one to disobey the instructions that he was given, or to justify them in being overruled. Sometimes the urge to disregard the instruction even carries a cloak of righteousness, as in the above story that he wanted to first immerse in a Mikveh. One of the primary foundations of service of God is Kabalas Ol, that one follow God’s instructions and those of his Shulchan Aruch, without compromise despite the various excuses, and perhaps even religious arguments. This message is particular pertinent to this week’s Torah portion Parshas Chayeh Sara which discusses the Shlichus of Eliezer, the servant of Avraham to find a wife for Yitzchak. It is likewise part of the reason that the weekend has been set for the annual Chabad Lubavitch Shluchim conference. The lesson could not be more pertinent or divine for this week which celebrates the thousands of emissaries of the Lubavitcher Rebbe who with utter dedication and sacrifice of both spiritual and physical comforts set out on his mission  to ignite the hearts of Jews world over to be closer to Torah.

Sometimes simple matters may carry a lot of weight: We also learn from this story that although one should not measure the rewards and punishments of God’s commands intern’s performance into a business investment, nonetheless there are matters in Judaism that hold greater weight than others. Some transgressions may be undeserving of any major punishment while others may be deserving of severe punishment. This matter is not something that we could universally list as to which commands carry more seriousness than others but is rather something that is only known to God above and is dependent on each individual and the level that he is holding. Even though in general, peeking at a piece of paper that one was told not to look at and delaying its delivery for some hours, while sinful, may not be viewed as criminal to the extent of deserving great suffering from his children, for some people as in our story, it is. Each person has certain matters of divine service that relate to him greater than others, and that his life vitality is dependent on more than others, and he thus needs to exert more effort in overcoming challenges in these areas more than other people. May God merit us all to know our challenges and where we need to place primary focus.


[1] See Toldos Harashbatz printed in Hatamim 1:78; Sefer Hasichos 5700 p. 94; Reshimos 143:7; Toras Menachem 24:299; Chassidim Harishonim [Alpehnbaum] Vol. 1 p. 96

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