The Rabbi’s Only Son

Once there was a Rabbi. This Rabbi was childless, and then he had an only son, and he raised him and married him off. This only son used to sit in a loft and study, as was the custom of the wealthy and used to study and pray all the time. But he felt in himself that something was missing in him—a fault—and did not know what. And he did not feel any flavor in his studies and in his prayers. He told this to two young men, so they advised him to travel to the Tzaddik [a great Rabbi and Sage of Israel].

The only son fulfilled a bidding (mitzvah) through which he came to the condition of Small Light. The only son went and told his father that he did not feel any flavor in his service (in his service of the Lord), for instance praying and studying and other bidden deeds (mitzvot), that he missed something and did not know what. Therefore he wanted to travel that that Tzaddik (of whom he was told etc.).

His father answered him, “How come you to go to him? You are more learned than he, of higher lineage than him. It is not befitting you to travel to him. Turn away from this direction,” and the father continued thus, till he prevented him from traveling to the Tzaddik.

The only son again set himself to study and he again felt the fault, etc. So again he consulted with these people and again they gave him the advice to travel to the Tzaddik. Again he went to his father and his father again frustrated him and did not let him go and so it happened several times.

The only son continued to feel that he was missing something and greatly longed to perfect the fault (he should somehow put things right, so that he should not feel a void), and he did not know what the fault was, etc. So once again he came to his father and earnestly begged him till the father had to travel with him; because the father would not let him travel alone as he was his only son. So the father said to him, “See, I will travel with you and will show you that he is nothing (that the Tzaddik is nothing).

So they made ready the carriage and rode off. The father said to the son. “Here I will make a test. If all goes well, then it is decreed from Heaven. If not, then it is not Heaven’s will that we should travel, and we shall turn back.”

So they traveled. As they were going along, they came to a small bridge. A horse fell down and the carriage overturned, and they were nearly drowned. So his father said, “You see that it is not going as it should, and this journey is not from Heaven.” So they turned back.

Again the only son sat at his studies and again noticed that he was missing something and he did not know what, so again he egged his father, and the father was obliged again to travel with him. While traveling, the father again put it to the test as before, if all goes well (etc.). As they were traveling, both axles broke, so the father said, “See how it happens that we should not travel, because is this then a natural thing that both axles should break? How many times have we ridden in the carriage, and such has never happened?” So they again turned back.

Again the only son resumed his studies, etc., and again felt at fault, etc., and the young men continued to persuade him that he should travel. So the only son again went to his father and entreated him, and he was obliged once more to travel with him. The only son said to his father that they should not this time make any test, because it is natural that a horse should fall or axles get broken. “This time, unless something quite unusual happens, we shall continue.”

They traveled and came to pass the night at an inn, and there they found a merchant. So they began to talk with him as is customary with merchants, and did not tell him that they were traveling there (to the Tzaddik) for the Rabbi was ashamed to say that he was going to this Good Jew, and they discussed world affairs, till so talking they began to talk about Good Jews, where there are Good Jews to be found. So he told them (the merchant) that in such a place is to be found a Good Jew and there and there, so they began to talk about the Good Jew to whom they were traveling. So the merchant replied to them, “That one,” (in a tone of wonder) “he is not a true Jew (not an observing Jew). Here I am come from him, and I was present when he committed a sin.”

So the father said to his son (to the only son), “You see, my child, what the merchant e=tells with candor (he is not purposely telling evil things of this Good Jew, only because of our discussion did he tell this). He is coming from there.”

They returned home (the Rabbi and the only son), and the son died and came in a dream to his father. The father saw that he stood in great anger. So the father asked him, “Why are you so angry?” and he answered (the son who had died replied in a dream to his father) that he should travel to that Good Jew (that they had previously wanted to travel to) “and he will tell you why I am angry.” So he awoke and he thought it was just an accident (it was only a dream and not reality). After that he again had the same dream, and this happened three times, so he understood that this was no empty thing.

So he journeyed thither (the Rabbi journeyed to the Good Jew to whom he previously had traveled with his son). On the way he again encountered the merchant that he had previously encountered when he had traveled with his son, and the Rabbi recognized him and the Rabbi said to the merchant, “You are he that I saw at the inn.”

He answered him, “Of course you saw,” and opened his mouth at him and said to him, “If you like, I will swallow you up.” So he said to him (the Rabbi to the merchant), “What are you talking about?”

So he answered him, “Do you remember that you traveled with your son and first a horse fell down on a bridge, so you turned back? Then the axles were broken, and then you encountered me. I told you that he was not a true Jew. Now that I have already finished your son, now you may travel! Because the son was like a Small Light, and the Righteous One to whom he wanted to travel, his is like a Great Light. And if they both could have been brought together, the Messiah would have come. Now that I have got rid of him, you may travel.”

Meanwhile he vanished and this talk with him (the merchant disappeared suddenly with this speech) and he had nobody to talk to. So the Rabbi traveled to the Tzaddik, and he wailed aloud, “Woe is that which has been lost and cannot be found. The Lord will restore our outcasts speedily.” Amen.

The merchant was the Evil One himself, who disguised himself as a merchant and deceived them; and after the second time he encountered the Rabbi, he himself mocked him: that he had obeyed him, because this is the way of the Evil One. First he urges on the person, and if the person obeys him, G-d forbid, he himself afterwards provokes and takes revenge on the person for obeying him. May G-d protect us from him and return us to the truth. Amen.

[Translated by Esther Kenig]