By Dovid Zaklikowski for COLlive and Hasidic Archives
A businessman once came to Rabbi Dovber, known as the Maggid of Mezritch, and asked him how he should serve G-d. It was a difficult question for him to answer, Rabbi Dovber said, immersed in the world of Torah as he was.
He advised the man to go to the town of Zhitomir, where he would find a student of his named Reb Zev. From him, he would learn all he needed to know.
The man arrived in Zhitomer in the pouring rain and sought out the home of Reb Zev. Soaking wet and exhausted from his journey, he knocked on the door. No one answered. He peeked through the window, and there beheld Reb Zev, studying at a table. He knocked harder–still no answer. Was Reb Zev deaf? He pounded on the door. After a long pause, Reb Zev slowly rose and opened the door.
The businessman explained why Rabbi Dovber had sent him, and Reb Zev invited him to stay for the week. Day after day passed, yet, to the man’s consternation, Reb Zev hardly spoke to him. With nothing else to do, he spent his time observing his host. Every morning, Reb Zev made the house warm by building up a large fire, which lasted throughout the day. At night, he went outside, closed the gate to the courtyard, and locked all the doors and windows.
At the end of the week, the frustrated businessman confronted him. “The Rebbe told me to come here to learn how a businessman should serve G-d, but you didn’t even talk to me…”
On the contrary, Reb Zev replied, he had begun teaching him the moment he arrived.
“When I want to open the door, I open it. When I don’t want to, I keep the door closed.” This was a hint that in the course of his business, he would encounter all kinds of influences. Some should be permitted to “enter,” that is, impact his behavior. Others should not.
“Every morning, I make sure the house is warm,” Reb Zev continued. In the same way, a businessman should “warm-up” spiritually, through study and prayer, before beginning his work each day. “And when things are dark around you, shut the doors so nothing can come in,” Reb Zev concluded. “This is the divine service of a businessman.”
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