One of the chassidim of the Maggid of Mezritch approached him with a problem. He had invested a large amount of money in merchandise and had dispatched it with an agent for sale in a distant city. Several months had passed without word from him. He had inquired at the city to which he had originally directed the man, but there was no sign of either him or the merchandise. What should he do? If the merchandise was lost, he would face financial ruin.

The Maggid put on his reading glasses, looked into a volume of the Zohar lying on his table for a few moments, and then instructed his chassid to travel to Leipzig. There he would find his agent and his merchandise intact.

The chassid journeyed to Leipzig, met the wayward agent, retrieved his merchandise, and sold it for a profit.

Why was it necessary for the Maggid to look into the Zohar? If he had an answer for the chassid, why didn’t he give it to him immediately?

Chassidim explain as follows: The light which G‑d created on the first day of creation enables a person to see from one end of the world to the other. Nevertheless, G‑d saw that it was not appropriate for this light to shine in an unperfected world, and He therefore concealed it. Where did He conceal it? In the Torah.1

By studying the Torah, and particularly the Torah’s mystic dimensions, where its spiritual light is revealed, the Maggid was able to gain access to this transcendent light. Having done so, he was able to advise the chassid with regard to his merchandise.

Why did the Maggid employ such a lofty spiritual tool merely to locate merchandise?

Because a Jew’s financial resources are connected with his spiritual mission in this world. Everything in the world contains sparks of G‑dliness which are concealed by the material substance of the world. Mankind has been given the task of refining the material and revealing this innate G‑dliness. Every individual is destined to elevate certain sparks. If these G‑dly energies are not elevated, that individual’s soul remains incomplete.

The Baal Shem Tov expounded this concept in his interpretation2 of the verse,3 “Hungry and also thirsty, their soul longs within them.” The Baal Shem Tov asked, “Why are they hungry and thirsty? Because ‘their soul longs within them.’ Their souls seek a bond with the G‑dly energy contained in the food and drink.”

We may be unaware of the spiritual motivation underlying our physical desires and find all sorts of reasons to describe what we want and why we want it. In truth, however, a deeper force motivates our will. Why does a Jew want possessions and material success? Because his soul has an unarticulated desire to fulfill the G‑dly purpose associated with these seemingly material blessings.

These concepts enable us to explain a problematic passage in Tanya,4 in which the Alter Rebbe issues “an open rebuke, [motivated] by concealed love,” reproving his followers for coming to him:

To ask for advice about worldly concerns, what to do with regard to matters of this material world. [Such counsel was never asked even] of the great Sages of Israel of bygone years... for whom no secret was hidden5 ...

The Alter Rebbe then proceeds to explain the reason why his followers would seek him out regarding such matters: “Love upsets the natural order of conduct.”6 The self-love of the chassidim and their concern for their own material welfare would cloud their vision.

Commenting on this passage, the Rebbe raises an obvious question: Despite the Alter Rebbe’s statements, we find that chassidim would ask the Alter Rebbe himself, and similarly, the subsequent Rebbeim, about such matters. And the Rebbeim would not withhold answers. Indeed,7 at times the Rebbeim would solicit such advice.

Why would the Rebbeim disregard the advice given by the Alter Rebbe?

For the reason, the Alter Rebbe himself gave. Because “Love upsets the natural order of conduct.” Out of their great love for the chassidim and their concern for their material and spiritual welfare, the Rebbeim were willing to go beyond their natural order of conduct and advise their chassidim concerning material affairs.


“Why did I come here?” he kept asking himself. “Here I am, wasting the time of one of the spiritual giants of our generation! I have presented him with an intricate business problem with which he has no way of helping. What’s more, I have spent a great deal to come, and most importantly, I’ve delayed taking the steps needed to solve my problem.”

What motivated these thoughts?

In 5727 (1967), a traditional Jew began drawing close to Lubavitch in his local community. As he became more involved, he realized that Lubavitch was more than a local movement. He traveled to Eretz Yisrael, and was impressed with the network of educational facilities Lubavitch had established there. He then began to study the Rebbe’s thoughts, and was further impressed by his wisdom.

Now, he was a wealthy man and a generous donor to Jewish causes. Suddenly, in the midst of coming close to Lubavitch, he suffered a major financial setback. His business was threatened by bankruptcy and government investigation. When the local Lubavitch representative learned of his difficulties, he advised him to speak to the Rebbe.

“Like a drowning man clutching at a straw,” he thought, he had latched onto the idea.

When his local shliach had called Rabbi Chodakov, the Rebbe’s personal secretary, to arrange yechidus, Rabbi Chodakov had explained that the waiting list was full for the next few months. When the shliach explained that the issue was urgent, Rabbi Chodakov replied that the list for yechidus on the coming Sunday was not that long. “If the man would come and wait until yechidus is over,” he continued, “I will probably be able to squeeze him in before the Rebbe goes home.”

And so the man traveled to New York with one purpose in mind to see the Rebbe. During the trip, and while waiting to see the Rebbe, he had plenty of time to prepare himself. Most of the time was spent composing a 16-page letter which explained his business difficulties in great detail. When he entered the Rebbe’s room, he gave the Rebbe that letter.

The Rebbe looked at him and asked if he could describe the problem in his own words.

He answered that he could, but that it would not do justice to the issue; in the letter, he had explained every aspect clearly. So the Rebbe began to read. Surprisingly, each page took him about three minutes.

It was then, with the only sound being the ticking of the clock, that the man began having the thoughts mentioned at the outset. “For after all,” he thought, “the Rebbe is reading without a single pause. He hasn’t asked one question. There is no way he can fully comprehend the matter with such a reading. He’s just reading to be polite. I should never have come here.”

While he was having such thoughts, the Rebbe continued reading with absolute concentration. After slightly less than an hour had passed, he completed the letter and then spoke to his visitor.

First, the Rebbe asked him if he knew the meaning of bitachon (usually translated as “trust in G‑d”). The visitor answered that he did not, so the Rebbe told him: “Bitachon means feeling as confident and happy in the midst of one’s problems as one would feel if they had already been solved.”

Then the Rebbe told him not to reduce any of his regular donations to charity. For example, if he had always given a chai (Hebrew for 18) when he received an aliyah, he should continue to do so despite the difficulties he was experiencing.

And then the Rebbe advised him to check his tefillin.

When he heard that, the visitor protested: “I just bought a new pair in Kfar Chabad! They were the most expensive available, and supposedly of the highest quality. Must I still check them?”

“Have them checked anyway,” the Rebbe responded.

The Rebbe then proceeded to his visitor’s business difficulties. He asked him three questions: two rhetorical and one requiring a piece of information. From these questions, the man realized that the Rebbe had comprehended the matter in its entirety.

The Rebbe then proceeded to give the visitor several sentences of measured advice. The visitor recorded them mentally, sensing that this would be the most accurate appraisal of his situation that he would ever receive.

On the following day, he took his tefillin to the aged scribe, Reb Yeshayah Matlin, to have them checked. After a few hours, Reb Yeshayah called and explained that these were perhaps the most perfect pair of tefillin he had ever seen. Everything the calligraphy, the compartments, the straps was of the highest quality. There was, however, one difficulty; the passages had not been inserted in the proper order, and so the tefillin had been defective. Reb Yeshayah had corrected the problem, and now they were acceptable.

The man returned home and hired a team of lawyers to help him overcome his difficulties. To describe the situation to them, he used a copy of the letter he had given the Rebbe. The lawyers’ reading took much longer, and was continually punctuated by questions. In the end, he felt their analysis was far less clear than the Rebbe’s, so he shared the Rebbe’s advice with them and used it to steer a path through his problems.

After two years, he was able to extricate himself from his difficulties and return to his former affluence.


For many years, Reb Avraham Parshan owned a farm on the outskirts of Toronto, in partnership with a real-estate broker. One day, the broker approached Reb Avraham with an offer to purchase his part of the property.

In general, Reb Avraham would not consult the Rebbe about business deals which he considered to be of minor importance. On this occasion, however, he did, and the Rebbe advised him not to sell.

A month later, the broker came with a higher offer. Again, the Rebbe told him not to accept, but instead to suggest a price that could truly be considered astronomical. Furthermore, the Rebbe advised Reb Avraham to say that this offer would stand only until Rosh HaShanah.

On Erev Rosh HaShanah, Reb Avraham went out to buy knives, as is customary in certain communities, in keeping with the phrase from the Rosh HaShanah prayers: “He who apportions (lit. ‘cuts’) life for all the living.” When he returned, the agent came in to “cut” a deal; the buyer had accepted the price. It turned out that the buyer was Bramlea, a large British development company, and the property was necessary for one of their projects.

On another occasion, Reb Avraham had a plot of land in North York which he was considering selling. As a general rule, the Rebbe had advised him not to sell land in the same condition he bought it, but instead to develop or improve the property in some way, so it could be sold for a higher sum. In this instance, however, Reb Avraham was pressed for cash and was thinking of selling the property as it stood.

At yechidus, without mentioning his financial straits, Reb Avraham asked the Rebbe if he should sell. The Rebbe told him not to.

After yechidus, Rabbi Klein, one of the Rebbe’s secretaries, told Reb Avraham that Rabbi Chodakov, the Rebbe’s personal secretary, would like to see him. Rabbi Chodakov told Reb Avraham that the Rebbe had told him that if a person is thinking of selling property, he probably needs money. With that, he told Reb Avraham that as head of Machne Israel (one of the charitable organizations directed by the Rebbe), he had been instructed to offer Reb Avraham an interest-free loan of $50,000 for six months.

On another occasion, Reb Avraham was considering investing a large sum in real estate in Eretz Yisrael. At that time, there was a well-known contractor for whom people in the religious community would wait in line to invest. Reb Avraham met with him, and worked out what appeared to be an attractive deal, but with one contingency: the Rebbe would have to approve of the transaction.

The Rebbe answered that he favored another option, and advised Reb Avraham to meet with Reb Ephraim Wolf, director of the Lubavitcher yeshivah in Eretz Yisrael. Reb Ephraim had just received a parcel of land from the Israeli government near the yeshivah in Lod, and was contemplating the construction of a Lubavitch community. Reb Avraham was willing to invest and the community was started.

Ultimately, all the apartments were sold, and so in addition to the merit of constructing a Lubavitch community, Reb Avraham was able to make a tidy profit.

The other contractor, meanwhile, went bankrupt, and all those who had invested with him lost their money.