Tuesday, December 20, 2011
The Mysterious Guest
Chayey Moharan, Sippurim Chadashim 85
Translation by Dovid Sears
Rabbi Nachman told this story on the first night of Chanukah 5569/1808, after lighting the first candle.
A visitor came into a house and asked the head of the house, “From where do you obtain a living?”
“I don’t have a steady livelihood at home,” his host replied. “However, the world provides me with what I need to live.”
The guest asked him, “What do you study?”
The host answered him.
They continued conversing, until soon they were engaged in a true heart to heart discussion. The host began to feel an intense longing and yearning to reach a certain level of holiness. “I will teach you,” said the guest.
The host was surprised. He began to wonder, “Maybe this isn’t a human being at all!” However, he looked again, and saw that the guest was talking to him like a human being.
Immediately afterward he had a strong sense of faith, and he resolved to believe in him. He started calling him “my teacher,” and said to him, “First of all, I would like to ask you to teach me how to conduct myself with due respect toward you. Not, I scarcely need add, that I could actually detract from your true honor, God forbid; but even so, it is hard for human beings to be as meticulous as they should be in these matters. That is why I would like you to teach me how to behave with due respect.”
“For the moment, I don’t have the time,” he replied. “Another time I will come and teach you this. Right now I must go away from here.”
“I also need to learn from you about this,” said the host. “How far must I go when I accompany you on your way, as a host is obligated to do when his guests depart?” 
“Until just beyond the entrance,” he replied.
The host began to think to himself, “How can I go out with him? Right now I am with him among other people. But if I go out with him alone—who knows who he is?” He questioned him and then told him, “I’m afraid to go out with you.”
“If I can learn with you like this,” the visitor retorted, “then now, too, if I wanted to do something to you, who would stop me?”
The host went with him beyond the entrance. All of a sudden, the visitor seized him and began to fly with him!
It was cold for the host, so the other took a garment and gave it to him. “Take this garment,” he said, “and it will be good for you. You will have food and drink and everything will be good, and you will live in your house.” And he flew with him.
In the midst of this, the host gazed, and suddenly he was in his house. He couldn’t believe his own eyes that he was in his house; but he looked, and there he was, speaking with people, and eating and drinking in a normal manner. Then he looked back, and lo and behold, he was flying, as before. Then he looked back and he was in his house. This went on for a long time.
After awhile, he flew down to a valley between two mountains. There, he found a book which contained various combinations of letters: alef, zayin, chet, which is dalet, etc. Vessels were depicted in this book, and inside the vessels were letters. Moreover, inside the vessels were the letters of the vessels, by which one could create such vessels. He felt an intense desire to study this book.
In the midst of this, he gazed, and lo and behold, he was in his house. Then he gazed, and there he was, in the valley.
He made up his mind to climb the mountain; perhaps he would find an inhabited place there. When he came to the mountain, he saw a golden tree with golden branches standing there. Hanging from the branches were vessels like those depicted in the book, and within those vessels were other vessels by which one could create such vessels. He wanted to take some of the vessels away from there, but he was unable to do so, for they were inextricably entangled in the branches.
In the midst of this, he gazed - and lo and behold, he was in his house. This was most amazing to him. How was this possible? How could he be both here and there at the same time? He wanted to discuss this with other human beings, but how could one speak about such an astounding phenomenon to other people, something that they surely would not believe?
In the midst of this, he looked out the window and saw the same guest. He started begging him to come to him. However, the guest replied, “I don’t have time, because I am on my way to you!”
“This itself is a wonder in my eyes!” he cried. “Look, I am right here—what do you mean, that you are on your way to me?”
The guest explained, “The moment you decided to come with me, to accompany me beyond the doorway, I took the neshamah (higher soul) from you and gave you a garment from the Lower Garden of Eden.  The nefesh (vital spirit) and ru’ach (lower soul) remain with you. Therefore, whenever you attach your thoughts to that place, you are there, and you draw an illumination from that place to yourself. And when you return here—you are here!”
I do not know which world he is from, but this much is certain: it is a world of good.
So far, it is not over, it is not finished.
 Sota 46b. Tanna D’vei Eliyahu Zuta 16:43 states that a disciple who escorts his Torah teacher receives divine blessing. The same text adds (16:46) that when one escorts a traveler embarking on a journey, the traveler will be protected from harm.
 The Zohar (I, 138a) describes the Garden of Eden as having a higher level for the neshamah, which is the seat of thought, and a lower level for the ru’ach, the seat of the emotions.