Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Three Messengers

Shivachey HaRan 36
Translated by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, Rabbi Nachman’s Wisdom (Breslov Research Institute) pp. 101-102

Once a king sent three of his servants to deliver a secret message to another king in a distant land. On the way, they had to pass through lands that were at war with their king.

            The first messenger was clever enough to conceal his purpose completely. He passed through the hostile land without them ever realizing that he was carrying a secret message.

            The second messenger started through the unfriendly country and was discovered. The people realized that he was carrying a secret message and were going to force him to reveal it. But through his wisdom and endurance, he too was able to escape without revealing the message.

            The third messenger was also discovered. Realizing that he too was bearing a secret message, they imprisoned him, and subjected him to all kinds of torture. They tortured him in the cruelest ways possible, but despite his great agony, he refused to tell them anything. He withstood the test without yielding his secret. They finally realized that their tortures were to no avail, and assumed that they were mistaken and he actually had no secret. They let him go, and he passed through their land, delivering his message to the king.

            When they returned, everyone had an opinion as to which of the three deserved the greatest reward. Some said that the first was most deserving, for he acted cleverly enough to hide his secret completely. Others gave the most credit to the second, for he had already been discovered, and still was smart enough to escape. But the king said that the third messenger deserved the greatest reward of them all. He had already been caught in their net. He certainly also wanted to hide his purpose, but he was not successful. After being captured, he underwent every possible torture and torment. If he would have revealed even one secret, he would have received the greatest honors. Still, he withstood the test, revealing nothing. Therefore, his reward is above all the rest.


Rebbe Nachman does not explain his parable. But it seems likely that with it, he means to describe three types of people who confront the Yetzer Hara. Unlike the first two, the third messenger represents the Jew who does not manage to evade or be spared evil desires and confusions, but who must contend with them at great length. He experiences neither the bliss of the great tzaddikim nor the “sweet success” of those who scale the heights the heights in Torah and avodah—yet he remains faithful to the “king” who sent him on his mission. Thus, according to Rebbe Nachman, the simple, religious Jew is the true hero of creation (Dovid Sears).

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