Reb Yaakov Yitzchak of Pshischah, the Yid HaKodesh, once ordered his senior disciple, Reb Simcha Bunem, to make a journey to a distant hamlet. When he inquired as to the purpose of the journey, the Yid HaKodesh remained silent.
Reb Simcha Bunem took several hasidim with him and left on the journey. The sky had already turned to dusk by the time they arrived at their destination. Because the town had no inn, Reb Simcha Bunem ordered his coachman to stop at the first cottage. He knocked at the door and was invited in along with his students. When they asked whether they could join their host for dinner, the man replied that he had no dairy food and could offer them only a meat meal.
Instantly, the Hasidim bombarded the man with questions about his level of kashrut. Who was the shochet? they demanded to know. Were the animal’s lungs free of even the smallest blemish, and was the meat salted sufficiently to draw out all traces of blood, as was required by law? The interrogation would have continued had not a commanding voice from the back of the cottage called out to them.
They turned their attention from the owner of the home to a man dressed as a beggar sitting near the hearth smoking a pipe. “My dear Hasidim,” the beggar said. “With regard to what goes into your mouths, you are scrupulous. Yet, regarding what comes out of your mouths, you make no inquiries at all!”
When Reb Simcha Bunem heard these words, he knew the reason for this journey. He nodded respectfully to the beggar, thanked the householder for his concern, and returned to the wagon, saying to his students, “Come, we are now ready to return to Pshischah.”
The Baal Shem Tov taught that every word you overhear, no matter how seemingly inconsequential, is in fact spoken for your ears alone.
Every moment, life presents you with another opportunity to look within yourself and see where you can improve the quality of your thought, word, and deed. Do not imagine that the world revolves around you –— it doesn’t. But know that whatever is in the world is in you as well. Let reality be your rebbe.
Hasidim: Disciples of Hasidic masters. The word Hasid comes from the Hebrew chesed, “compassion.” Hasidism is the way of compassion rooted in the experience of God as the source and substance of all beings. Hasidim are the students of compassion, seeking to experience God and live out godliness.
Shochet: A person trained in the art of kosher slaughtering, being able to take the life of an animal in a manner that minimizes the animal’s suffering.
Kashrut: The laws of kosher. Kosher (Hebrew, kasher) means “fit” or “proper” for human consumption according to the biblical and rabbinic dietary codes.