the Child and the Thief

Reb Zusya of Hanipoli went to visit his rebbe, Reb Dov Ber, the Maggid of Mezritch.

“I have heard, Rebbe,” Reb Zusya said, “that there are Ten Principles of Divine Service, but I have yet to learn what they are. I am hopeful that you can teach them to me.”

Reb Dov Ber said, “I cannot teach them to you, but I can point to those who can.”

“And who might these be?” asked Reb Zusya.

“You can learn the first three principles from a child and the next seven from a thief.”

Seeing that Reb Zusya did not understand, the Maggid continued:

“From a child you can learn three things: be merry for no reason, never waste a moment’s time, and demand what you want in a loud voice.

“And from a thief you can learn seven things: do your work in secret, if you do not complete a task one night, return to it the next, love your co-workers; risk your life to achieve your goal; be ready to exchange all you have for even the smallest gain; be willing to endure physical hardship; and be devoted to your work and give no thought to doing anything else.”


We love systems: the Ten Commandments, the 613 Mitzvos, the Four Noble Truths, the Eightfold Path, the Twelve Steps. Systems give us a sense of security. If I just do “x,” I am assured of attaining “y.” Systems give us a sense of control: there is something to master, and mastery appeals to us. But here is Reb Zusya, who has yet to learn the Ten Principles of Divine Service, and his master, the Maggid of Mezritch, who does not even know how to teach them. Like all great spiritual truths, these ten principles cannot be taught but only observed and lived.

Published in: on July 2, 2011 at 12:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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