In Roptchitz, the town where Rabbi Naftali lived,
it was the custom for rich people
whose houses stood isolated, or at the far end of town,
to hire men to watch over their property by night.
Late one evening, when Rabbi Naftali
was skirting the woods which circled the city,
he met such a watchman walking up and down.
“For whom are you working?” he asked.
The man told him, and then inquired in his turn,
“And for whom are you working, Rabbi?”
The words struck the zaddik like a shaft.
“I am not working for anybody just yet,”
he barely managed to say.
Then he walked up and down beside the man for a long time.
“Will you be my servant?” he finally asked.
“I should like to,” the man replied,
“but what would be my duties?”
“To remind me,” said Rabbi Naftali.
Once, a Hasid mystic, Joseph Jacov, was asked, “What is the difference between a rabbi and a zaddik?”
A rabbi is the ordinary priest, belongs to the organized religion – the church, the synagogue, the temple. And a zaddik is a rebellious master – does not belong to any organization, only belongs to himself. The rabbi is a teacher, the zaddik is a master. The teacher teaches, but has not gone through the transformation himself. The zaddik is also a teacher but he teaches by his life, by his very being. What we call in India satguru, the enlightened master, is “zaddik” in Hasidic terms.
So somebody asked Joseph Jacov, “What is the difference between a rabbi and a zaddik?”
The Hasid said, “The zaddik remembers, and the rabbi knows.”
The rabbi knows much but doesn’t remember himself – he is lost in his knowledge. He may be a great scholar, he may be very efficient as far as scriptures are concerned…but a zaddik remembers! He may not know much, or may know, but that is irrelevant. He remembers – he remembers himself – and that remembering is the difference.
It was difficult for the inquirer to understand, so he said, “Please explain it to me in a little more detail.” The Hasid told him a story….
He said, “Once it happened…a prince, by his wrong behavior, enraged his father. And the way the prince was behaving was so uncourtly, so unkingly, that the father had to banish him out of the kingdom.
“But the father was thinking that he would repent and he would ask forgiveness and he would come back, but the prince simply disappeared. He never tried in any way to contact his father, he never showed any desire to come back to the palace. It appeared as if he had been simply waiting – how to escape the kingdom and how to escape the palace and the father.