window and mirrors

Windows vs. Mirrors

There once was a poor but pious Chassid. What little he had, he shared. Whether his meager meal or his humble home, he was a man who extended himself to others. And if he could give to his Rebbe anything at all, why that would bring him great joy. He would throw open his doors long before his Rebbe ever arrived in his town, rolling out the welcome mat to his modest but warmly inviting home.

His Rebbe felt that such a warm-hearted person could probably do loads more were he given the resources. That is why the Rebbe gave this generous Chassid a strong blessing that he become extremely wealthy.Sure enough, the Tzaddik blesses and G-d acquiesces. The wheel of fortune turned for our Chassid and he became fabulously wealthy, beyond his wildest dreams. He built a palatial home, replete with

Sure enough, the Tzaddik blesses and G-d acquiesces. The wheel of fortune turned for our Chassid and he became fabulously wealthy, beyond his wildest dreams. He built a palatial home, replete with artworks and fancy furnishings. However, he forgot how he had gotten his riches. He now became obsessed with keeping it, every last measly coin, for himself and his family. Woe to the beggar who knocked at his door. Beggars were not even allowed at the front door. Perhaps they could get cast-off rags and be told to sell them to the rag picker…if they were lucky. His mansion was not on the list of homes to visit when cold and hungry.

His Rebbe, however, far away in another town, knew nothing of this transformation. Came the day that the Rebbe went visiting, traveling the miles to see how his Chassid was doing and how the blessing had come true. Imagine the Rebbe’s dismay when he witnessed beggars being turned away from the door of his Chassid.

Into the home, the Rebbe came. The first thing he did was make the Chassid look out the window. “Tell me what you see,” said the Rebbe, “with all the details.” The Chassid wanted to please his Rebbe. He stood by the window and described every small detail. He told the Rebbe he saw the water carrier, saw his pitiful clothes, saw his muscles straining with a load of water, saw his face perspiring. The Chassid painted the picture of the wagon driver, how he was changing a wheel, his hands full of grease. He told of the two old men walking along slowly to Shul. He told of the poor widow carrying a basket to the marketplace.

“Okay,” said the Rebbe. Then he led his Chassid to a large ornate full-length mirror in the living room. “Now look in there and tell me what you see.”
The Chassid was perplexed. “Me,” he said.
“No widow? No two Yidden walking to daven?”
“No, Rebbe, here I only see me.”
“What is the window made of?” asked the Rebbe
“Of glass,” said the Chassid.

“Nu,” said the Rebbe, “isn’t the window also made of glass? Why can’t you see the same things in the mirror that you saw in the window?”

Thinking now that his Rebbe was so holy he had never seen the invention of a mirror, the Chassid launched into a whole scientific explanation, “see the window is clear glass…but on the mirror they put on one side a coating of silver.”

“So what you are telling me is that the glass is the same. Just when you put a coating of silver you cannot see anyone else but yourself?” double-checked the Rebbe.

The Chassid replied that yes such was the principle of the mirror. Then the Rebbe got harsh. He said, “once I had a pure Chassid who could see outside of himself to see others. But when he got a coating of silver he only sees himself.”

The Rebbe scratched a bit of the silver coating off the back of the ornate mirror. “Uht azoy, with no silver blocking it, a pane of glass can see the other side.”

The Chassid got it. He began crying. He understood that the Rebbe was pointing out that the gift of money had turned him into a selfish person. Would he need to lose it all?

His tears were sincere. The Rebbe reassured him. “Know that you are not going to lose your ‘silver backing’ so long as you do Teshuva. From now on, make sure you go back to your old self, the person who was able to see the needs of others.”

The Chassid proudly kept his mirror the same way his Rebbe had marred it. That little corner of the mirror, the one that had no silver backing, reminded him that the money he had was only there to be able to meet the needs of those whose needs he could see from his untarnished, unvarnished pure inner self.

May we all merit to be able to have “silver backing” and use it the right way to help others.