Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Alchemist And Getting Unstuck in order to find our Treasure

So many of us get stuck in the ruts of our lives: perhaps we feel that we must make ends meet, and therefore, we are compelled to continue on our present path, never stopping to consider our dreams, that is, until it's too late, and we're too old to do anything about it; Perhaps we choose to barricade ourselves in the safety of our comfortable existences, never daring to venture beyond the needs of our physical beings, while our souls long for spiritual nutrition. Yes, there are some adventuresome spirits who actually do seek out their dreams, traveling to far away and distant lands. Yet, with neither map nor compass, invariably they return home empty, unfulfilled and a whole lot poorer. What a tragedy that most of us get old, lose track of the dreams of our youth, and hardly consider why we were brought into this world.

The truth is that the fulfillment of our dreams, and our hidden treasures are really close at hand. The Torah tells us in Devarim 30:14, "For this thing is very near to you." If we would just stop and shake ourselves, wake ourselves up a few times each day, we might consider what our Beloved Father, Friend, and confidant, the A-lmighty, has given us. If we did realize the scores of new opportunities and choices we have each day, we could be much, much closer to our finding our treasure, and by sensitizing ourselves, training ourselves to think differently, and considering just how significant each choice we make is, so much of what is hidden would be revealed to us.

Recently, A dear friend lent me the book, "The Alchemist" written by Paulo Coelho. "The Alchemist" is one young man's search for his treasure and his destiny. It is a story about the challenges of getting unstuck, and in the end, finding one's treasure. What particularly struck me about "The Alchemist" is that it seems to be based on the wonderful Chassidic story retold by Rav Chanoch Henich of Alexander (the founder of the second largest Chassidic group in Poland before World War II) in the name of his rebbe, the great Chasidishe master, Rav Simcha Binim of Peshischa, (who, in turn, was the closest student of The holy Jew of Peshischa, The first Biala Rebbe).

Here is the story: In the city of Cracow, Poland there lived a Jew named Reb Eizek Yekeles. Reb Eizek dreamed repeatedly that he should make the long journey to Prague, and there, near the royal palace, under the bridge, he should dig in the ground where an unbelievable treasure awaited him! At first he ignored the dream, but when it repeated itself, again and again, he told it over to his wife, who encouraged him to fulfill his dream. The next morning without delay Reb Eizek set out by foot for Prague, and headed straight for the bridge near the palace. But to his dismay, he discovered that the area was heavily guarded, day and night, by armed soldiers. How could a little Jew from Cracow sneak in under the watchful and fearful eye of the troops and start digging under the bridge for his treasure? What a disappointing climax to such a fatiguing journey! Now he would have to make the long, exhausting trip home again, empty handed. All day long, he walked up and down the riverbank near the bridge, feeling sorry for himself, and when night fell, he returned to the inn where he was staying, and tossed and turned until daybreak. Yet, he wouldn't give up. Each day, day after day, he would walk up and down the riverbank, trying to figure out how he could dig for his treasure. After a number of days, the captain of the guard became curious about the sad Jew who kept returning day after day, and who seemed to be looking for something. He decided to approach him to ask him what he is doing. Though at first hesitant, R. Eizek poured out his heart and told the captain his whole story. The captain exploded in laughter. "Who on earth believes the kind of nonsense they see in dreams? How can you be so foolish to come all the way to Prague because of a dream? Why I, myself, dreamed the other day that I should travel all the way to Cracow, where I would find some Jew named Reb Eizek Yekeles. If i were to dig under the stove of his house I would find an unbelievable treasure. Now I ask you: do you think it would occur to me to take seriously such a ridiculous dream, and to travel all the way to Cracow? At long last, Reb Eizek understood why he had come all the way to Prague. And without delay, he excitedly rushed home began digging and found the enormous treasure buried under his stove just as the captain had told him. From his newly found fortune he built a magnificent Shul completed in 1644, and though twice it was ransacked, first by Swedish invaders during the war of 1655-1658, and recently by the Nazis, my their name and memory be erased, it was recently restored as a historic monument by the Polish government.

We must never lose track of our dreams. Ha-Shem is constantly speaking to us, constantly guiding us to find our treasure. We just need to train ourselves to become good listeners, to hear what we really are supposed to hear. It takes hard work and focus. But as our sages tell us, one who seeks to purify himself is helped from Above.

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