4 Nison 5776
This story is about a travelling magid (preacher) who arrived at a certain village for Shabbos. His arrival was announced throughout the shtetl with the news that he would preach at the main shul just before Mincho.
When the Magid arrived for the drosho he was surprised to find only the shamesh there. After a short while, it became apparent to both that they were going to be alone for the sermon. Asking the shamesh about the dismal show-up, the latter explained that a chassidishe Rebbe also arrived for Shabbos and it seems that everyone decided to go to his tish for Shalesh seudos. Without feeling resentful or hurt, the magid decided that if all the village folk thought the tish was the place to be, he ought to join everyone there. Unfamiliar as he was with chassidishe practises and habits, however, he wasn’t prepared for what he encountered. Throughout the tish, the crowd sang chassidishe nigunim, interspersed with scant divray Torah from the Rebbe. Not quite the scholarly and erudite address the learned amgid looked forward to. So, after Havdoloh the good magid requested of the Rebbe an explanation. The Rebbe replied:
“When Bilom was requested to curse the Jews, he declares time and again, ‘If Balak will give me his house ful of silver and gold, I’ll not be able to violate mouth of Hashem to do big or small.’ Rashi points out that from here we see how hungry Bilom was for money. He really did expect of Balak his entire wealth in exchange for his services. On the other hand, when Yaakov finishes working for Lovon seven years, he tells him, ‘Give me my wife that I may come to her.’ Rashi, astonished, asks: ‘Even unworthy people don’t talk like this?’ and Rashi explains that our forefather was eager to set up his family without any further delay.
“I don’t understand,” exclaimed the Rebbe. “When Bilam says something perfectly sound, we find a character defect therein, but when Yaakov Avinu says something which on its surface is less than becoming to him, we seek to explain it away?
“What we see from here,” concluded the holy Rebbe, “is that it’s important not only to hear what is said, but also to pay attention to the character of the person saying it.” (The Rebbe was basically hinting that he might have attracted the shtetl folk byhis noble and holy personality more than by anything he might have to say.)