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Faith and the Abyss

The following tale is told about the celebrated Rebbi Barukh of Medzebozh:

And it came to pass that one of the Rebbe Barukh's disciples was caught in Satan's net. The poor man was following a dangerous path leading to darkness: he read forbidden books, played with perilous thoughts, and looked into hidden areas which only the chosen may approach with their gaze. He dwelled in the edge of the abyss, tempted by damnation.

When Rebbe Barukh learned of this, he felt sad, but told himslef: Well, the boy is young, he's gullible. Next time he comes, I will talk to him; I will reprimand him and bring him back to G-d. But the disciple kept him waiting. And in the meantime, other rumors, increasingly disquieting, reached the Rebbe. The disciple, he was told, had stopped meeting members of the hasidic community. In fact, he no longer lived among Jews.

Overcome by his distress, the Rebbe told himslef: He will come to see me, he'll have to; and I shall be more severe than ever, more rigorous thanever, and he will be compelled to return to the fold. But the disciple continued to keep him waiting.

Finally, the Rebbe had no choice left. One morning he decided to go and see him. And without telling anyone, he left and went to another town, far away, and there he confronted his disciple. And before the young man could collect his thoughts and utter a single word, the Rebbe spoke to him:

"You are suprised to see me here, in your room? You shouldn't be. I can read your thoughts, I know your innermost secrets. You are alone and trying to deepen your loneliness. You have already passed through, one after another, the fifty gates of knowledge and doubt- and I know how you did it.

"You began with just one question; you explored it in depth to discover the first answer, which allowed you to open your first gate; you crossed it and found yourself confronted by a new question. You worked on its solution and found the second gate. and the third. and the fourth and the tenth; one leads to the other. And now you stand before the fiftieth gate.

"Look: it is open. And you are frightened, aren't you? The open gate fills you with fear, because if you pass through it, you will face a question to which there is no answer- no human answer. And if you try, you will fall. Into the abyss. And you will be lost. Forever. You didn't know that. Only I did. But now you also know"

"What am I to do?" cried the disciple, terrified."What can I do? Go back? To the beginning? Back to the first gate?"-"Impossible," said the Rebbe. "Man can never go back; it is too late. What is done cannot be undone."

There was a long silence. Suddnely the young disciple began to tremble violently. "Please, Rebbe," he cried, "help me. Protect me. What is there left fo me to do?? where can I go from here?"-"Look," said Rebbe Barukh. "Look in front of you. Look beyond that gate. What keeps man from running, dashing over its threshold? What keeps man from falling? Faith. Yes, son: beyond the fifitieth gate there is not only the abyss but also faith- and they are one next to the other..."

And the Rebbe brought his disciple back to his people- and himself.