Run after honor?? It will run away from you.
In the town of Anipoli, there were two rabbis. One, was the great Chasidic master Reb Zusha. The other was the town rabbi, who was no supporter of the nascent Chasidic movement
Reb Zusha was beloved by all for his humility and cheerful attitude. The rabbi, however, was not so popular with the townspeople. Although a man of great learning, he was always concerned that he was not being accorded enough respect. His quest for honor led him down a slippery slope to anger and resentment.
One winter night, the rabbi's thoughts turned to the wedding he had attended the week before. The father of the bride, Reb Moshe, was a wealthy philanthropist. The entire town had been invited to join in the family's simcha (happy occasion). As the rabbi of Anipoli, this rabbi expected to receive great respect. But in the end, he had received nothing but insults. No place at the head table had been reserved for him and he was served leftover food! To top it all off, he was not invited to lead the Grace After Meals!
Who had been given all of these honors? Reb Zusha! The rabbi recalled Reb Zusha, in his tattered clothes, sitting at the head table. Reb Zusha sat in front of a plate piled high with delicious foods. When the meal was over, Reb Zusha was honored with leading the Grace After Meals.
"What is his secret?" wondered the rabbi. "He has nothing, and is always happy. I seemingly have everything, and I am always angry!
Though the hour was late and the night bitterly cold, the rabbi decided he had to have his answer. He bundled himself up and started trudging through the snow-covered streets.
Eventually, the rabbi arrived at Reb Zushe's broken-down hovel. Reb Zusha warmly welcomed the rabbi inside.
The rabbi got straight to the point. "How is it that you are always so happy and content," the rabbi asked, "while I am always resentful and angry?"
"It's nothing very mystical," Reb Zusha replied. "Let me explain with an example. Do you remember the wedding of Reb Moshe's daughter?" Reb Zusha asked.
"Of course I do," the rabbi replied in a huff.
"Do you remember what happened when the special messenger arrived at your door with your personally delivered invitation?" Reb Zusha continued.
How could Reb Zushe possibly know what had happened, the rabbi wondered.
"You demanded to see the guest list," Reb Zusha said. "When you saw that you were fourteenth on the list, you became so angry you almost crumpled up the paper in your hands. Is this correct?"
"But I am the rabbi of Anipoli," the rabbi protested. "I deserve to be shown honor."
"True," replied Reb Zusha, "but did you happen to notice that the people ahead of you were Reb Moshe's relatives? Your name actually headed the list of those people outside of the family circle. But because you were looking out for your honor, you didn't see this. You became so angry at Reb Moshe that you hatched a plan."
The rabbi remembered. He had decided that the family did not deserve the honor of having him attend the wedding ceremony. He would teach them by arriving in the middle of the meal.
"By the time you arrived, the hall was packed," said Reb Zusha. "The whole town had been invited and there weren't any empty seats. Reb Moshe finally spotted you. What happened next?"
"Reb Moshe escorted me to the head table," the rabbi replied. "But..."
"What's the 'but' for?" prodded Reb Zushe gently.
"There wasn't any room for me at the head table," the rabbi complained. "They had to squeeze me in. It was insulting. Don't they know who I am? And what about the waiters? Explain their rude behavior," challenged the rabbi.
"It was a wedding," said Reb Zusha. "There were so many people. True, the waiters didn't see you, but someone else did. Isn't that right?"
The rabbi nodded his head in agreement. As soon as his host, Reb Moshe, had noticed that he was sitting with an empty plate, the wealthy philanthropist himself immediately went to the kitchen to get the rabbi some food.
Reb Moshe returned and apologized profusely. All that was left was a small piece of chicken and a few vegetables. The rabbi refused the plate that his host offered and told Reb Moshe exactly what he thought. Reb Moshe apologized once more, and then went back to his seat.
"For the rest of the evening," Reb Zusha said, "you radiated such negativity that no one dared to approach you. Is it any wonder that you were not asked to lead the Grace After Meals?"
"Now what happened to Reb Zusha," continued Reb Zusha, who always referred to himself in the third person. "When Reb Zusha opened his door he couldn't believe his eyes. To think that Reb Moshe, one of the pillars of the town, should invite Reb Zusha to share in his simcha - and send a messenger to personally deliver the invitation! Such honor! Such kindness!
"Reb Zusha was so overcome with joy for the family," Reb Zusha said, "that when the happy day finally arrived he rushed to the hall two hours before the wedding to see if he could help with the preparations. Reb Zusha thought he might be asked to set up, but what happened? Reb Moshe asked him to officiate. at the chupa!
"After the ceremony, Reb Zusha entered the hall and saw that it was packed. He would be happy to stand in a corner and eat his meal there if there was no room for him at any table. Suddenly, Reb Moshe took him by the arm and personally escorted him to a fine seat at the head table.
"Waiters came and began heaping food on Reb Zusha's plate. Reb Zusha was so overcome by all this kindness that he just had to get up and thank his host. He blessed the bride and groom with all his heart, and was about to go back to his seat when Reb Moshe stopped him.
"Reb Moshe then said such kind words to Reb Zusha. 'Reb Zusha, you're so filled with simcha for us, will you please honor me by leading us in the Grace After Meals?'
"Reb Zusha went home happy that night. But you, my honored rabbi, went home angry. The reason is simple. You expected everything, and got nothing. I expected nothing, was happy with nothing, and got it all."