Hi there, friends! In our previous lesson, we left the viceroy in conversation with the second giant, the overseer of the birds. Like his brother, the first giant, after unsuccessfully attempting to convince the viceroy that his search was futile and that the golden mountain and pearl castle did not exist, he decided to make use of the forces under his charge to prove the point. Calling all the birds in the world, he asked them if they had ever seen a castle of pearls atop a golden mountain. None of them had. Still, the viceroy refused to be deterred. He believed in the lost princess too strongly to allow a few animals to discourage him.
The giant said to the viceroy “Further in the desert, you will find my brother. He is appointed over all of the winds which travel throughout the world. Maybe they know something.”
As has happened the first time, when the giant saw that the viceroy refused to give up, he offered to try and help him.
The viceroy walked for many, many years until he found another giant, carrying a tree like the others. The giant asked him who he was and the viceroy told him the whole story. Like the others, this giant tried to discourage him but the viceroy stood his ground.
Just as the second giant who is appointed over the birds represents a greater tzaddik than the first who was only appointed over the animals – thus presenting a greater obstacle to the viceroy who is searching for something these scholars, who hold the tree of Torah in their hands, can’t seem to understand – the third and final giant, who is appointed over all the winds, represents an even greater tzaddik. The spiritual connotation of ruach, wind (literally “spirit”), tells us that this tzaddik is connected to the inner depth of the Torah’s spirituality and understands the viceroy’s thirst. Still, he doesn’t believe that every Jew, even a lowly “adam” yet stuck in the tension between “Adam min ha’adamah“, dross and lowly physicality, and “adama l’Elyon“, the greatest spiritual calling, can access the lost princess of passion and true d’veikus with Hashem. He feels that only a giant in the desert, one who has already rid himself of all negative traits and physical desires, can get in touch with the lost princess and build an intimate relationship with the Master of the world. In a way, although this giant at least understands the context of the viceroy’s lifelong search, his opposition represents the greatest obstacle of them all – he knows what the viceroy is after and still thinks his search is futile. When the viceroy sees even a tzaddik who is connected to “ruach” to the inner spirit of Judaism pushing him away and yet stands his ground with certainty, he has reached the end of the long, dark night and begins to behold the first rays of dawn appearing over the horizon.
The third giant said to the viceroy that he would call all of the winds of the world on his behalf and ask them. He called them, and they came. He asked them all, and they said they had never seen such a mountain or palace. The giant said: “Now you surely see that you have been led along by folly.” And the viceroy began to cry very greatly, saying “I know with certainty that it exists.”
The pressure that has been building in this epic tale reaches its climax in these lines. From the very beginning, our hero has been faced with obstacle after failure after difficulty, learning valuable lessons each time and refusing to let anything hold him back from reaching the goal he set out to attain. On the contrary, each setback served only to strengthen his desire and fortify his unbearable yearning to see the lost princess at home again with her father, the king, who loves her more than anything in the world. Just like a birthing women experiences the most frequent, intense, and painful contractions just before the birth, so has the viceroy undergone an intense series of obstacles which put his resolve to the ultimate test, three well-intentioned leaders who seek to set the viceroy on a path that is not his to take; “birth pangs” in the dark, cold desert night before the warm sun of salvation begins to rise. At the breaking point, holding on with every last ounce of yearning and strength that has grown in tandem with the obstacles he has faced over these long and bitter years, the viceroy whispers, through his tears, that he knows the golden mountain and pearl palace exist. This is the first time the viceroy utters the words “ani yodeah“, “I know it exists”. The obstacles he has faced and the desire required to overcome them have finally propelled him to a place of the most unshakable certainty – absolute knowledge that the lost princess is yet within his reach. Now that the obstacles have paradoxically helped him reach this place by virtue of his great strength and yearning, the viceroy is ready, at long last, for a breakthrough.
In the middle of this conversation, they saw that another wind had come. The giant grew very angry, saying “Why did you come so late? I decreed that all of the winds should come, why did you not come together with them?”
Just like the night grows darkest just before the dawn, the salvation of Hashem comes at the very last minute, when all hope seems lost. This wind, which holds the key to the viceroy’s salvation needed to be late – arriving only after all of the other winds had already taken a mighty hammer to the viceroy’s belief. Only then, after the viceroy yet holds tight to his belief in the darkness of the night, “v’emunascha baleilos” (Tehillim 92:2), does the salvation begin to sprout, “yeshuas Hashem k’heref ayin“, “The salvation of Hashem comes in the blink of an eye”. (Midrash Lekach Tov, Esther 4:17)
The wind answered, “I was held up because I needed to carry a princess to a mountain of gold and a palace of pearls.” And he was very joyous.
Amidst the viceroy’s inner storm and the tears coursing down his face, his deep soul knowledge is confirmed at long last. In a moment, “vnahafoch hu“; everything turns around. Finally, after so many years of struggle between doubt and faith, fighting to stay faithful to his inner soul’s certainty in the face of the greatest failures and discouragement, he has been vindicated in the end. We can only begin to imagine the joy the viceroy felt when the wind uttered those words, how brightly his world must have been illuminated, wiping away any lingering vestige of doubt and fear. Interestingly enough, while Rebbe Nachman writes “v’samach meod” – “and he was very joyous”, he doesn’t specify who it was that was joyous. Perhaps it may be suggested that “v’samach meod” refers to both the viceroy and the giant of spirit. As a true tzaddik, he is overjoyed to learn that a truly passionate and intimate relationship with Hashem is within the grasp of every single Jew, even a lowly “adam” who has not yet reached the level of a giant in Torah and avodah.
Here, we may raise a simple question. As we have learned, many, many years passed since the princess had left the scarf next to the then-slumbering viceroy detailing her new location. Rebbe Nachman taught that it took many years for the viceroy to find each of the respective giants! Doesn’t it seem strange, then, that the princess would only be arriving at the mountain of gold and the palace of pearls now, so many years after telling the viceroy that she could be found there?
Friends, the answer is as deep as it is simple. As we have learned in previous lessons, a large part of the viceroy’s journey toward freeing the princess is the yearning that continues to form and fortify with each subsequent failure and obstacle. The more he yearns for her, the more of her he is freeing. In a crazy way, the journey is the destination – the search for the lost princess of passion and youth in avodas Hashem itself engenders this passionate fire, deep yearning, enabling one to build an intimate connection with Hashem. With this in mind, we now understand that the princess has only just arrived at the pearl palace atop the golden mountain, where she can be rescued and brought back home, not despite the passage of so many years during which the viceroy struggled and fortified his yearning but because of it! It was only when, faced with the greatest possible obstacle, the viceroy needed to demonstrate the most elevated level of fortitude, faith, yearning, and resolve to persevere, that the princess was finally able to go to the place where she could be rescued. While the viceroy is searching for the lost princess, in the deepest and most unbelievable way, the lost princess is searching for him. Her advancement depends on his search – not the other way around. The journey is the destination. See you next time!