The young man sat across table from the great Kabbalist who was known for his exceptional piety and unconditional love.
It had taken him a long time to get an appointment to see him. Then again, why shouldn’t there be a line waiting to speak to someone who dispensed – at never any charge – priceless advice and never-fail blessings?
And it was blessings that he’d leave here with, a pocketful. For health, children, an ample livelihood, and more – all generously dispensed with the holy man’s signature sincerity and care.
He knew there were many more petitioners waiting eagerly outside the small, glass-partitioned receiving room, and that it was only right to yield the great man’s precious attention to someone else.
Then he remembered. There was one last blessing to obtain – perhaps the most important of all – before he stood to leave.
“My teacher,” he said to the sage expectantly, “please also bless me with a peaceful, happy marriage with my wife.”
He waited for the nod, smile, and heartfelt pronouncement that had marked all the previous blessings. But they didn’t come.
The Kabbalist sat impassively.
Was something wrong? Maybe he’d overstayed his allotted meeting time?
It would be easiest to just get up and leave. But if he needed any blessing, this was the one. “I know I’ve asked for a lot, but please, just one final blessing for a good marriage before I go.”
The holy man looked at him through warm eyes and slowly shook his head.
“I can’t,” he said simply.
“But I need this blessing desperately,” the young man pleaded. “Things aren’t so good at home. Not good at all…”
The Kabbalist nodded in sincere empathy, but no benevolent utterance followed.
“Why won’t you bless me?” he said in a desperate whisper. “Am I that bad?”
“I didn’t say I won’t,” the wise man countered. “I said I can’t.”
“Can’t? But why not?”
“Because a peaceful married life is a choice. Many things in life, wealth or poverty, strength or weakness, even sickness or health, are heaven-sent situations that are part of a person’s destiny. Things like these, as they are external to a person’s free choice, may possibly be influenced by external input, such as blessings.
“However, there is also a separate realm of life’s circumstances, those which result from free choice. These situations depend on our own internal choices whether to behave with ethical, spiritual values in a given situation – or the opposite. These are things directly between a person and his Maker.
“The peace and happiness of a marriage relationship, or lack thereof, lies within that realm. If you choose to live in peace with your wife, and treat her in a spiritually worthy way that will motivate her to live in peace with you, you will succeed.
“If not,” the Kabbalist sighed, “all the blessings in the world – mine or otherwise – can’t help. A happy marriage comes by choice, not by luck, fate, or blessing.”
The young man slowly left the room. He felt challenged by the sage’s words, yet somehow the idea that he wasn’t bound by fate, and a happy home was his for the choosing, made him feel more blessed than any blessing could.