ויאמר ה’ אל משה עלה אלי ההרה והיה שם
ואתנה לך את לחת האבן התורה והמצוה וכו’ … כד-יב
Zundel was a loyal chasid of the famed Rebbe, R’ Yechezkel of Kuzmir ZT”L. He dreamed often about visiting Kuzmir since he wanted very much to spend a Shabbos with his Rebbe, but each week something different seemed to arise to prevent his going. As much as he planned and made arrangements to travel, things never seemed to work out, but Zundel never despaired.
One Thursday he was determined to persevere and go to the Rebbe that week, despite any obstacles that might interfere with his plans. Of course, as seemed to happen every time he made plans, he recalled that on the following Tuesday he would have to attend to some important business at the market near his home town, which was some distance from Kuzmir. If he were to stay until Sunday to receive a parting l’chaim from the Rebbe, he would not be able to reach the market town in time. He decided not to postpone his long-awaited trip to his Rebbe yet again; he would go, and if necessary would leave early Sunday morning, even if it meant not being able to say goodbye to his beloved Rebbe.
Zundel arrived at his destination on Friday and headed directly for an audience with the Rebbe. He was unprepared for R’ Yechezkel’s cool reception; instead of asking him to stay and eat at the tish on Shabbos, he told Zundel, “Go back home for Shabbos – there is no point in your stalling!”
Understanding why his Rebbe was displeased, Zundel told him, “Rebbe, I will not go to the market; instead I will remain here as long as is necessary.” Smiling, R’ Yechezkel relented and invited Zundel to eat at his table on Shabbos. Zundel was much relieved.
At the tish, R’ Yechezkel began to darshen in front of the chassidim. “Before the Torah was given at Mount Sinai, Hashem instructed Moshe, “עלה אלי ההרה והיה שם” – “Ascend unto me upon the mountain, and be there.” Now, this is an unusual expression; Why was it necessary to add the words “and be there,” if Moshe had already been commanded to ascend the mountain?”
The chassidim listened intently but R’ Yechezkel aimed his remarks primarily at Zundel. “The answer is that a person is considered to be wherever his thoughts are. What one thinks about and lends his entire focus to, is what he truly wishes and hopes for. His true aspirations are indeed legitimate products of his thought-process. For example, a chasid can physically be spending Shabbos with his Rebbe, but if his thoughts dwell on the market-place, then it is considered as if he is actually there!
“Thus, Hashem was telling Moshe, ‘I want you to come up to the mountain, and remain here. But while you are here you must divest yourself completely of all worldly thoughts. Your entire concentration must focus on being with Me. That, and only that, can be on your mind.'”
R’ Yechezkel turned to see Zundel nodding in full comprehension. “This is the meaning of the words, ‘and be there.’ One must strive to truly ‘be there.’ It’s not as simple as it sounds. Unfortunately, it is possible to ascend the mountain and yet not actually be there, if one’s thoughts are elsewhere.”