Rabbi Isaac was not only Rabbi Nahman’s mentor, but his dear friend. At the end of a long day of study, Rabbi Nathan asked his teacher to give him a blessing before the two men parted.
Rabbi Isaac replied, “You request reminds me of the story of a man traveling across the desert. Not long after the start of his journey, the man runs out of food and water. Overcome by exhaustion, he can go no further. Fortunately, he comes upon a beautiful tree laden with magnificent fruit. The man eats a few pieces, thinking to himself, “My, this is the tastiest fruit I have ever eaten.” Observing the tree’s strong branches, he notices that they are bountiful with leaves. Under the tree’s abundant shade, the man rests peacefully while he is recovering his strength. Upon awakening, he spots a bubbling brook flowing near the tree’s roots, and he drinks its cool, refreshing water. Like the fruit, it too is nourishing and delicious.”
“Filled with vigor, the man wishes to express his appreciation to the tree before embarking on his journey. You have given me so much, he said. How can I bless you in return?”
Rabbi Isaac turned to his student and asked, “Should the man bless the tree by saying, “May your fruit be sweet?” But that would be foolish, since he had already enjoyed the sweet taste of its fruit.
Should the man bless the tree by saying, “May your limbs be wide and filled with bountiful leaves?” But that would be foolish, since he already sought refuge from the sun under the shade the tree had provided.
Should he have blessed the tree by saying, “May clean, cool waters flow swiftly beside you to nourish your roots? But that too would be foolish, since the waters already flowed by the tree.”
“How then should the man bless the tree?” asked Rabbi Nahman.
Rabbi Isaac turned to his friend and answered, “He should have asked in blessing that all of the tree’s saplings be blessed just as the tree itself was.”
With this, the learned rabbi said, “And this is the way it is with you, my dear friend and student. For how can I seek to bless you? With knowledge? That would be foolish because you already have knowledge. With wealth? That would be silly because the riches of the world are already yours.”
“Perhaps with children,” Rabbi Isaac continued. “I could ask that you be blessed with children, but you already have children.
And so my most sincere and deep hope for you in blessing is simply this: “May your children grow to be as you are, and bless you with the same abundance of goodness that you give to others.”