Toward the latter half of the 19th century, two of the greatest chasidic rebbes were also the greatest of friends. As youngsters, R’ Avraham Twersky, zt”l, (Maggid of Trisk), son of R’ Mordechai (Mottel) of Chernobyl, zt”l, and R’ Menachem Mendel Kalish, zt”l, son of R’ Yitzchok of Vorka, zt”l, formed a pact of friendship that was to last a lifetime; indeed, they died just a few months apart. As the two boys grew older and eventually inherited their respective chasidic dynasties, maintaining contact became all the more difficult. R’ Mendel lived in Vorka, Poland, while R’ Avraham lived in Trisk, Ukraine. The distance between the two was a half-day’s wagon ride and it often took weeks for letters to reach one another. R’ Mendel’s personal attendant, a caring young man by the name of Moishele, saw his Rebbe’s distress and offered to travel every week back and forth to deliver correspondence between the two.
And so it went. Each week, very early Friday morning, Moishele would set out from Vorka to deliver R’ Mendel’s letter to his dear friend, the Trisker Maggid. He would arrive in the morning hours and hand-deliver the letter to the Maggid. Then he would wait for the Maggid to read the letter and reply. Often it would take a while until the Maggid returned from his study, eyes red from tears, his quivering hand holding the magnificently crafted response in a special sealed envelope. Moishele would take the letter, turn his wagon around and deliver the response to the Vorka Rebbe, and that letter, too, evoked the same emotional response: tears of joy and meaning filling his Rebbe, R’ Mendel’s, eyes.
Moishele felt privileged to do his job and carried it out faithfully every week for many years. During that entire time he never dared open the letters and violate the intimate bond between the two tzadikim. Until one Friday morning, after Moishele had left Vorka with his Rebbe’s letter, he was suddenly struck with a bizarre urge to open the letter and read what the tzadik wrote to his lifelong friend. “Perhaps I can learn from the words of the righteous,” he rationalized.
Carefully, so as not to ruin the seal, he opened the envelope. He looked inside and was shocked to find .... nothing! It was a completely blank piece of paper! At first he felt confused, maybe he took the wrong envelope, but he was sure he had not made a mistake. If so, was this some sort of trick that his Rebbe had been playing on him all of these years?
Without a word, Moishele carefully placed the “letter” back into the envelope, sealed it, and delivered it to the Trisker Maggid. Like clockwork, the Maggid went into his study, and a half hour later, misty-eyed and filled with emotion, he emerged from his study and returned a sealed envelope to be delivered to his friend, R’ Mendel of Vorka.
At this point, Moishele could not wait to leave the Maggid’s house and race back into the forest, where he hurriedly opened the envelope and stared at its contents. Again ... nothing! A blank piece of paper! Moishele was mortified and felt pangs of hurt and mistrust. All this time had he been sacrificing for his Rebbe to travel every Friday in hot summers and cold winters as part of some practical joke at his expense? “What is this – a game?” he wondered bitterly.
The entire Shabbos he could not contain his displeasure. On Motzaei Shabbos, R’ Mendel called him into his study. “Moishele, my dear shammas, you seem agitated.” He asked softly, “What seems to be the problem?”
“Problem?” he responded. “Well, those letters I’ve been carrying back and forth between Vorka and Trisk. I admit it: I looked this Friday. I opened the envelope and there was nothing in it! Just blank paper! What kind of letter is that?”
R’ Mendel did not flinch. “The Torah,” he explained, “has black letters written on white parchment. The black letters represent the words that are expressed – the mitzvos, the laws, the morals, the love Hashem has for the Jewish people. The white – the blank spaces – however, contain the messages that are much deeper. This is how Hashem expresses His love for us, which is so great and which bursts forth to such an extent that it cannot possibly be put into words.”
R’ Mendel’s eyes welled up with tears as he looked at his contrite shammas. “Moishele, you must understand. When I correspond with my dear friend, we usually express our words through the black letters. This week, however, our messages were so deep, so intense. This week we wrote with the white parchment. We expressed an emotion that transcends letters!”