There once was a rabbi who was revered by the people as a man of God. Not a day went by when a crowd of people wasn’t standing at his door seeking advice or healing or the holy man’s blessing. …There was, however, in the audience a disagreeable fellow who never missed a chance to contradict the master.
He would observe the rabbi’s weaknesses and make fun of his defects to the dismay of the disciples, who began to look on him as the devil incarnate. Well, one day the “devil” took ill and died. Everyone heaved a sigh of relief. Outwardly, they looked appropriately solemn, but in their hearts they were glad. …So the people were surprised to see the master plunged into genuine grief at the funeral.
When asked by a disciple later if he was mourning over the eternal fate of the dead man, he said, “No, no. Why should I mourn over our friend, who is now in heaven? It was for myself that I was grieving. That man was the only friend I had. Here I am surrounded by people who revere me. He was the only one who challenged me. I fear that with him gone, I shall stop growing.” And, as he said those words, the master burst into tears.