Horav Menachem Mendel, z.l., m’Kotzk and Horav Yitzchak, z.l., m’Vorke were both great tzaddikim and chassidishe Rebbeim of distinction. They differed, however, in their approach towards serving the Almighty. The Kotzker isolated himself from people, having very little patience for common talk, for mundane relationships. Rav Yitzchak, in contrast, was very much involved with his chassidim, more than once imbibing a l’chaim and dancing joyfully with them. It happened once that these two great rebbes met on Parashas Terumah. Rav Yitzchak asked the Kotzker, “Rav Mendel, why do you choose to seclude yourself, to run away from your chassidim?”
Rav Mendel answered, “My derech, way of serving Hashem, is alluded to in this week’s parsha, where it says, “And they shall take for Me.” Chazal infer from here that one must act solely for Hashem’s sake. If one seeks to serve Hashem correctly, he must make a terumah, uplifting and raising himself above and out of the community, “from every man whose heart motivates him.” He must separate himself even from the finest, most virtuous and generous people. Only then can he serve “li” – “Me.”
Rav Yitzchak countered, “My derech is also implied by the same pasuk: ‘If you want to serve li, Me, then you should bring a terumah, a portion, from every man whose heart motivates him.’ Take the good from all men. Every person has a positive aspect. For some, it is a character trait, while for others, it is a special act of kindness. The only way to garner this good is by being among the people, talking to them, listening to them, and interacting with them.” Two diverse approaches – two great men. Who is right? It depends on the individual.