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Tuesday
Dec242013

HASHEM’S WAYS ARE HIDDEN FROM US

Presented for Chaf-Dalet Teives, the day of the Alter Rebbe’s histalkus.

By Nechama Bar

Many Chassidim sat around the long table. They eagerly listened to the wondrous words of Chassidus said by their Rebbe, R’ Shneur Zalman.

The Rebbe, his face aflame, looked as though he was in some otherworldly, lofty place. Suddenly, there was a silence. The Rebbe sat and thought for a few minutes and then burst into tears. The Chassidim looked fearfully at the Rebbe. Something had happened, something only the Rebbe had the ability to know about.

“You know the secrets of the world,” said the Rebbe in a choked voice. “Oy, Ribbono shel olam, you revealed the secrets of the Torah to us, but only You know the secrets of the world and its workings.”

Then the Rebbe told two sad stories.

***

Pinye was a simple man but was G-d fearing and goodhearted. He modestly raised his large family. Parnasa was difficult and he barely managed to provide bread for them. Pinye had an old horse and a rickety wooden wagon that served him faithfully and helped him provide for his family.

His day was a busy one and it began before sunrise. At dawn he recited T’hillim and then he joined the earliest Shacharis. Only after that did his day’s work begin. He harnessed the horse to the wagon and began his transportation service. As he did so, he sang chapters of T’hillim and prayed for success in his work.

The best days of the year for Pinye were market days. Merchants traveled to the market in the neighboring town and bought large quantities of merchandise for the coming months. Then they hired Pinye the wagon driver to transport the precious merchandise back to their town.

The roads were often difficult and the horse was weak and the wagon creaked, but thank G-d, and thanks to the chapters of T’hillim he recited, the wagon arrived safely with all its contents intact.

One year, the rains came early and the roads were full of mud, but this this did not prevent the merchants from going to the market. Pinye the wagon driver did not want to lose money and so he got to work. He took his horse and wagon, loaded up the merchandise and set off.

The roads were very difficult. The horse sank repeatedly into the mud and the wagon moved very slowly. Pinye constantly kept watch so they wouldn’t veer off the road. He was happy over the money he would earn and he began to think about what he would do with the rubles he would get. For a few moments his attention wandered and then he felt that the wagon wasn’t moving. He looked around and saw what happened. The horse and wagon had gotten stuck in the mud and the horse had no way of extricating itself. Pinye quickly got out but he too began sinking in the mud. He moved away from the mud and watched in horror as his horse and wagon continued to sink. He tried with all his might to get them out but to no avail.

Pinye was scared. What would happen to the expensive merchandise? Not only wouldn’t he get paid, but he would have to pay for damages. What would become of him? He looked right and left; perhaps there was someone who could help him. Then, as though his prayers had been answered, a wagon could be seen approaching. A rich Jew alighted, dressed handsomely. Pinye was surprised to see someone that distinguished driving his own wagon. 

“I sent the wagon driver on vacation for a few days and since I had to travel to close an important deal, I drove myself,” the man explained.

“Perhaps … perhaps you can help me? The horse … the wagon …” pleaded Pinye. 

The wealthy man, seeing the state of Pinye’s wagon, paid no mind to his fine clothing and jumped into the mud. He tried pulling from here and from there, as Pinye directed him. His boots became muddy as did his fur coat. Again and again he tried until he realized he just couldn’t do it.

“I am so sorry, but I am not accustomed to this sort of work. If I had the strength, I would help you. I can help you with money but coins cannot get a wagon out of the mud.”

The man returned to his wagon.

***

At precisely the same time, another incident took place not far from there. Moshe rented an inn from the squire. “Moshke” got up early and worked very hard. Although many gentiles visited his inn, too many of them did not pay him. They promised but did not keep their promises. The end of the year had arrived and he had to pay the rent but he didn’t have the money.

In the early years, the squire was patient, but when it happened in the third year too, he angrily threatened: You and your wife will be thrown into prison until the debt is paid!

Moshe and his wife were horrified by this pronouncement. Pleading did not help. The squire’s henchmen surrounded the hapless couple and began leading them to prison.

Moshe walked silently. Tears streamed from his eyes and his mouth murmured T’hillim. His poor wife could not bear it and burst into heartrending tears.

Yechezkel the Strong was on his way home and he heard the crying. He looked around to see where the sound was coming from and saw the pathetic sight of Moshe and his wife being led to prison. He stood silently near the group and felt his blood rise to his head. His strong body prepared to attack. “Reb Yid,” he called out to Moshe. “I see you are being taken to prison. If you would like, I can use my strength to chase the guards away and save you.”

“My dear brother, you are a goodhearted man and were gifted with prodigious strength, but the squire and his friends are stronger than you. Even if you were successful, I am afraid they would take out their anger on the children …”

“If you had money to help me out then you would be able to save me and provide relief for me and my family.” 

Yechezkel the Strong sighed and said, “If I had the money, I would gladly free you, but what can I do? I only have strength.” And Yechezkel and Moshe cried bitterly.

***

The Alter Rebbe sighed. “Ribbono shel olam, these two incidents took place so close to one another. If You had only sent Yechezkel the Strong to help Pinye get his wagon out of the mud and sent the rich man to help Moshe and his wife, everyone would have benefited. But You didn’t do that … We cannot understand Your ways. ‘You know the secrets of the world.’ Only You know why the world runs the way it does.”

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