Lessons learnt from a horse

The court of Rabbi Schneur Zalman, the founder of Chabad Chassidim, was located in the small White Russian town of Liozna. His many chassidim flocked there to be near him; to pray, and to celebrate the festivals, and to receive his blessings, and to benefit from his Torah wisdom and guidance.

Once, a chassid came to the Rebbe with a heavy heart. When he entered the Rebbe’s room, he could not restrain himself. Tears flowed from his eyes.

“Rebbe,” he sobbed, “my son has turned away from everything we have taught him. He no longer follows the Torah commandments and I fear that he will be completely lost from the path of truth. Please Rebbe, give me some advice how to get him back on track.”

The Rebbe felt his chassid’s pain. For some moments he was silent and deep in thought. Then he replied, “Do you think that you might be able to persuade the boy to come to see me?”

“I don’t know,” the man sighed. “The way he has been acting recently, I’m afraid it might be very difficult. He has some wild friends, and he hardly listens to his parents.”

“Nevertheless, please think of some way in which you can get him to come here,” the Rebbe repeated.

The man spent the whole return trip to his village deep in thought. He tried to think of some plan which would draw his son to the Rebbe.

Suddenly he had an excellent idea.

His son was very fond of horse back riding. The boy, however, cared not the least for public opinion and to his father’s consternation he took every opportunity to ride into town. This seemed a perfect ruse to get his son to the Rebbe. He would ask the boy to go and pick something up in the town of Liozna.

When he asked his son to go on the errand, the boy responded, “I’ll go only if I can go by horseback.” This time the father quickly acquiesced.

The boy happily galloped into town, unaware that his father’s friends were on the lookout for him. No sooner had he arrived in Liozna, than he was spirited to the Rebbe’s house. He found himself standing face to face with the Alter Rebbe.

“I am glad to see you,” said the Rebbe. “But tell me why did you come by horseback instead of in a wagon?”

“It’s because I love to ride. And my horse is such a fine specimen. I figure why shouldn’t I take advantage of him?”

“Tell me please, what exactly are the advantages of such an animal?” asked the Rebbe.

“Surely you can image that an animal such as mine runs very fast. You jump on his back and speed down the road and in no time at all you are at your destination,” the young man replied with great enthusiasm.

“Yes, I can see that that is truly a great advantage, but only provided that you are on the right road and on the right track. If you are on the wrong road, you will only be going in the wrong direction faster,” the Rebbe explained.

“Even if that is so,” countered the young man, “the horse would help you get back on the right road more quickly as soon as you realize you are on the wrong road.”

The Rebbe replied slowly and deliberately, “If you realize that you are on the wrong road! True, my boy, if you catch yourself, before it’s too late, and you realize that you have strayed from the right path, then you can quickly return….”

The Rebbe’s words seared themselves into the heart of the young boy. His penetrating eyes seemed to pierce right through him. The young man fell down in a faint.

He was quickly revived and in a subdued tone, he asked the Rebbe’s permission to remain in Liozna as he wished to renew his Torah studies. Thank G-d this time he applied himself to his studies and grew up to become a G-d fearing person establishing a beautiful Jewish Chassidic family.

Adapted from It Happened Once L’Chaim #1756

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