I don’t need this. It’s enough that one brother of mine was bewitched by that zeiger-macher”
“…and again, kevod haRav, I ask, if you saw him about to jump out of a ninth-floor window, or about to take poison, wouldn’t you stop him?”
“If I were to see Yanky or anyone else about to jump out of a window or take poison, of course I would stop him,” the watchmaker replied calmly. “But he isn’t jumping out of a window or taking poison. Those metaphors don’t reflect the reality here. Yanky is seeking a derech, a path, and none of us can know which path will lead him to a better place. None of us sitting here in this room can, or should, take responsibility for his choices.”
“Well, then, who should take responsibility?” Nochumku was quick to respond.
“No one,” the watchmaker replied with his serene smile. “No one other than Yanky himself. If the Creator puts faith in Yanky, restoring his neshamah to him every morning, then who are we not to have faith in him?”
No one had an answer to that.
“You look so worried, so tense,” the watchmaker continued. “Relax, let go, take this unnecessary burden off your shoulders. Let Yanky be. Believe in him. Nishmas adam telamdenu. His neshamah will tell him what is right.”
“But some people think they’re following what their neshamah tells them, and they go right off the deep end,” Meir protested. “Yerachmiel Poiker, for example, if you remember him — the brilliant bochur who learned with our father and then ran away to some university in America. And so many others, people who went searching for what was ‘right for them’ and ended up abandoning Yiddishkeit, or joining some weird cult.”
“And that means…?” The watchmaker waited.
“It means you can’t rely on people to make the right choices for themselves,” said Meir.
“It means you can’t take responsibility for other people’s choices, and you can’t know where their choices will lead them. It means there are things that aren’t under our control,” the watchmaker said, his tone never shifting from its slow, steady rhythm. “We can’t control people, we can’t decide for them what they’ll do or where they’ll go. What we can do is emulate the ways of the Creator. Just as He puts faith in each of us, we can put faith in each other.”
The watchmaker then spoke about the concept of shoresh neshamah and the path laid out for each soul. He discussed the early days of chassidus, when each man attached himself to the rebbe whose derech spoke to him most profoundly, and he reminded them that a person can learn Torah only b’makom shelibo chafeitz, in the place that his heart desires.
The conversation continued for close to another hour, and afterward, Nochumku and Meir walked together through the streets of Geula, making their way to Meir’s bus stop.
“He’s powerful,” Meir said thoughtfully. “Very powerful.”
“You’re making faces,” said Meir. “What do they mean?”
“They mean, ‘I don’t need this.’ It’s enough that one brother of mine was bewitched by that zeiger-macher.”
“True, one brother has taken a detour from our derech, and we’re concerned about that,” Meir said. “Call it bewitched, if you like. But you can’t deny the facts. That watchmaker is not a simple person. He really gets it. Now I understand what people see in him.”
(Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 792)
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