| What I’m Holding On To |

In the Driver’s Seat

“Just toss it!” is the rallying cry of these weeks. But some items we simply can’t bring ourselves to discard. 9 writers share

"You’re too anxious,” my driving instructor told me. “You know how to drive, but you’re going to fail tomorrow because of your nerves.”

I knew that she was right. My hands were too clammy to hold the wheel properly. In theory, I could make the perfect K-turn and park in one solid maneuver — but in practice, my nerves were in control.

I didn’t even tell my friends about my DMV appointment. The fewer people who’d know I didn’t pass, the fewer people I’d have to answer to.

The next morning, when my instructor was supposed to be outside, my phone pinged with a message from her. Running late. Be there in ten minutes.

I looked for a way to pass the time and settled on a blue leather Hayom Yom, a sefer with a series of short messages. I turned to that day’s page and read the Hebrew text.

“The Baal HaTanya taught us to use our natural traits in our avodah… for example, the power of moach shalit al halev — the mind’s ability to rule over the heart.” I remembered the story I grew up hearing regarding this exact expression.

Reb Moshe Meisels was a Russian Jew tasked with spying on Napoleon’s army. He was at a meeting with Napoleon when the ruler’s instincts told him that there was a spy in the room. Who was the guilty part?

Napoleon walked around the room, placing his hand over each attendee’s heart. If he’d feel a quickening heartbeat, he’d know that the person was hiding something. Reb Moshe was frightened — until he remembered his Rebbe’s teaching about moach shalit al halev. He used mind over matter to control his heartbeat, successfully slowing it down and evading capture.

I put down the sefer and picked up my phone. I’m going to pass. B’ezras Hashem, I’m going to pass. I texted some friends to let them know about my test — since I was going to pass, there was nothing to keep quiet about.

I opened the family chat and drafted a message filled with happy emojis so that I could easily press send when it was time to celebrate.

When the instructor showed up, I drove to the testing center, hands dry and steady. When I came back from my test with the little slip — my new temporary license — in hand, my driving teacher looked confused.

“You passed? But how?” I nodded, laughing, as I pulled out my phone to press send on the message to my family. My driving instructor was surprised, but I wasn’t.

That little piece of paper is folded in one of my journals. The edges are a brittle yellow and the words faded, but every time I come across it, it tells me everything that I need to know. Our minds are a potent force. And we are the ones who hold the power.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 734)

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