“You’re not in control of our fate.” R’ Leib shook his head. “Only Hashem is in charge”
he poritz’s face turned an ugly shade of red.
“How dare you come in here and ask me for favors, when you yourself aren’t willing to lend me your support! Selfish, that’s what you Jews are! If you think for a moment that I’m going to help you now, you’re wrong!”
“What does my request have to do with rebelling against another kingdom? Do you think it makes sense for me to place my people at risk if your rebellion fails? And truthfully, what chance do you have against that massive empire? However, if you accrue extra merit by being gracious to the Jewish families living under your dominion, then that might help you.”
“Ach! Leave my presence this moment! I’ll have a successful rebellion without your support! I don’t need you, but you need me! I’m going to tax the Jews and make sure your lives are more miserable than ever before! Treacherous people, that you are!”
“You’re not in control of our fate.” R’ Leib shook his head. “Only Hashem is in charge. You’re just a puppet, a messenger, like everyone else. If you won’t help us, fine. But don’t think you will be successful in any of your endeavors.”
“Just you wait and see!”
The poritz threw another dagger at the map in fury, and he was way off mark. The dagger slammed into the window, shattering the glass.
There was nothing more to say. R’ Leib left the room.
Back at R’ Leib’s house, the gabbai was waiting anxiously, his face white.
“So? Is he going to reconsider the exorbitant and unfair taxes?”
“No, but do not despair. I will daven, and we will all do our hishtadlus. Go summon R’ Yosef and tell him I want to speak with him immediately.”
R’ Yosef, a pious Jew who learned all day in the local shul, hurried to R’ Leib’s home.
“R’ Yosef, listen closely. I need you to travel through the forest and speak to a certain man that lives there alone with only his wife. Tell him I sent you and explain to him the situation regarding this evil poritz. Take this map and begin traveling today. When you get there, stay for Shabbos.”
“May I bring along my chavrusa, R’ Berel?”
“Yes, of course. But hurry! Time is of the essence!”
That very day, R’ Yosef and his friend R’ Berel set off in a wagon through the muddy roads, heading straight into the large forest where this mysterious Yid lived. The horses pulling the wagon moved at a very fast pace, a bit too swift for R’ Baruch.
“I wish the horses would slow down a bit, but I can’t seem to stop them. I’m feeling a bit sick.”
“Remember the story of R’ Nachman Horedenker, the talmid of the Baal Shem Tov, and grandfather of R’ Nachman of Breslov? Once, he was traveling behind a wagon that was moving very slowly, and it was almost time for Shabbos. The other people in the wagon were in a panic, fretting about the fact they were stuck behind the slow wagon with no room on the road to maneuver around it. Yet, R’ Nachman continued to remain calm throughout the ride, repeating that he had learned from his master, the Baal Shem Tov, that ‘everything Hashem does is good, and everything is for the good.’
“When the wagon entered the next city, people recognized the nobleman who was traveling in front of them.
“Immediately, the crowd split and a clear, speedy path was opened for the nobleman, all the way until his destination. Of course, the wagon behind was able to take advantage of this, and they were able to travel extremely fast, arriving at their destination in time for Shabbos. Indeed, everything Hashem does is good, and for the good.”
R’ Baruch sighed, leaning back in his seat as the forest thickened around them, and birds chirped merrily from the treetops.
“So, what good is it for my stomach to hurt from this wagon ride?”
R’ Yosef chuckled.
“Sometimes we see the good, as it’s obvious even to our human intellect. And sometimes… Sometimes, we might never know in this life. But rest assured, Hashem is the one really in control of the reigns here…
“Do you remember when the Baal Shem Tov told his wagon driver to go to sleep?”
“The Leipzig journey? Vaguely. Tell me again.”
“Well, it happened sort of like how our journey started out. One night the Baal Shem Tov suddenly told his talmid that they were going to be leaving on an unannounced trip to Leipzig, to spend Shabbos there.
“Thursday morning, they set off for the trip, and the Baal Shem Tov immediately instructed Alexi, the wagon driver, that he should let the reigns fall from his hands and that he should take a nice nap. And he did!
“The horses began moving extremely fast, as the Tzaddik whispered words that only he could hear. Strangely, as fast as they were moving, when nighttime fell, they were nowhere near Leipzig. The talmid could no longer keep his eyes open, and he too fell fast asleep. Only in the morning did he awaken, startled by the sounds of the horses grunting as they pulled the wagon down the road. Had the Baal Shem Tov slept the entire night? It seemed not…
“Rebbe, we’re in the middle of nowhere and it’s almost time for Shabbos. Will we be spending Shabbos alone in the forest?’
“Just then, they encountered a house in the middle of the forest. An elderly Jewish man emerged from the house, a beautiful smile on his radiant face.
“Ah, baruch Hashem. So we’ll have a place to stay for Shabbos, after all.”
“Not here,” the Baal Shem Tov said softly. The wagon stopped and he got off and spoke with the elderly man for a few moments, before returning to the wagon. Then off they went again, randomly traveling through the endless forest for some strange, mysterious reason.”
R’ Berel interrupted R’ Yosef’s story.
“Ah, yes, now I remember. They miraculously find themselves right by the gates of Leipzig, right?”
R’ Yosef laughed.
“No, it wasn’t quite that simple, R’ Berel. I see you’ve forgotten the most shocking part of the story, eh?”
To be continued…
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 920)
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