#557 (s5768-47 / 26 Tammuz 5768)

Reining the Speedy Horse

With tears in his eyes, one of his followers told Rabbi Shenuer Zalman that his teenage son had begun to turn away from the way of Torah.

Reining the Speedy Horse

Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder and "Alter Rebbe" of Chabad Chasidism, had many thousands of followers. When any one of them had a serious problem, they would come to Liozna, the small town in White Russia where the Rebbe lived (and subsequently to Liadi), to ask his advice and blessing.

So it was that one of his followers, who lived in a nearby village, came to the Alter Rebbe one day with tears in his eyes, and poured out his troubled heart to him.

He told the Rebbe that he had a teenage boy, whom he tried to bring up in the way of the Torah and mitzvot. He was a fine boy, devoted to his studies, and observant of the mitzvot. But suddenly, something got into him, and he began to turn away from his upbringing. The heartbroken father feared that his son might go completely astray, and he begged the Rebbe to tell him what to do to bring him back to the right path.

"Do you think you could persuade your son to come and see me?" the Alter Rebbe asked.
"I'm afraid that in his present state of mind he may not be willing to come to the Rebbe," the villager answered sadly.

"Then try to find some excuse to get him to come here. Perhaps you can send him into town on some errand?" the Rebbe suggested. "Once he is in town, a way will be found to get him to see me."

Somewhat encouraged by the Alter Rebbe's optimism, the Chassid returned home with a lighter heart.

Thinking about a way of carrying out the Rebbe's suggestion, he suddenly had an idea. His son was very fond of horseback riding. In those days, it was not considered nice for observant young Jews to ride into town on horseback, but his son did not worry about what people might say, and whenever the opportunity presented itself he would ride right into town on horseback like any non-Jewish country yokel.

So the Chasid thought up an errand and asked his son to go into town.

"If I can ride into town. . . ." the son said. His father nodded.

The young man went galloping into town. Little did he know that the errand was really a pretext for his father's friends to get him to the Rebbe's house. So, shortly he found himself facing the Rebbe, who greeted him warmly.

"But why did you choose to ride into town on horseback, instead of in a buggy?" the Rebbe asked.

"Well, I just love horseback riding. My horse is a fine animal; why not take advantage of such a fine horse?" the boy replied.

"And what are the advantages of such an animal?" asked the Alter Rebbe.

"A good horse runs fast. You gallop away and you reach your destination so much quicker," said the young man enthusiastically.

"That is all very well…if you are on the right road," countered the Rebbe, "but if you are on the wrong road, then you can only travel quickly in the wrong direction!"

"Even so," insisted the young man, "the horse could help you quickly get back to the right road, if you catch yourself and see that you are on the wrong road. . . ."

"If you catch yourself and see that you are on the wrong road," the Alter Rebbe repeated slowly and emphatically. "Yes, my son, if you catch yourself before it is too late, and realize that you have strayed from the right path; then you can quickly return."

The words of the Alter Rebbe, uttered so pointedly and sincerely, struck the young man like a bombshell, and the Rebbe's penetrating eyes seemed to pierce right through him. The boy fell down in a faint.

He was quickly revived, and in a subdued voice he asked the Rebbe's permission to remain in Liozna, so that he could renew his Torah studies and come back to his family as a Torah-observant Jew.


[Adapted by Yrachmiel Tilles from the rendition on www.lchaimweekly.org (#936), with permission.]

Biographic Note:
Rabbi Shnuer Zalman [18 Elul 1745-24 Tevet 1812], one of the main disciples of the Maggid of Mezritch, is the founder of the Chabad-Chassidic movement. He is the author of Shulchan Aruch HaRav and Tanya as well as many other major works in both Jewish law and the mystical teachings.

Yerachmiel Tilles is co-founder and associate director of Ascent-of-Safed, and editor of Ascent Quarterly and the AscentOfSafed.com and KabbalaOnline.org websites. He has hundreds of published stories to his credit, and many have been translated into other languages.

A 48 page soft-covered booklet containing eleven of his most popular stories may be ordered on our store site.

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