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Crossroads Puzzle

Crossroads Puzzle


One Friday, Chassidic master Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchok Horowitz (the famed "Seer of Lublin") was traveling with some of his disciples when they arrived at a crossroads. The wagon driver asked which way to turn. Surprisingly, the "Seer" didn't seem to know what to answer. Shrugging, he said, "Loosen the reins. Let the horses go in whichever direction they will."

After a while, they arrived at a town. After several inquiries, they soon realized that not only was this not the place they were seeking, they weren't even on the right road.

"It's late. We'll stay here for Shabbat," the Seer announced. Then he added, "But don't reveal my identity to anyone or tell them that I am a Rebbe."

His followers were shocked. They had no money because the Seer never allowed any to be kept overnight. However much he had in his possession would be distributed to poor people before nightfall. If his identity were to be kept secret, how would they be able to provide for themselves for Shabbat?

When they asked him, he replied, "We'll do like all Jewish travelers. We'll go to the local shul tonight, and people will invite us when they see we have no place to go."

And so they did. They prayed at the back of the shul, and afterwards, all of the Rebbe's students and attendants were invited individually to different homes. The Seer, however, was left in the shul. He always took a long time for the Shabbat evening prayers and this week was no exception. By the time he finished, everyone was gone. 

In fact, there was just one other person in the shul, an old man of at least eighty years. He saw that the stranger was sitting and reciting Tikunei Shabbat (selected passages usually recited during the course of the meal on Friday night).

"Where are you going for your Shabbat meal?" he opened.

"I don't know."

"Why don't you eat at the inn where you are staying?" asked the elderly man, concerned. "If it is a problem of money, after Shabbat I'll collect some money to pay your bill."

"I saw they didn't light Shabbat candles, so I presume that I cannot trust the kashrut of the food they serve."

"I'm sorry," murmured the older man, "but at my home, my wife and I will have only bread and wine."

"I'm neither a glutton nor a guzzler."

"Come along then," said the apprehensive host. The Seer followed meekly.

After kiddush and hamotzi, while they were sitting calmly at the table, the elderly man asked him where he was from. Upon hearing his answer, he next asked him if he knew the Rebbe of Lublin.

"I am always with him," was the Seer's response.

"That's wonderful," said his host. "please tell me something about him."

"Why do you want to know about him?" queried the Seer.

"Because," said the man, "I was his teacher in cheder (school) when he was a young boy, and he was not noticeably exceptional in his studies. Now I hear that he is a great rabbi and does miracles."

"Did you notice anything unusual about him when he was a child?" the Seer asked.

"Only one thing," the retired teacher replied. "Each morning, when I would want to call upon him to read from the siddur, I could never find him. He vanished!  Later, when he would re-appear, I would punish him for his unauthorized absence. One day, I decided, 'Enough already! I ought to find out where he disappears to.' I watched him closely out of the corner of my eye. When he exited the room I slipped out after him, keeping a good distance between us so he wouldn't sense my presence. He went into the forest. I followed. I peered through the trees and there he was, sitting next to a hive, being stung, and crying out, Shma Yisrael Ad-ny Elokeinu Ad-ny echad ('Hear O Israel, the L-rd our G‑d, the L-rd is one').

"After that, I never punished him again. Now, after all these years, I would like very much to be able to see him in his glory, but I don't know how it can be. I'm very poor and I've become weak in my old age, so it is impossible for me to make the journey to Lublin. Nevertheless, my desire is so strong, I fast one day a week that I should have the merit to see him with my own eyes."

Finally, the Seer understood why events had been directed to bring him to this particular town. Looking fondly at his host, he acknowledged gently, "I am he, the Rebbe of Lublin."

The old man fainted instantly. His wife and special guest were able to revive him only after great difficulty.

That Saturday night the Seer and his entourage departed the town and continued their journey. The elderly man escorted them briefly and then returned home. They stopped at the Seer's request at a not-too-distant village, in order to enjoy the melaveh malkah repast of Saturday night. After the meal, the Seer said, "Now let us return to that town to attend my childhood teacher's funeral and to deliver an appropriate eulogy."

Biographical note:
R. Yaakov Yitzchok Horowitz (1745 - 1815), known as the Seer of Lublin, was the successor to Rabbi Elimelech of Lizensk (1717-1787), and presided over the spread of Chassidism in Poland. Many of his insights were published posthumously in Divrei Emmet, Zichron Zot, and Zot Zichron.

A master storyteller with hundreds of published stories to his credit, Rabbi Yerachmiel Tilles is co-founder of Ascent of Safed, and managing editor of the Ascent and Kabbalah Online websites.
From the Hebrew weekly Shemu Vitachi Nafshechem
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Edna Winter Brazil May 17, 2016

paiting Shalom!
The painting refers to vidende Lublin ? Thank you! Reply

cathy Fried Toronto, Canada May 12, 2011

Letting go. Letting go of the horses' reins is a reminder that it's often better to 'go with the flow' and see where it leads than try to control all that surrounds you. This is always risky since one cannot predict that where it leads won't hurt somehow. But if G-d is all - then G-d encompasses both good and bad And all we have to do is be brave and let go - allowing ourselves to find the pearl that is within each experience. Reply

mark alcock Dbn, ZA May 9, 2011

Gives more hope to the younger wannabees. We just never know how the child will develop ,regardless how they begin.What was uncanny is the master taught the student and later the scholar as an adult served the master which affirms that we are students first and masters later, if we fulfill our true potential. Reply

Liagarden Spokane, WA via April 12, 2011

Destiny? Luck? Sychronicity? Coincidence? Destiny? G-d's will? Synchronicity? Or just a coincidence? Or is it just whatever I choose to think it is? It doesn't always wind up with a happy ending. Not in my life, anyway. And what if I make a choice like this (or fail to make a choice, "letting the horses decide) and the consequences are severe, or even life threatening, or even resulting in death? Who's to blame? Is there blame? Or am I alone responsible. Of course, because this is my experience. Was it "G-d's will?" "Bad luck?" Like the couple who took a 4-month honeymoon and encountered every disaster, yet lived to tell the tale.
I used to be more trusting, but there's been a 5-year drought of "synchronicity" in my life. How does it go away? How can we get it back? Reply

Anonymous birmingham, Alabama October 19, 2007

When Hashem Leads Prayers are Answered This is a beautiful story telling how the teachers prayers were answered because the seer was inspired by Hashem to let the horses go in the direction of the teachers town so he could depart this world in peace. Reply

anonymous rochester, ny/monroe via May 11, 2006

opinion of story Sorry, but I''ve read much more uplifting stories. Reply