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The Missing Wagons

The Missing Wagons


The eighteenth century was a difficult time to be a Jew in Eastern Europe. Once, in an attempt to avoid corrupt border officials, a Jewish man hired agents to smuggle nearly 200 wagonloads of wine across the Russian countryside. He had invested much money in this risky endeavor, and anticipated the day when he would hear of the wagons’ safe arrival.

One day, the man, who counted himself among the adherents of Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi (the Alter Rebbe), was notified, like a bolt of lightning on a sunny day, that his 200 wagons had been caught and seized by the Russian authorities. Overcome by grief, the poor man barely managed to process the news before he passed out. Even worse, he could not be shaken awake. Whenever one of the people with him succeeded in reviving him, the man simply slumped back into a faint. This scenario repeated itself numerous times.

His plight was eventually brought before the Alter Rebbe, whose answer was puzzling but final: the wagons had not been seized.

The remark spurred a hunt for the missing wagons, and they were discovered, safe and sound. According to the drivers, during their flight across the Russian countryside, the sound of a carriage fitted with a bell led them to believe that they were being chased by the authorities. Concerned for their lives, the wagon drivers abandoned the caravan and fled on foot. As a result, the long entourage of horses tied to wagons clogged the road. Various passersby could not help but notice this and guided the horses to the side of the road, where they were tied up. The horses and their precious merchandise stood by the side of the road until, eventually, the drivers returned and brought the merchandise to the relieved owner.

After this was all cleared up, the chassidim approached the Alter Rebbe again with a different question: How is it possible that someone who claims not to perform miracles is caught blatantly doing just that? How did the Rebbe know that the goods had not been requisitioned?

The Alter Rebbe waved the question off, explaining, “It was never a miracle. My answer was based on the teaching of our sages that G‑d only sends a person suffering that he is capable of withstanding. When I heard that the man was unable to rouse due to constant fainting, it was obvious to me that 200 seized wagonloads of wine is not a challenge that G‑d would send him. Such hardship was too much for him to confront.”

Note: This story (adapted from Shemuot Vesippurim, vol. I, page 32-a) is not meant to justify another's suffering, just to provide us with perspective as we go through our own challenges.

Adapted and translated by Asharon Baltazar from Rabbi Rephael Nachman Kahan's Shemuot Vesippurim.
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Lloyd Bergman September 26, 2017

Then explain the holocaust Reply

Anonymous NYC October 1, 2017

Hi shirat. The Satan told Sara that Yitzchok was being killed but in actual fact he wasn't. So it was similar to this story in that way. Does that answer the question? Reply

Shirat Rachel Jerusalem October 2, 2017
in response to Anonymous:

No ...because the moral of this story is that HaShem would not test someone with something that the person is not able to handle...which did not seem to work in this case... Reply

Anonymous Nyc October 3, 2017
in response to Shirat Rachel:

Well perhaps she would have handled it if not for the fact that Satan led her to believe that Yitzchok was being killed. But he wasn’t being killed. So she couldn’t handle news that wasn’t true. Like in this story. Reply

Shirat Rachel Best Jerusalem October 1, 2017

if that is so ,why do we hear off Sarah passing away when she found out about the Akeida ? Reply

Eli October 22, 2017
in response to Shirat Rachel Best:

Why she has to die that way we don't know but that it was supposed to happen is for sure. It's not like she failed a test but was supposed to die at that time.

She died teaching us the mothers heart in following a divine order, Whereas Avraham was ready to sacrifice his own son Sarah couldn't handle it. Reply