A wealthy businessman and his coachman arrived in a city one Friday afternoon. The rich man was settled at the best hotel in town, and the coachman went off to his humble lodgings.

Both washed and dressed for the Shabbat, and then set out for the synagogue for the evening prayers. On his way to shul, the businessman came across a large wagon which had swerved off the road and was stuck in a ditch. Rushing to help a fellow in need, the businessman climbed down into the ditch and began pushing and pulling at the wagon together with its hapless driver. But for all his finesse at handling the most challenging of business deals, when it came to extracting a wagon and a team of horses from a muddy ditch our businessman was hopelessly out of his depth. After struggling for an hour in the knee-deep mud, he succeeded only in ruining his best suit of Shabbat clothes, amassing a most impressive collection of cuts and bruises, and getting the wagon even more impossibly embedded in the mud. Finally, he dragged his limping body to the synagogue, arriving a scant minute before the start of Shabbat.

Meanwhile, the coachman arrived early to the synagogue and sat down to recite a few chapters of Psalms. At the synagogue he found a group of wandering paupers and, being blessed with a most generous nature, the coachman invited them all to share his Shabbat meal. When the synagogue sexton approached the poor and homeless to arrange meal placements for them with the town’s householders—as is customary in Jewish communities—he received the same reply from them all: “Thank you, but I have already been invited for the Shabbat meal.”

Unfortunately, however, the coachman’s budget was hardly equal to his generous heart. It would be most difficult to believe that his dozen guests left his table with more than a shadow of a meal in their hungry stomachs.

Thus the coachman, with his twenty years of experience in pulling wagons out of mudholes, took it upon himself to feed a small army, while the wealthy businessman, whose Shabbat meal leftovers could easily have fed every hungry man within a ten-mile radius, floundered about in a ditch . . .


Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak of Lubavitch told this story, and explained its lesson: “Every soul is entrusted with a mission unique to her alone, and is granted the specific aptitudes, talents and resources necessary to excel in her ordained role. One most take care not to become one of those lost souls who wander haplessly through life, trying their hand at every field of endeavor except for what is truly and inherently their own.”