Day 10 of the Omer

הָעֲבוֹדָה הִיא בְּכָל אָדָם לְפִי מְהוּתוֹ וּמַעֲלָתוֹ. מִי שֶׁיֵּשׁ בְּיָדוֹ לִנְקוֹב מַרְגָּלִיּוֹת אוֹ לִלְטוֹשׁ אֲבָנִים טוֹבוֹת וְעוֹסֵק בַּעֲבוֹדַת מְלֶאכֶת אֲפִיַּת לֶחֶם, — וּמוּבָן דּוּגְמַת כָּל זֶה בַּעֲבוֹדָה — הֲגַם שֶׁהִיא עֲבוֹדָה וּמְלָאכָה הַנִּצְרֶכֶת בִּמְאֹד, בְּכָל זֶה לְחֵטְא יֵחָשֵׁב לָאִישׁ הַהוּא.

Every individual is required to serve G‑d according to his nature and spiritual level. A person who can pierce pearls or polish gems, yet occupies himself with baking bread, is considered to have sinned, even though this too is a much needed task. The parallels to this in our Divine service are obvious.1

A Story with an Echo

The Alter Rebbe would tell the following story:2 One Friday afternoon, a wagon driver drove his wealthy and pampered employer to the mikveh, and then led his horses to the stable where they would be housed over Shabbos. As he was leaving, he saw a squad of soldiers dragging a Jewish family away in chains. He sprang up and with a few powerful blows felled several of the soldiers. Before a major struggle erupted, their commanding officer approached him calmly.

“True, you are strong, and you may be able to overpower some of us. But you’ll never succeed in freeing the family. We outnumber you. Besides, one of us has already run back to get reinforcements. If you want to free the family, pay their rent. Anything else is futile.”

The wagon driver saw the truth of the soldier’s words. He raised his hands heavenward and called out to G‑d: “Master of the Universe! Were it a matter of strength, I would do everything I could to free them. But what’s needed here is not strength but money, and money I don’t have.”

A few minutes later his employer left the mikveh dressed in his Shabbos finery. On his way to his lodgings he saw another wagon driver, whose wagon had become stuck in the mud. Without thinking a moment, he rushed to help him. Nevertheless, although he tried, and soiled his starched sleeves in the process, he was a delicate gentleman. He simply lacked the strength to be of avail.

He turned aside, raised his hands heavenward, and called out to G‑d: “Were it a matter of money, I would pay anything to help this poor fellow free his wagon. But what is needed here is not money but physical strength, and strength I do not have.”


The Alter Rebbe used this story to illustrate the mysteries of Divine Providence. The Rebbe used it in reference to those well-meaning but misguided souls who wrestle with missions that are foreign to their individual spiritual purpose.3