I was in the process of transcribing the story below that Rav Moshe Weinberger gave on Shabbos Bereishis (and repeated here from a shiur at YU) and, Baruch Hashem, Dixie Yid posted the official drasha based on Rav Weinberger’s notes. I was zoche to be in Woodmere for Simchas Torah and heard the drasha on Shabbos. When I heard the story below, I immediately knew that it was something that was going to stay with me for a long, long time and be something that hovers over me. I am pleased to share the story, as posted by Dixie Yid, below. Please click on the story to read the entire drasha.
There is a story of the Alter Rebbe, as told by Reb Mottel Slonimer, who is known as one of the most accurate transmitters of chassidic stories, as follows: The Alter Rebbe was at a crossroads early in his life. He was one of the most successful young scholars in Europe and had already mastered the Talmud and halachic authorities. At that point, he felt that he had two choices; to study with the Gaon of Vilna or the Magid of Mezrich. He first chose to study with the Magid of Mezrich. Although this is not part of Reb Mottel Slonimer’s tradition, it is told that the Alter Rebbe explained his decision to study with the Magid rather than the Gaon of Vilna by saying, “I already know how to learn a little bit, but I haven’t yet learned how to daven.”
The Alter Rebbe studied with the Magid for several weeks, but he felt that he had not found himself; that the Magid of Mezrich was not the right Rebbe for him. As was the custom at the time, the Alter Rebbe visited the Magid to bid him farewell and seek a blessing for his journey home. During the visit, the Magid accepted his decision, but told him that he should also say goodbye to “the Malach, the angel,” i.e., the Magid’s son Reb Avraham who was known as the Malach because of his great holiness.
The Alter Rebbe agreed and bid farewell to the Malach, who would later become the Alter Rebbe’s chevrusa. He offered to walk the Alter Rebbe to his horse, wagon, and driver. Before the Alter Rebbe got onto the wagon, the Malach said, “When you get into the wagon, you will see that the driver will smack the horse and it will begin running in an attempt to distance itself from the smack. And then the driver will smack the horse again, and it will run even faster, trying to escape the one pain of the whip. And it will continue on this way throughout your journey. But an intelligent person [Baal Daas] is not a horse. When an intelligent person feels a smack, he does not simply run away from it. He looks back to see who is smacking him and why he is being smacked.”
Being a deep and contemplative person, the Alter Rebbe understood the Malach’s message and stayed in Mezrich, ultimately becoming one of the star students of the Magid. May we all merit to understand the message of the wagon (עגלה) and look beyond the suffering of the world of strict justice to see G-d’s loving kindness, and thus merit the final redemption, quickly (בעגלא) in our days.
Yeah, this was it! This was what I needed to hear. When difficulties come up, when things don’t work out with parnassassah, when chinuch issues arise, I have do decide if I want to look back and see who’s “whipping” me and why or do I want to just be a horse and keep trying to run away?