Published by Machon Daas Torah,
In the Jerusalem of yore there was not much room for children
to play. No playgrounds. And no toys to speak of, either.
used to give vent to their exuberant, youthful energies by
around the well. They were brimming with vitality, those
picquant children of Jerusalem. An element of charm graced
faces as they raced around the water cistern, their
in the wind, playing tag. Sholom, the orphan boy, was one of
children among his peers. He used to spend long hours there;
no father to call him to come home. Actually, he was not too
on going home, either, to the empty table. So he sated
games. He leaped and cavorted with wild abandon, giving
his childish exuberance, as precocious children will.
Things looked different in Elul, however. At a relatively
hour each afternoon, his mother would go outdoors, keeping in
the open square by the well. She kept at a distance, her
and her voice would reverberate from afar. "Shulemke," she'd
call out. "Elul! Shulemke! It's a time when even the fish
in the water, and you're running wild?"
From time to time, she would resume a vigil by the window and
affix a compassionate eye on her son, absorbed in his play.
she would sigh. "What will become of him when he grows up, if
he keeps up these immature pastimes?" And she would add a
prayer, "Hashem, please..." A tear would seep from the corner
of her eye, and then another, and another, glazing her eyes
continued to be riveted upon the small figure, there by the
Whoever was to hear R' Sholom's lionroar of "E-l-u-l!",
not many decades later, might well have distinguished the
that selfsame cry of his mother's voice, "Shulemke, Elul!"
Even at the age of seventy, he could still remember the
clarion of his mother. And when he stood before an audience
he would reconstruct the scene of his mother at Elul time,
up her tears, which evoked his own. And the separate tears of
and son would meet and converge at some invisible point...
"Answer us, Father of orphans, aneinu. Answer us,
Judge of widows, aneinu." His mother's Elul prayer was
The years, the prayers, and plentiful Heavenly Assist, did
job. Shulemke, the precocious child, began climbing the
ladder of achievement, rung by rung, through sweat and
strength of character and determination amazed everyone,
those who still remembered his cavorting around the well.
it turned out, was the flintstone of the prodigious powers
latent in him and that came to the fore. Many anticipated the
when the boy would sublimate and harness his immense energy
plentiful capabilities with which he was blessed, to his
diligence and his pure heart.
Ever since that turning point, R' Sholom's mouth did not
its study. He applied himself, nights as days, to Torah. His
who had discerned the buds of greatness within him,
prodded him and nurtured his talents. These were foremost
of the generation: R' Yaakov Katzenellenbogen, R' Eliyohu
and his great master, R' Leib Chasman, z'tm'l.
When R' Sholom reached maturity, he had already amassed huge
quantities of knowledge and piety `under his belt.'
years of development, his mother accompanied the process of
quelling with pleasure and pride. She saw his effort; she
application. It reminded her of her husband's extraordinary
and she knew that Shulemke had inherited his capabilities.
received enthusiastic periodical `regards' from his teachers,
she was unaware of the true extent of his potential. Nor
imagine how much he had actually already achieved.
Until that moment by the well...
R' Sholom was a young married man by now, having recently
married and established a home. Not that he spent much time
His whole world was Torah. He studied from morning to evening
stop at the Ohel Torah kollel. At night he
his brother-in-law, R' Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, until three in
morning. This went on for many months.
One morning, R' Sholom's wife noticed that her husband looked
crestfallen, disspirited. He looked perturbed. "Wife of
he said to her, "I've noticed you carrying heavy pails of
from the well every day. That's no easy task. Even drawing up
water requires exertion; you have to bend down and haul up
after pailful. Enough! This must stop. From now on, I want to
chore. I'll draw the water and I'll carry it home. Leave the
pails by the well in the morning and when I finish
I'll fill them and bring them home. I don't want you doing
work any more, alright? Now it's my job."
The rebbetzin was stunned. Many thoughts raced about
her mind, as she tried to weigh the advantages and
this new system, the benefits of the mitzva as opposed
drawbacks. Up until then, she had done her utmost not to
husband. Up till that very moment, she had refused to
any of his precious time for mundane chores. But was she
to refuse his initiative? She had to admit that it was a
task for a woman. She studied the hands that had become
work and painridden from shlepping the heavy load. She
amenable to her husband's offer, at first, but quickly
"How can I allow a mere physical difficulty or bodily pain to
interfere with the spiritual growth of a potentially very
His life is so absorbed with Torah, how can I do this to
With his intuitive touch, R' Sholom sensed her vacillation
with swift determination, shut the case and refused to listen
word. "My mind is made up. Tomorrow, right after the
I am going to fetch the water."
The morrow dawned. Time passed and it was getting late, but
Sholom had not yet returned, even though the davening
long since. What could be keeping him? she wondered.
long does it take to fill up two pails and bring them?
over to the window, from where she could see the well.
A strange sight met her eyes. R' Sholom was standing by the
holding paper and pen. He was very engrossed in his writing.
could be so important? she asked herself, puzzled.
She quietly left the house and went over to the well. "What
happened to you?" she asked him. He was still absorbed in his
writing, oblivious to everything else, but her voice brought
to the present and he gave a start. He put his pen into his
"Oh, I forgot that I had come here to draw some water,"
he said sheepishly. "A wonderful chiddush just struck
an answer to a very knotty problem which I had struggled with
in my study, and I was afraid I'd forget it if I didn't write
"But where is the dipper?"
"Oh," he said, switching his attention back to practical
at hand. But he was still under the impact of his discovery.
"Errrr, I guess it slipped from my hand when I took my pen
of my pocket. I must have let the rope go, and it dropped
water. I'm so sorry..."
Tears sprang to his wife's eyes. These were not tears of
over the lost dipper, an expensive item, that had disappeared
the water, but tears of joy at the realization of what a
she possessed, a husband whose heart and soul was fully
Torah and who could not even take his mind off Torah to draw
water from the well...
Tears reminiscent of previous tears. Touching one another,
at some place in time, in space...
R' Sholom would remember that poignant moment by the well for
the rest of his life. Whenever the occasion arose where he
to conjure up an image of someone who studied with total
he would say, "I once went to the well to fetch some water,
I was suddenly struck by a fantastic chiddush. It
so completely that I totally forgot where I was..."
When R' Sholom's mother heard about the incident, she rose to
her feet and went over to the window. She glanced out at the
and was soon lost in reverie. This was the `regards,' the
she had yearned for, during those many uncertain years
she was overcome with tears. She buried her face in her hands
tears of joy burst forth like a fountain. She recalled those
years and tears of anguish, prayer and hope over the future
Shulemke, as she had watched him prancing about the well.
was the answer to her prayers.
Tears by the wellside. Also touching, in a distant dimension
of time, mingling with the tears of a young widowed mother,
of a young,
jubilant wife, and now, of the proud, fulfilled mother of a
son who had lived up to hopes and expectations.