Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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12 Tishrei 5761 - October 11, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Opinion & Comment
"Meoros HaDaf HaYomi" Insights into the Week's Learning

Under the Direction of Rabbi Chaim Dovid Kovalsky shlita

Stories, Mussar, Practical Halacha (taken from the issue of Nedarim, Daf 74-80, learned during Aseres Yemei Teshuva) (Vol. 71) From the Sochatchov "Beis Medrash of Teachers of the Daf HaYomi" Bnei Brak

From the Editor

The Villager's Forgiveness

These days, each one us is looking inwards, reflecting upon the previous year, examining what he did and how acted. We are trying hard to find ways to improve ourselves through good deeds, hoping that our efforts will show our Creator that we truly want to do His Will. From the following story, we see how when a person does a good deed, it can have lasting positive effects many years afterwards.

The story comes to us from R. Yozel of Novardok, founder of the Novardok network of yeshivos that graced many towns all across Russia. In these glorious institutions, hundreds of bochurim toiled tirelessly in Torah, absorbing the famous "Novardok" philosophy of life, taught to them mainly by example, by their G-d fearing master and teacher.

The old Russian train chugged along the track, heading towards its destination, thousands of kilometers away across the vast expanses of Mother Russia. The rhythmic noise of the wheels mixed with the shrill howling sound of the cold Russian wind, gusting from afar. As night came, the cold and the dark seeped into the cars of the train, which continued to roll on through the great silent blackness that surrounded it. The passengers started to make preparations for the long night, and little by little each settled into his place. The monotonous sound of the train steadily moving forward had a lulling effect, and most of the passengers fell into a deep, peaceful sleep.

The train driver brought his frozen hands closer to the huge boiler of the steam engine as he ordered his helpers to add coal to the fire, so the train would pick up speed.

In one of the cars sat a man with piercing eyes that gazed through the icy window out into the night, up at the stars that twinkled in the vast Russian sky. It was R. Yozel, founder of the Novardok yeshivos.

His thoughts were racing through his mind, for he was thinking about his busy daily schedule. He would arise every morning very early and learn before davening. His day would continue with mussar talks and Torah shiurim that he would deliver to his many talmidim. The day would end in the wee hours of the morning, almost always with a talk with one of the bochurim. Perhaps it was a bochur who needed some words of encouragement because he was feeling down. Perhaps it was a bochur who was doing well and simply wanted advice as to how to go higher in Torah and fear of Heaven.

He thought to himself, "But what is going to be with me?" R. Yozel agonized over this question. "When will I have the chance to just be by myself a bit, to inspect the hidden recesses of my own soul, as I teach my talmidim to do? After all, I, too, need to work on perfecting my character!" He mulled over the matter further and then said to himself, "If only I had an isolated house in the woods somewhere, or even a small hut in some faraway place." With that, he began to consider how he would build such a place and set it up.

The morning came and his passenger car began to show signs of life. People rubbed their eyes and peered out the windows to see what sort of progress the train had made during the night. The passenger whose place was next to R. Yozel's also awakened, and after he refreshed himself and again settled in his seat, he noticed that his neighbor's facial expression today was troubled, in contrast to previous days. This passenger, obviously a successful businessman, had realized for quite some time that he was sitting next to an exceptional personality - a man who almost always kept silent, and was continually learning and thinking. Seeing his disturbed expression, the businessman decided to start up a conversation with him.

The two talked on, the merchant's shiny leather briefcase at his feet. Around his neck he wore a silk scarf embroidered silver beads, and all the while his fingers played with the golden handle of his impressive walking stick. He listened to every word as R. Yozel described his life and his work. "But one thing I am lacking," said R. Yozel, looking down at the floor dejectedly. He then spoke of his great desire to have a place where he could get away and be by himself, to reflect upon his ways. "Rebbe," said the merchant, "from this moment on this shall not be a worry of yours any more. I am a very big dealer in timber, and in one of my forests I have an isolated cabin, just the thing your honor desires! I put it at your disposal any time you wish!"

The journey ended. The two parted, R. Yozel thanking him from the bottom of his heart. Indeed, R. Yozel began to use the cabin retreat in the thick of that forest. Occasionally, when he felt it necessary, he would go there for the sake of his service of Hashem.

One Friday, R. Yozel had to take a carriage somewhere, but its driver turned out to be a drunkard. This was years after the train ride with the timber merchant, who had gone to his last reward at a ripe old age. With bleary eyes, the goyish driver looked at R. Yozel, who tried to urge him forward, saying he did want to be stranded on the road when the Shabbos came. However, the drunken wagon driver could not manage the horses. They proceeded at a snail's pace, and the sun began to set. R. Yozel had no choice, and had the driver stop in a small village along the way. Descending from the carriage, R. Yozel knocked at the door of the first house he saw, and was elated when a Jewish face greeted him. His was the only Jewish family in the village, and he happily invited R. Yozel to spend the Shabbos with him.

However, R. Yozel's elation was short-lived. The villager was a very simple man who had lived all his life amongst the goyim, and he never stopped insulting and cursing a certain businessman who allegedly had tricked him and had cheated him many years before. R. Yozel tried to calm his host, and in the process it became apparent that the businessman in question was the very one that had been so nice to R. Yozel and had given him the use of that isolated cabin in the forest.

That Shabbos, R. Yozel tried to convince the villager to forgive the businessman. The image of the timber merchant was glued in R. Yozel's memory, and he felt tremendous gratitude towards him. Therefore, he resolved in his heart that he would try his best to return him a favor, by convincing the villager to grant his benefactor forgiveness.

It was no easy task, and even by the time of the third meal, the persuasiveness of R. Yozel had not overcome the villager's stubborn resistance. Finally, though, after the long Shabbos ended, the extended period of time that he had spent with the tzaddik softened him, and the rustic villager announced, "I hereby forgive with a full heart the businessman so-and-so for what he did to me."

Because of the good deed that this businessman did for R. Yozel, many years before, Hashem arranged that in a roundabout way, the tzaddik be stranded with this villager for a whole Shabbos. It was only so that the villager would forgive the businessman, and give peace to his departed soul.

When R. Yozel would finish telling this story to his talmidim, he would say that it teaches us of the great positive influence of every good deed, and we have no idea of what tremendous merit we earn from each one.

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