“Hey, Reb Yid, can’t you make this wagon go any faster?”
“Believe me, the wagon would love to go faster,” Yankele the wagon driver replied with a smile, “but the horse doesn’t agree.”
“Don’t worry,” someone said to the first chassid. “We’ll have plenty of time to see the Chozeh. Lublin isn’t much further. What are you going to ask for, success with that new business venture?”
The chassidim then began to speak of the various things they needed, and shared stories of how the blessing of the Chozeh of Lublin had helped others obtain a good livelihood, good marriages for their children, and a whole host of other things. They totally forgot about the wagon driver, but Yankele eagerly listened to every word that they said. Yankele had heard of the Chozeh and the Rebbe’s wondrous powers — who hadn’t? But his usual route didn’t take him to Lublin and so he had never even set eyes upon the Chozeh, let alone present a kvitl — a written request that is given to a Rebbe, along with a sum of money for charity — even though there were so many things that he and his family needed.
When they arrived in Lublin, Yankele therefore asked the chassidim, “Would you do me a favor? I have to stay with the horse. But if I write a kvitl will you take it to the Chozeh?”
They agreed, and so while the wagon driver went to the stables they went straight to see the Chozeh. One by one the members of the group presented their requests. The Chozeh warmly blessed them all. They were about to leave when one of them remembered the wagon driver.
“Rebbe, there’s one more kvitl. The person couldn’t come himself.”
The Chozeh took the last kvitl and held it in his hands for several minutes, without opening it. “This person is a very great man,” he said finally. “His name is shining with a very special light.”
The chassidim were astonished and slightly embarrassed by the Chozeh’s mistake. They didn’t know if they should inform the Chozeh that the writer of the kvitl was just a simple wagon driver or hold their peace. But when the Chozeh continued to praise the kvitl writer, one of the chassidim stepped forward and said, “Rebbe, you are on such a high spiritual level that it’s only natural that you believe that everyone is on a high spiritual level, too. But the man who wrote this kvitl is just a simple wagon driver. He’s a good person, in his own way, I’m sure, but he’s not a great man.”
The Chozeh replied, “And I say that at this moment the soul of your simple wagon driver is emitting a great light. Go find him and you will see why.”
The chassidim did as they were instructed. They went to the stables, but the wagon driver wasn’t there. They went up one street and down another, but they didn’t find the man they were looking for.
“Do you hear the music? It sounds like a wedding,” said one of the chassidim.
“Perhaps he’s there.”
The chassidim rushed to where the music was coming from. Sure enough, they had stumbled upon a wedding. The whole town seemed to be there, and everyone was dancing around the bride and groom with great joy. But there was one person whose face was more joyful than all the others: the wagon driver.
“Are you a relative of the bride, or the bridegroom? Is that why you are so happy?” the chassidim asked the wagon driver
“No, I never saw them before in my life.”
“So why were you dancing with such joy?”
The wagon driver then explained what he had done while the chassidim were with the Chozeh. After feeding his horse, he took a stroll through the town. He noticed that a big crowd of people was going somewhere, so he followed them — and that’s when he discovered that a wedding was about to take place. But instead of the usual joy that accompanies such an event, he noticed that the bride — an older woman — was standing on one side of the square and crying her eyes out, while the groom — who was an older bachelor — was angrily gesturing about something in the other corner. Running back and forth between the two was the rabbi, who was trying to make peace between the unhappy couple.
“What’s the problem?” the wagon driver asked one of the townspeople.
“The bride is very poor. She couldn’t come up with a dowry, but she did promise to buy the groom a tallis (prayer shawl). However, she couldn’t even do that. So now the groom is saying that the wedding is off, since she didn’t keep her promise.”
The wagon driver’s heart went out to the unhappy woman. Although he was far from being a wealthy man, he knew what he had to do. He took off his hat and stuck his fingers into the place where he hid his money. He removed everything that was hidden there — his earnings for the past several days — and saw that he had enough money to buy a prayer shawl. He rushed to make his purchase and then rushed back to the square. After giving the tallis to the groom, he disappeared into the crowd, to watch the wedding.
“When the dancing started, I danced, too,” the wagon driver explained to the chassidim. “A simple Jew like me doesn’t often get a chance to do such a great mitzvah, so I suppose that is why I am so happy.”
The chassidim returned to the Chozeh and related the wagon driver’s story.
“Yes, that is the light that I saw,” said the Rebbe. “The mitzvah was, indeed, a great one. But it was his joy while doing the mitzvah that caused his soul to fill the Heavens with a great light.”
# # # If you enjoyed this story, there are another thirty-five inspiring tales waiting to fill your Chanukah with light and joy at: 36 Candles: Chassidic Tales for Chanukah Available at Amazon and other online booksellers.