It was the day before Shabbos in the little shtetl of Vaysechvoos and somehow, the ordinary hustle and bustle of preparation for the day of rest had been replaced with a hushed sense of anticipation. Children played quietly. Shopkeepers and patrons agreed on prices without the usual bickering and dickering. Women cooked and cleaned without so much as the clang or bang of a pot or the swish of a broom. Even the cows seemed strangely thoughtful as they chewed their cud.
It all began when Mottel the egg man asked the rabbi about a passage from the holy book. It says in the writings of Jeremiah, rabbi, that ‘the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah.’ And as I read on it says that ‘the Lord Almighty will put His law in their inward parts and write it on their hearts.'”
The rabbi of Vaysechvoos listened, nodding as Mottel spoke. “What is your question, Mottel?”
“Rabbi, I try to keep the law. I try to be a good husband and father and neighbor, but I know I fall short of what the Almighty expects. How can I ever attain a level of holiness where God’s law is in my inward parts? I’m a sinful man.”
The rabbi smiled. “This is a worthy question, Mottel. On Shabbos I will bring a drasha on this very subject.”
Mottel could barely contain himself. He lost no time in announcing to the rest of the shtetl that the rabbi was going to share the secret of a new level of holiness, wherein God’s law would reside deep within each person.
Now the villagers knew that they fell short of God’s holiness. And to think that the rabbi was about to impart the secret that could forever solve the problem! No wonder the usual clamor of Shabbos preparations was absent. It was almost as though the village was holding its collective breath as they waited to hear what the rabbi would say.
The rabbi, for his part, had not been idle. As soon as he left Mottel, he went and buried himself in the many volumes of rabbinic wisdom at his disposal, determined to find a satisfactory answer to such a good and godly question. He knew that his own knowledge and ability to understand Scripture could not possibly be adequate so he took copious notes on what all the great sages had recorded about the passage. At last he was satisfied.
Shabbos arrived and everyone gathered to hear the rabbi’s drasha. It was sweltering and all the windows in the shul were opened wide. When it was time for the rabbi to speak he removed a large stack of papers from a big brown envelope. He put on his spectacles, arranged his notes on the bimah, and was about to begin speaking when…it happened.
A gust of wind came swooshing and whooshing through the window. It whirled and swirled over the bimah until all the rabbi’s many notes were whirling and swirling too. He tried frantically to grab the precious papers but the wind was too fast and no matter which paper he tried to grab, the wind literally ripped it from his grasp.
This was no ordinary wind, for when it had all the rabbi’s notes in its funnel-like grasp, with a final whoosh it gusted out the window to the left of the bimah. Everyone crowded around the window to see if the rabbi’s notes could be salvaged, but there was no sign of them, or of the strange wind that had blown through their meeting place.
The rabbi took this as a sign from the Almighty that he was not to speak on the matter. Mottel and the others would have to seek their answer from the Almighty himself.
Shabbos – Sabbath
Drasha – sermon
Bimah – platform
Shul – synagogue