The Boy who Loved Horseback Riding

The horse could help you quickly get back on the right road if you catch yourself and see that you are on the wrong road…

The Alter Rebbe, author of the Tanya and (Ravs) Shulchan Aruch, had many thousands of followers. When any one of them had a serious problem, they would come to Liozna, the small town in White Russia where the Rebbe lived, to ask his advice and blessing.

So it was that one of his followers, who lived in a nearby village, came to the Alter Rebbe one day with tears in his eyes, and poured out his troubled heart to him. He told the Rebbe that he had a teenage boy, whom he tried to bring up in the way of the Torah and mitzvos. He was a fine boy, devoted to his studies, and observant of the mitzvos. But suddenly, something got into him, and he began to turn away from Torah and mitzvos. The heartbroken father feared that his son might go completely astray, and he begged the Rebbe to tell him what to do to bring him back to the right path.

“Do you think you could persuade your son to come and see me?” the Alter Rebbe asked.

“I’m afraid that in his present state of mind he may not be willing to come to the Rebbe,” the villager answered sadly.

“Then try to find some excuse to get him to come here. Perhaps you can send him into town on some errand?” the Rebbe suggested. “Once he is in town, a way will be found to get him to see me.”

Somewhat encouraged by the Alter Rebbes optimism, the Chassid returned home with a lighter heart.

Thinking about a way of carrying out the Rebbes suggestion, he suddenly had an idea. His son was very fond of horseback riding. Now, it was not considered nice for observant young Jews to ride into town on horseback, but his son did not worry about what people might say, and whenever the opportunity presented itself he would ride right into town on horseback like any non-Jewish country yokel.

So the Chassid thought up an errand and asked his son to go into town.

“If I can ride into town. . . .” the son said. His father nodded.

The young man went galloping into town. Little did he know that the errand was really a pretext for his father’s friends to get him to the Rebbes house.

Shortly he found himself facing the Rebbe, who greeted him warmly.

“But why did you choose to ride into town on horseback, instead of in a buggy?” the Rebbe asked.

“Well, I just love horseback riding. My horse is a fine animal; why not take advantage of such a fine horse?” the boy replied.

“And what are the advantages of such an animal?” asked the Alter Rebbe.

“A good horse runs fast. You gallop away and you reach your destination so much quicker,” said the young man enthusiastically.

“That is all very well if you are on the right road,” countered the Rebbe, “but if you are on the wrong road, you can only travel quickly in the wrong direction!”

“Even so,” insisted the young man, “the horse could help you quickly get back to the right road if you catch yourself and see that you are on the wrong road. . . .”

If you catch yourself and see that you are on the wrong road,” the Alter Rebbe repeated slowly and emphatically. “Yes, my son, if you catch yourself before it is too late, and realize that you have strayed from the right path; then you can quickly return. . . .”

The words of the Alter Rebbe, uttered deliberately and pointedly, struck the young man like a bombshell, and the Rebbes penetrating eyes seemed to pierce right through him. The boy fell down in a faint.

He was quickly revived, and in a subdued voice, he asked the Rebbes permission to remain in Liozna, so that he could renew his Torah studies and come back to his family as a good Torah-abiding Jew.

The Storyteller
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