Reb Avraham Yaakov of Sadigora was once sitting with his Hasidim. Their conversation was light and covered many topics. Almost as an aside, Reb Avraham Yaakov said, “You know, my friends, it is possible to learn great truths from even inanimate things. Everything can teach us something.”
Taking the rebbe’s statement as a challenge, one Hasid asked, “Tell me, Rebbe, what might we learn from a train?”
“That because of a single second you might miss the whole thing.”
“And from a telegraph?” another student asked. “What might we learn from a telegraph?”
“That every word is counted, and that every word carries a cost.”
“And the telephone, Rebbe,” yet another Hasid asked. “Tell us what we can learn from this.”
“That what you say here,” Reb Avraham Yaakov said, “can surely be heard there.”
Life is our rebbe. Ordinary things are our teachers. Reb Avraham Yaakov offers three examples. The train reminds us that each moment is precious and unique. If you are asleep to what is happening now, you cannot reclaim it later. The telegraph reminds us that words matter. A single word uttered in anger or spite can sour years of love and trust. Weigh the value of your words before speaking them. The telephone reminds us that distance is no defense against foolishness. “Here” and “there” are two ends of a single stick; do not think you can wave it here and not do damage there.
But there are other rebbes lurking in the ordinary things of everyday life:
A microwave: that which can heat up a meal can blow up a cat.
A television: that the foolishness of some can capture the imaginations of many.
Advertising: that the full can be made hungry simply with images.
Internet: that wisdom can be lost in too much information.
Religion: that disease must be learned before cures can be sold.
Politics: that serving leaders is much easier than servant leadership.
Look around you. Who are your rebbes? What are they teaching? What are you learning?