Reb Meir of Premishlan and Reb Yisrael of Ruzhin were the best of friends, yet no two people could be more different. Reb Meir lived in great poverty. He never allowed even a penny to spend the night in his house but would rush outside to give it to the poor. Reb Yisrael, on the other hand, lived like a king.
These two friends once met as each was preparing to take a journey. Reb Meir was sitting on a simple cart drawn by one scrawny horse. Reb Yisrael was housed in a rich lacquered coach pulled by four powerful stallions.
Reb Yisrael walked over to the horse hitched to Reb Meir’s wagon. With mock concern, he inspected the horse with great care. Then he turned to his friend and with barely concealed humor said to him, “I always travel with four strong horses. In this way, if my coach should become stuck in the mud they will be able to free it quickly. I can see, however, that your horse seems barely able to carry you and your wagon on a dry and hard-packed road. There is bound to be mud on your travels. Why do you take such risks?”
Reb Meir stepped down from his wagon and walked over to his friend, who was still standing next to Reb Meir’s horse. Placing his arms around his beloved old horse’s neck, Reb Meir said softly, “The risk, I think, is yours. Because I travel with this one horse that in no way can free this wagon if it becomes stuck in the mud, I am very careful to avoid the mud in the first place. You, my friend, are certain you can get free if stuck and thus do not look where you are going.”
How do you handle the mud in your life?
Reb Meir says it is best to look sharp and avoid the mud in the first place. Reb Yisrael says it is better to prepare for the mud in advance and just force your way through. Both are right, and even taken together, neither is complete.
Reb Meir teaches us that not every muddy road need be traveled. If we are diligent and thoughtful, we can see the mud before we fall into it and take the trouble to detour around it. This is especially good advice when it comes to speech. If we stop and consider the impact of our words before uttering those words, we will avoid some very sticky situations.
Reb Yisrael reminds us that no matter how careful we are, there will be times when we get stuck in the mud. At these times, it pays to have the strength to pull yourself free. This is especially true when it comes to matters of finances. If we take care to put aside money when we have it to help us when we don’t, we will avoid some very uncomfortable times ahead.
Good advice from both our rebbes. Yet, no matter how vigilant we are, no matter how strong and prepared we become, there are times when the mud will overwhelm us. In these cases, you will just have to get into the mud with your horse and pull.