The message that arrived on a Friday afternoon at the home of the great gaon and mekubal Harav Nosson Adler, zt”l, was one of desperation: The anti-Semitic nobleman who ruled a town some distance away had issued an edict ordering all Jewish residents to leave their homes. Would the Rav please come and try to convince the poritz to rescind his evil decree?
Immediately upon the conclusion of Shabbos, Rav Nosson Adler announced his intention of leaving for that town at once. However, a harsh winter storm had set in, and he was unable to find a single wagon driver willing to take him.
Determined to come to the aid of the Yidden of that town, the Rav announced that he would travel in an open sled if necessary. His closest disciple, Moshe Sofer (later famed as the “Chasam Sofer”), was concerned about the effect such a trip would have on his Rebbi’s frail health. By exerting strenuous efforts, he managed to locate a wagon driver who was willing to undertake the trip, and he accompanied his Rebbi as they set out.
Along the way, due to the treacherous weather conditions, the wagon got stuck in a ditch and the horses were unable to pull it out. With no other option, the driver unhitched one of the two horses and rode it into town to get help.
When he returned he was leading two new animals, and he set about hitching them to the wagon. Instantly Rav Nosson Adler leaped out of the wagon, losing his shoes on the way. Then, to the amazement of his talmid, and while wearing only socks on his feet, Rav Nosson Adler began to dance exuberantly in the high snow.
“Do you see,” he explained, “the driver brought a pair of oxen and is joining them to the horse which pulled us until here. When do we ever have a chance to observe the mitzvah of ‘You shall not plow with an ox and a donkey together’? What a simchah!” (This halachah refers to any two different species of animals joined together for transporting any burden.)
The driver was asked to return the oxen and fetch other horses instead, and eventually they were on their way.
While the opportunity to be mekayem this particular mitzvah is even less likely to come up today than in that time — especially for city dwellers — the reaction of Rav Nosson Adler continues to serve as a crucial lesson for all generations. Though we are enjoined not to place ourselves into a position of nisayon, yet when from Shamayim we are sent a nisayon, we should rejoice with the opportunity to fulfill yet another mitzvah.
Even in the comfort of home or at the contemporary workplace, one constantly faces challenging nisyonos. When one perceives these tests as an opportunity for spiritual growth, as an opportunity to serve the Ribbono shel Olam with a degree of mesirus nefesh, the daunting task becomes easier.
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One of the numerous other mitzvos taught in this parashah is that at harvest time, a worker placing produce in the vessels of his owner is permitted to eat some of the produce while he is working. The Chofetz Chaim points out that even during the time that one walks from one ridge to another in order to gather the produce, that ‘walking” is also considered like working.
This teaches us that when a Yid awakens in the morning and dedicates his day to serving Hashem, even the time he is involved in business dealings in order to support his family is also considered part of avodas Hashem as the purpose of his work is so he can have the food and resources to serve Hashem.
However — the Chofetz Chaim cautions us — this is only true when he uses all his spare time, such as in the evenings and on Shabbosos, to learn Torah. However, if he wastes his spare time on frivolous activities, he not only loses the merit of the Torah learning he could have done during that period of time, but loses the right to be credited for the hours he worked as well.
May the Ribbono shel Olam give us the wisdom to properly use every minute that we have.