Dear CBI members and friends,
The month of Elul just began and we have to start to prepare ourselves for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.
This month is a time for reflection and balance. This preparation will be with our words, thoughts and action.
I would like to share with you a story that I heard once:
The very known Rabbi Chofetz Chaim once left the town of Radin for a long train trip to another community. The humblest of men, he traveled alone without fanfare, appearing to all the world like any other Jewish passenger on the train. As luck would have it, he found himself seated next to a Jewish farmer bound for the same town, who immediately launched into a long and detailed account of his farm, livestock, field crops, and the weather for the past five years.
Hour after hour passed, with the great Chofetz Chaim listening attentively to the one-sided conversation, barely uttering a word. Finally, the train pulled into the station and as the farmer got up to leave, he saw a huge crowd assembled at the platform, obviously gathered to greet some dignitary arriving on the same train. The farmer walked up to the conductor at the front of the car and asked, “Who is this welcome for?”
Proudly the conductor answered, “The most renowned Jewish leader in Poland has been riding with us, all the way from Radin. Every Jew in the shtetl has turned out just to see him. This is a great day for our little town.”
The farmer was amazed. “The great Chofetz Chaim! Just wait till I tell people in my village that I saw him. Tell me, where was he sitting?”
“What do you mean?” the conductor answered, “He’s been sitting right next to you all afternoon!”
The poor farmer was thunderstruck and mortified. He ran back to the Chofetz Chaim and fell on his knees before the tzaddik, his eyes filled with tears.
“What’s wrong, my friend?” asked the Chofetz Chaim.
“If only I had realized who you were,” the broken man sobbed. “I wouldn’t have wasted your precious time with my endless prattle.”
“Nonsense, my son,” the tzaddik answered, “I haven’t enjoyed a conversation like that in a long time.”
“What do you mean?” the farmer asked, slowly recovering his composure. “How could the Chofetz Chaim appreciate talk about cattle and crops and weather, when there are so many other things we could have talked about?”
“On the contrary,” the Chofetz Chaim answered, “whenever I sit down with someone for a conversation the subject always comes around people talk about other people…. And not in the best way….. and I either have to reprimand my friends or get up and leave. You are the first person whom I have been able to talk to for a long time without fear of transgressing this mitzva…..
I wish you all Shabbat Shalom umevorach!
Rabbi Gad Romang