Where are We Going??
A Chassidic Story about Rebbe Zushia
Rabbi Zushia of Anipoli was one of the most well known and loved personalities that lived in the past two hundred years. Although a great Chassidic master and scholar, Zushia was characterized by his extremely humble and unassuming disposition. Many stories are told about him that have deep meaning and content for us. Here is one of the famous "Reb Zushia" stories.
Rabbi Zushia lived in Russia, a not altogether friendly country to its inhabitants. The police were never known for been warm or friendly, just the opposite! If they saw a Jew on the street and they had not much to do, they would eagerly bother him.
One night Rabbi Zushia left his house to go to the synagogue. On his way there two policemen stopped him.
"Where are you going, my dear friend?" inquired one of the policemen in a voice dripping with sarcasm.
"I don't know," replied Zushia with his eyes twinkling with innocence.
"What do you mean, my dear fellow? Who walks out at night with out knowing where they are going? Come on, tell us where you are bound!" they demanded.
Zushia just stood there and shook his head in amazement and answered them with his eyes opened wide in amazement, "I really don't know!"
The two policemen look at each other. "Looks like we have an uncooperative fellow here. He was probably up to no good." Turning to Rabbi Zushia, they said in a very serious and stern voice, "Either tell us to where you are going on a dark night like tonight or we will take you down to the police headquarters for investigation!"
Rabbi Zushia just reiterated his previous remark with a shrug, "I don't know where I'm going."
Losing patience, the two policemen grabbed Zushia and brought him down to the police headquarters. There the two policemen briefed the police chief of the suspicious Jew that was wandering around in the middle of the night. The police chief, suspecting that the Jew was either out for no good or had committed a crime, began to grill Zushia with questions.
"Come on, Jew, tell us what you have been up to! Where were you coming from and to where were you going?"
Zushia, remaining calm, merely repeated what he had previously stated; "I really don't know where I'm going."
Losing patience, the chief of police called in his top criminal investigator. "We have a real hard one tonight. Looks like he was up to no good. See if you can get it out of him!"
The top investigator was in reality a burly gruff man with a lean towards violence. "Listen to me, stupid Jew, before we incarcerate you, we will beat you to a pulp. Then we will throw your bloody body in a cold and damp cellar with lice and rats running around. There are no toilet facilities and no food. So wise up and tell us, to where you were going!?"
Zushia remained adamant, "I really haven't even a faint idea to where I am going."
About this time Rabbi Zushia's family had realized that Zushia had disappeared. He was neither at home nor in the synagogue. Some friend went to the police station to see if something had happened to him. Low and behold, upon entry to the police station they found Zushia sitting calmly with four frustrated policemen trying to make sense out of his refusal to cooperate.
"Zushia," they yelled in surprise, "What are you doing here? We thought that you were on your way to the synagogue!"
Hearing this the police looked at each other in surprise. "On your way to the synagogue! If you were on your way to the synagogue, why did you not answer us straight away!"
Rabbi Zushia smiled and explained. "When I left the house, I was walking to the synagogue, that is true. But the police asked where I was going. To that question I answered that I did not know. And you see that it is true, for even though I left with the desire to go to the synagogue, G-d had other plans for me and I arrived here instead!
The moral of this story is clear. We have many plans and thoughts. However it is not what we desire that is always accomplished, but rather only that which G-d desires that eventually is realized. How much calmer our lives would be if we realized this and lived in accordance with such a value.
from the March 1999 Passover Edition of the Jewish Magazine