Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Uncomfortable Train

  A wealthy and successful lawyer visited his childhood friend Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman and was appalled at the great rosh yeshivah's poverty. He exclaimed, "Elchonon, you are much brighter than I am. Had you become a lawyer you would be a wealthy man today!"
  R' Elchonon did not react to the comment. The old friends visited together for a few enjoyable hours, and then R' Elchonon accompanied the man to his train. At the station two trains were waiting, one a modern, comfortable one to the east, and another that was old and rickety. The lawyer, who was heading westward, walked toward the old train. R' Elchonon asked him, "Why do you travel in such an uncomfortable train? Go to the luxurious new one!"
  The friend stared at him incredulously, and  said, "But I'm going in the other direction!"
  R' Elchonon ignored the comment. "Nonetheless, isn't it better to travel in a comfortable, plush train?"
  The lawyer was exasperated. "Elchonon, you speak nonsense! What good is a comfortable train if it is not taking me where I have to go?"
  R' Elchonon quietly replied, "Listen to yourself. You are right. When you want to arrive at a certain destination the comfort level of the vehicle doesn't mean much. The main thing is to get where you have to be. Do you remember you asked me why I did not become a lawyer? Of course that career would have been more lucrative, but that is not my goal in life. What good is the comfort if I don't arrive where I want to be?"

-from the Pirkei Avos Treasury