The Price of Placation
As the sun was setting, the rabbi yelled at the coachman once more: 'What's the matter with you? Don't you know how to handle horses and a wagon?' The coachman was shocked...
by Rabbi Shalom Arush
When someone asks our forgiveness, we must forgive with a whole heart and say, "I forgive you." It's not enough to say, "Hey, no big deal," or "It's OK, I wasn't insulted." The aggressor should humbly request that the victim say, "I forgive you", because speech has tremendous power, and this is the proper text of forgiveness!
There was a big tzaddik who lived in the generation of Rabbi Yechezkel Landa, osb'm, who was known as the "Noda BeYehuda", his famous book by that name. The tzaddik's name was Rabbi David Bracha, and he had a son who was about to be married. Rabbi David was far away from where the wedding was scheduled, so he hired a wagon with three horses to get him there on time. During the journey, he noticed that they weren't progressing as fast as he thought they would; he therefore worried that he wouldn't arrive on time for the ceremony. He lost patience and raised his voice while prodding the wagon master: "Sir, please! Crack your whip at the horses! Get them moving faster!"
As the sun was setting, he yelled at the coachman once more: "What's the matter with you? Don't you know how to handle horses and a wagon?"
The coachman was shocked. He had great respect for the rabbi. He didn't answer the rabbi and just cracked his whip several times more. Ultimately, they arrived at the wedding and found everyone waiting for them. The rabbi paid the coachman, got off the wagon, and began walking toward the chuppa, the wedding canopy. After the wedding ceremony, he asked, "Where is the coachman?"
The coachman had left as soon as he dropped the rabbi off. The rabbi requested, "Please, find me a coachman with a fast wagon and team of horses – I simply must catch up to the coachman who brought me here."
The surprised participants asked the rabbi, "What about the festive meal and the singing and dancing? What about the mitzvah of celebrating with the bride and groom?"
"It's all secondary," said the rabbi. "I must catch up to the coachman. The young couple is already married…" Rabbi David climbed up on the new wagon that was hired for him and quickly disappeared into the horizon. Two hours later, he caught up to the first coachman. "Sir, I chased after you to beg your forgiveness for the terrible way I spoke to you and belittled you."
The coachman said, "I'll never forgive you for the way you insulted me. You're a rabbi?"
With pleading eyes, Rabbi David asked, "Please, sir – I beg you. I'll pay you whatever you want in damages."
"No," said the coachman. "Forget about me ever forgiving you."
"I'll give you all my money!" the rabbi pleaded.
"Sorry – no deal – not for all the money in the world..."
"Then what do you want?" asked the rabbi.
"If you really want me to forgive you, then promise me half your place in the World to Come."
"Put it in writing," said the coachman. The rabbi did, writing out a halachically-binding letter promising the coachman half of his portion in the World to Come.
"I hereby forgive you!" said the coachman. This is the extent that the tzaddikim went to placate a person.
If we don't want to pay such a high price in placating other people, then we must be extra careful to avoid insulting them in the first place! May Hashem help each one of us to bring only joy and good to others.
Rabbi Shalom Arush is an Israeli Breslov rabbi and founder of the Chut Shel Chessed Institutions. He spreads the teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov among Sephardic and Ashkenazic baalei teshuva around the world through his books and speaking appearances. Rabbi Arush is considered one of today's leading Hasidic spiritual guides, inspiring hundreds of thousands through his books, audio CDs and online presence.