Rabbi Pesach Mendel sat in his study, a holy book on the table in front of him. He looked down at the sacred words. Then he looked up and sighed. He stood up in his tiny study, paced the two short strides to the other side, returned and sat down at his book again.
How could he study the holy texts, with so much on his mind? For one thing, there were the villagers in his care. Was he being too strict with them – or too lenient? Should he spend more time listening to those in need? Or would his time be better spent talking to the wealthy, convincing them to meet the needs of the poor?
For another thing, his office was in perpetual disorder. But how could he use a precious hour like this one to straighten his office, when he might be gaining wisdom from the eternal words? Oh, yes, the book. He returned his attention to the passage he had been trying to study.
At that instant, he heard a loud squeal outside his house. He stood and looked out his tiny window. Outside, two children, a boy and a girl, were running after a ball. They reached it, accidentally kicked it ahead of them, then squealed with delight. They ran after it again, laughing and shrieking.
Some time later, the rabbi’s wife entered the front room of their little house and noticed that the door to the outside stood ajar. She walked over to close it, then noticed that her husband was standing just outside. She watched him. He stood there, shaking his head. Following his gaze, she noticed the children, still chasing their ball. She walked up next to him and took his arm. “Are you all right, Payshe? Are the children disturbing your holy work?”
He turned to face her. “Oh, Mimele,” he said. “I am disturbed, but it is not the fault of the children.” He turned back toward the children. “Look at them,” he said. “Do you see how they run so purposefully after the ball? How every muscle, every bone in their bodies moves them toward the one thing they seek at the moment?” He put his arm on her shoulder, as they both gazed at the playing children. “I am disturbed because I cannot seem to do that. Can you imagine how quickly the whole world would be made holy, if we could all serve God with that much single-mindedness?”
She slipped her arm around his waist. The two of them remained in their doorway a long time, reading the miraculous text before them.