The Chozeh of Lublin’s clock reminds of moshiach
THE CHOZEH’S CLOCK
as told by Rabbi Michel Twerski Shlita of Milwaukee
When the holy Chozeh of Lublin passed away (on Tisha B’av), all of his Chassidim found themselves in a time of extreme aveilus [mourning]. It seemed to them that there would be no one, nowhere, to whom they could turn, that would replace the giant who had served as their guide and inspiration for so many years. Most grief-stricken of all was his son, R. Yossele Tulchiner, who was in his own right a man of great righteousness, he was himself a tzaddik of great repute, and he could find no consolation. He remained behind in Lublin for many weeks, trying to find some place where he might comfort himself. At long last, he realized that he needed to move on.
Before he left, he went to see if he might collect some of his father’s belongings, so that when he returned home he would have some physical mementos with which to comfort himself. He threw a number of articles into a bag – amongst which was a wall clock. It was kind of a cumbersome thing, but it was something that reminded him of the room in which his father, the Chozeh, had learned, davened and received his Chassidim.
So he set out along the way, to return home to Tulchin. We must remember that R. Yosef, not unlike other tzaddikim of his time, was essentially destitute and penniless. And so he was very much dependent upon the goodwill of whoever happened to be traveling – that they might give him a lift in their horse-drawn wagon. Finally, someone pitied him, and as it turned out – as the Gemara says, “poverty follows the poor.” This fellow who gave him a ride, had an open carriage. A number of hours into the trip, it began to pour – it was a deluge! They were soon soaked to the bone, and a cool breeze began to chill them.
He knew that unless he found some haven, that he would catch the death of a cold. And so, he ran for the first shelter that he could find. He finally found an inn – the innkeeper was very hospitable and took him in, built a warm fire, offered him a warm drink, and something with which to cover himself in his discomfort. He spent the night there. The next day, the rain continued and he spent another day and night there.
Finally, the weather cleared, and he was able to set out again. It came time to negotiate with the innkeeper for his shelter and food. When presented with the bill, of course, R. Yossele had no money. So he turned to him and said, “Look, I have nothing. But I do have some of the mementos, the things that belonged to my illustrious father. Perhaps there is something here that would be of value to you.”
The innkeeper was no Chassid, and none of these things meant anything to him. So he searched through the bag. Finally, his eyes set on this clock. “This is really not worth it,” he said, “but it’s the only thing you have that even approaches in value, so I’ll take the clock.” Reluctantly but nonetheless gratefully, he surrendered the clock. R. Yossele left and continued on his way.
Many, many years passed. One of the Chozeh’s esteemed Chassidim, who was now a leader of a Chassidic community in his own right, [known as] the Saba Kadisha of Radoshitz, Rebbe Yissaschar Ber, was traveling with his Chassidim. As they were traveling, they sought a place to spend the night, and they found this particular inn. The innkeeper was again very hospitable and gave the Rebbe his finest room.
The Chassidim did the best they could with the little bit of room that was left. Night fell, and everyone went to sleep. The proprietor of the inn went to bed. He heard sounds coming from the Rebbe’s room. At first he ignored them, but they became increasingly disturbing. The Rebbe was clearly marching around his room. Soon the marching turned into a dance. He could hear the Rebbe singing to himself and dancing.
At first, he thought it would soon end. Ten minutes. Half an hour. An hour. Throughout the night, the Rebbe danced. Finally, early in the morning, the innkeeper knocked on the door and said, “Rebbe, all night you’ve been awake dancing – I heard you! What’s happening?”
The Rebbe said, “I, too, would like to know what’s happening. Please tell me – where did you get this clock – the one in my room?”
The innkeeper replied, “There was once a traveler who couldn’t pay his bill. And he said that his father was a great Rabbi; I don’t remember the name. But some objects belong to him, and I claimed the clock in payment.”
The Radoshitzer said, “What did this traveler look like?”
The innkeeper described him. The Radoshitzer called his Chassidim. “It’s clear to me that R. Yossele must have traveled this way after his father’s petira [passing]. And when he couldn’t pay his bill, he gave up the clock. I remember the clock well. When I used to go in to the Rebbe, the Chozeh, I would see that clock on the wall. I knew that this clock had to be the Rebbe’s!”
“What gave it away?” asked the Chassidim.
The Rebbe replied, “Every clock in the world, when it ticks, it’s depressing. Every tick signifies another second of life gone, spent, never again to be claimed. That’s how most of us deal with time.
“But the Rebbe had a command and appreciation for time; that every moment to him was a moment closer to the Geula Shelaima, to bias Moshiach Tzidkeinu [the complete Redemption and coming of the righteous Messiah]. His clock did not tick with sadness or sorrow; it was not a mournful tick. It was positive – full of hope, not a tick of despair. The tick-tock of the Rebbe’s clock was one that marched towards the Geula Shelaima.
“When I came, I wanted to sleep – I was tired! But that clock – it kept me constantly moving towards the Geula. How can you sleep when you have a clock that reminds you every moment that we are a moment closer to the Geula Shelaima? So I danced all night!”
Rav Michel Twerski adds: This clock of the Holy Chozeh represents something that we learned about, something which has the capacity to do two opposite things: the Parah Aduma [the red heifer], which defiles the pure, and purifies the defiled. For all of us, life presents many opportunities. For some of us, they turn into problems. We look at them – another problem, another nail into our hide, another difficulty, barrier, obstacle; another cause for sorrow, sadness; another area to drain us of our energy. And because we take that attitude, it cripples us; it turns into a shackle which won’t release us.
On the other hand, there are people who have very much the same kinds of challenges and tests. To them, they are opportunities, doors, gates – into bigger and better things – developing new strengths, insights; commanding new perspectives, and ways for us to be able to rise above the things that challenge our way in life. The same test – trial – tribulation; but attitude makes all the difference.
For some of us, those tests are the “tick in the clock,” which is a tick of despair, a sound of life wasted. For others, it brings us closer to our own Geula, to redeeming all of the potential and all of the resources in ourselves. Something else to bring out the kochos hanefesh [soul powers] that we have. It’s one move closer to our own personal Geula, and ultimately, through us, a contribution to the Geula Shelaima.