Moshe The Care Collector

Written by The Heileger Chana Chaya


In the desert, there was One Man who spoke to God, One Man who ascended to the Heavens, One Man whose hands touched the Torah. There was One Man who took each person’s cares and made them his own. People in the desert would wait in line for days to get his counsel. Moshe Rabbeinu was the Care-Collector for Bnai Yisroel. He really listened and really cared.  The seventh of Adar is the anniversary of our teacher, Moshe Rabbeinu’s birth and of his death.

 This story is of a more recent Care-Collector, also named Moshe. Parts of this story are gleaned from my storytelling journey and rewritten to shed light on Moshe Rabbeinu, as the Care-Collector.


The story:

In a village bustling with activity, there was a shook (marketplace) that was surrounded by beautiful gardens. In a special part of the shook all of the collectors gathered. These were people who earned their parnasa (living) collecting things that other people had thrown out. These collectors discovered that once you had enough “stuff” that you felt you should throw out, or enough stuff that others threw out, those things became valuable again. They become a “collection.”


The people of the shtetle who became customers developed the notion that if something was for sale, then it must be worth buying. This belief facilitated the marketing efforts of the collectors.


One collector had a fabulous supply of candlesticks made of glass, ceramic and even clay. She attracted attention to them by lighting colored candles in them that sparkled great light. Another collector had a cartload of odd-sized shoes. She often commented how odd in size and shape people's feet were, so sooner or later her odd assortment of shoes would be distributed to the appropriate feet.


And there was the woman with various socks collected from the clothes driers of various houses. Somehow the lone socks often found their pair once purchased by a customer. There were yarmulke collectors, challah cover collectors sand challah tray collectors, scroll collectors and book collectors, crock pot collectors and tichel collectors. There were even left over potato kugel collectors and who can forget those who collected last year’s shmura matza? All in all, it was an amazing collection of collectors.


One day an old, bearded man named Moshe came wandering into the shtetle. “Where is the collectors’ shook?” he asked several people as he was getting closer. He had on his shoulders a large backpack, but didn't seem to be burdened by its weight. Eventually, he found the shook where the collectors collected, and he established himself in one far corner.


The collectors quickly discovered there was a new collector in the shook. They gathered around Moshe, “What do you have in your backpack?” they eagerly inquired. He took it off his shoulders and opened the pack, showing them nothing more than his tallis and tefillin, his prayer book, his lunch and a raincoat in case it rained. "You mean, you don't have a collection of some kind?" they asked. "Aren't you a collector?"  


"Oh, indeed," he said, "I'm very much a collector. But what I collect does not fit in a pack or a box. I collect people's cares."  


“How strange is that?” they mumbled amongst themselves. They asked him to explain. "Well, you see, I discovered long ago that one of the things everybody has too many of and constantly tries to get rid of, are cares. What I man by cares are tsuris, worries, burdens, sorrows, difficult times like a farshlepteh krenks (chronic ailment)  a person may have. Cares are all kinds of things that weigh a person down and make his/her life sad and cause pain. So I collect these cares from the people and they feel better. It’s that simple!”


Some of the regular collectors who heard what Moshe was saying were of the opinion that it was a silly belief and possibly one that was dangerous to their honored profession. They even considered reporting Moshe to the collector police.


Old Moshe didn't seem to harm anyone, though, so they left him alone. Soon enough, someone asked him how he collected cares, and he told them, "Well, there is probably some tzuris in your life right now that makes you say oy vay and really bothers you - some care that you have. So, just tell me about it and I will add it to my collection."


"But how will that help me?" the person asked. "Can you make the problem go away just by my telling you about it?"   "No," Moshe, the care-collector replied, "but you will feel better about it. Try it."


So the man told old Moshe about something that was a problem. When the story was finished, Moshe, the care-collector, nodded his head as if to show he understands. Then he cupped his hands together with a scooping up something heavy movement putting the problem into his pack.


"There, I have put it away,” the care-collector told him. “How do you feel?"


"Why, I do feel better. I think I can handle the problem much better now. This really works!"


Word got around. Eventually, Moshe had lines of people waiting to give their cares to the care-collector. His corner eventually became the most popular area in the shook.


Months passed. One day a woman came into the shtetle appearing to be very dejected. She walked very slowly and laboriously with great difficulty. Oy oy oy! She cried with the burden that she was carrying.


The villagers who saw her brought her right to Moshe, the Care-Collector. Moshe gave his usual schpeil explaining to her what kind of collector he was. Upon hearing that, the woman began to wail:


"Oh, you don't know how many cares and burdens and wounds there are in this world. I have just come from the city where there are more hurts and cares than anywhere else. Everyone suffers and no one has any hope left. The worst part is that the rulers of the city gave all of the money to the rich people and the others can’t get medical care that is needed and many are losing their homes, The rich and the rulers are thriving and prospering and blaming everything on the common people. It is a horrible, desperate place. I just had to leave. It was the only hope I had left.”


A somber looking Moshe, the Care Collector stood up. He slowly and painfully picked up his backpack and put it on his shoulders. He remained silent for a very long time. Then: "I must go there."


The villagers and the woman put up a great protest. They didn't want to lose their Care-Collector. And they feared that the city might be too much for old Moshe. They begged him, “Please stay with us. Don’t go!”


But, Moshe, the Care-Collector slipped away in the middle of the night, because he didn't want his departure to be a burden and a sorrow for the people he had helped.


Not long after that, a weary and burdened young man came into the village. The people knew without asking that he'd come from the city. They helped him as best they could, and when he was feeling better, they asked him if he knew about Moshe, the Care-Collector, who had left for the city several weeks ago.


"Know him!" the youth replied. "The whole city has been talking about him. Haven't you heard?"


“No, we haven’t" the people chimed back, "Tell us what happened."


"This old man came quietly into the city and nobody noticed him, at first. Then once in a while you could see him talking to people - mostly listening, really. When a person finished talking to him, the old man would bow his head and do a weird thing with his hands and the person would begin to feel better."


"For the first time in a long while," the young man continued, "people in the city began to feel better and have a bit of hope for their own lives."


"Yes, we know. He did that here, too," the villagers told him.


"Well, it didn't take long for the authorities to notice him. They told him to leave and to stop meddling in other people's lives. But the old man simply refused to obey them." The young man's eyes began dripping tears. His voice sounded soft and stuck in his throat. He continued, "They put him in jail, at first. But even in jail, he collected the cares of the other prisoners. Finally, the rulers decided that he was a subversive threat to their system of order and control. So they had him executed."


The villagers gasped. Many cried. All ripped a piece of clothing they were wearing as a sign of their great mourning for this great man.


"I am so sorry to bring you this sad news about your friend," the youth told them. "He was my friend also. He really, genuinely cared about me."


The youth went on. "I feel better for telling you, painful as it is for us all. You know, it is like what he did before he died his listening and collecting cares." The boy’s voiced trailed off as an idea began to lighten his burden.


"It still works!" he exclaimed. "Collecting cares still works! You can do it for me, and I can do it for you. Moshe the care collector just showed us how!"


The young man jumped up, filled with new energy and strength. "I'm going back to the city!"


But what will you do there?" asked several villagers in unison. "You'll get hurt again. There are too many cares and burdens in that city."


"Exactly! Exactly!" he continued. "That's why I'm going. I will become a care-collector.


Moshe Rabbeinu, our teacher, took the time to be present for each person who brought their cares to him. Now we can all emulate Moshe Rabbeinu and collect the cares of others. We can be there for each other


Copyright © 2010 COPYRIGHT CHANA KLEIN. All rights reserved.



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