A Hasidic story.
Reb Meir of Premishlan and Reb Yisreal of Ruzhin were the best of friends, yet no two people could be more different. Reb Meir lived in great poverty. He never allowed even a penny to spend the night in his house but would rush outside to give it to the poor. Reb Yisrael, on the other hand, lived like a king.
These two friends once met as each was preparing to take a journey. Reb Meir was sitting on a simple cart drawn by one scrawny horse. Reb Yisrael was housed on a rich lacquered coach pulled by four powerful stallions.
Reb Yisrael walked over to the horse hitched to Reb Meir’s wagon. With mock concern, he inspected the horse with great care. Then he turned to his friend and with barely concealed humor said to him, “I always travel with four strong horses. In this way, if my coach should become stuck in the mud they will be able to free it quickly. I can see, however, that your horse seems barely able to carry you and your wagon on a dry and hard-packed road. There is bound to be mud on your travels. Why do you take such risks?”
Reb Meir stepped down from his wagon and walked over to his friend, who was still standing next to Reb Meir’s horse. Placing his arms around his beloved old horse’s neck, Reb Meir said softly, “The risk, I think is yours. Because I travel with this one horse that in no way can free this wagon if it becomes stuck in the mud, I am very careful to avoid the mud in the first place. You, my friend, are certain you can get free if stuck and thus do not look where you are going.” (Rabbi Rami Shapiro, Hasidic Tales)
On Rosh Hashanah it does not really matter what car we drive or even what clothes we wear. It is instead about looking at the path we are traveling and determining where we are going. It is about finding again the right path. The High Holidays are all about rediscovering this road. And if we find that we are stuck in the mud, then may these days also be about finding our way out.