John Dorfman was a simple-minded farmer. He knew how to weed his field, remove
bothersome stones, to plow the soil and sow grain. Then he would water the field, spread
fertilizer, and eventually reap his grain, gather it in sheaves. When it was dry, he would go out to the
fields with his cart and horse, and harvest his crop with pride.
One year, John’s field produced a bumper crop. That autumn, when the sheaves of grain were
dry and ready for harvesting, John took his cart out to the field and heaped it
high with ripe grain.
He clucked to the horses and set out for the barn with an
ample load of grain and a happy heart.
Just outside the barn door, he pulled on the reins. The horse stopped, and John jumped down to
open the door. Back up on the driver’s
seat, he signaled the horse to enter the barn.
The horse advanced a few steps, but just as John was blinking to get
used to the dim light inside the barn, the cart came to a halt.
John gave a cry of surprise. What was wrong with the foolish horse? He signaled again and again, and his faithful
beast pulled harder and harder, but the cart would not budge. Was there something in the way that John
couldn’t’ see? He jumped down to have a
No, there was nothing blocking the horse from moving
further inside. He pulled at the horse
to guide it forward, and it strained to obey, but the cart just wouldn’t move
He decided to look at the wheels – no problem there. What could it be? The horse was just being
Again he climbed up onto the wagon, and started whipping
the poor beast in an effort to force it to pull the cart forward.
Just then, old Henry the peddler happened by. A friendly fellow, known for his wry sense of
humor, the older man stopped to survey the situation and offer some friendly
“Why use the whip on your poor horse?” he asked
John. “Can’t you see that the load you
have heaped up on the cart is higher than the doorway to the barn? It’s not the horse’s fault that you can’t get
the wagon inside. It just won’t go, so
long as you have such a high heap of grain on it.”
For the first time, John looked up. Henry was right! The heap of grain was too high to go through
the door of the barn! Of course his
horse couldn’t take another step forward!
His blessing – the unusually large crop this year – was keeping the
wagon outside the door!
He was at a total loss.
“What should I do?” moaned John.
“I must get this grain inside before it rains!”
Henry laid down the heavy satchel he was carrying. “Don’t worry,” he told the distressed
farmer. “I have something here that will
solve your problem in a wink!”
He fumbled around in the bag of goods for a minute or
two. “Ah! Here it is!” he exclaimed. He withdrew a black object and held it up for
John to examine. “It’s called
binoculars,” he told John. “When you
look at something, like this …” – he
held it up to his own eyes, to demonstrate – “it makes everything bigger! Just look at the entrance to your barn
through these binoculars, so the door will be larger and the cart will easily
have room to pass through it.”
“Is that so!” exclaimed John, amazed, but not fully
convinced. “Here, let me try it a
“But first you must pay me,” Henry demanded. The two haggled over the price and came to an
agreement. Henry accepted the payment in
full, pocketed the coins, gave the binoculars a thorough wiping with his
handkerchief, and presented them ceremoniously to the distraught farmer.
“Well, now that your problem is solved, I think I’ll be
off,” Henry told John as he laced up his bag of goods. “Keep well, John. I hope you get a top price for all your
John was too busy with his new binoculars to do more than
mumble his good-bye. He held the
binoculars in one hand, and looked long and hard at the pile of wheat on the
cart. With the other hand, he tugged at
the reins and tried to get the horse to draw the cart into the barn. When the horse didn’t budge, he tried his whip,
but the poor beast just refused to move.
John gave up, and rushed out to complain to Henry. The peddler was already on the other side of
the gate, but John hailed him and poured out his anger. “Hey, wait a minute! It doesn’t work! I looked at the door and concentrated on it,
but the wagon still won’t go in. What
good are these binoculars of yours! Give
me my money back!”
Henry shook his head.
“You’re making a mistake, John.
You need to look at the door through this end of the binoculars, to make
it bigger, and then, you turn them around and look through the other end. That will make everything smaller. Look at the grain that way, until the load is
small enough to go through the door, and your problem will be solved.”
John decided to try it out. He turned over the binoculars, as instructed,
and peered through them again. Henry
watched him just long enough to see him smile when everything did, indeed
appear smaller. Then the wily peddler
snatched up his bag of goods, and disappeared from sight.
John continued to use his field glasses as Henry had
taught him. With the other hand, he
tried once more to get his load into the barn.
The horse still did not respond.
Even the whip could not convince it to pull the wagon through the door.
“Hey, Henry, it doesn’t work!” John called out, still
peering through the binoculars. In his
frustration, he lashed out again and again at the poor horse.
When that didn’t help, he started flipping the binoculars
from one end to the other, focusing alternately on the door and then on the
load, and trying once again to convince the worn beast to maneuver the load
into the barn.
That was how Morstan, his friend found him when he rode
up to John’s house to ask for the loan of his hacksaw.
“What are you up to, there?” he asked in surprise. “Why are you flogging that poor beast of
“Hello, Morstan!” answered john with a start. “When did you come?” He proceeded to pour out the story of how he
had been trying for the better part of an hour to get the first load of his harvest
into the barn. “It just won’t go!” he
moaned. “And on top of it, I gave Henry
so much money for nothing!”
“Those binoculars are not going to help you one whit,”
sympathized Morstan. “They make
something appear to be smaller or bigger, but in actual fact, nothing has
changed by even a hairsbreadth.”
John was broken. “Then
what am I going to do?” he whimpered. “I
must somehow get this wagonload inside!”
“Easy as pie!” his friend comforted him. “Just climb up and take off a row or two of
sheaves of wheat, and then the cart will easily pass through the door
effortlessly, just as it is.”
When we draw near to the Day of Judgment, we come with a
cartload of misdeeds and shortcomings.
We sit calmly on the driver’s seat, fully confident that our wagon will
pass through the gates of mercy and forgiveness without difficulty.
Why are we so calm and confident?
Because, like John, we look at the load heaped upon the
wagon through the binoculars the yetzer horoh (the evil inclination) has
finagled us into using to view our faults.
“I didn’t really mean it,” we tell ourselves. “I don’t always do it,” or “There are lots of
good things I did, so why concentrate on my mistakes?”
When it comes to our misdeeds, we are very skillful at
making things appear much smaller. But
when we choose to look at the heavenly Gates of Mercy, we flip our binoculars
around in the other direction, to make everything seem larger than it really is. Now we have even more reason to be calm and
tell ourselves that everything will be all right. Our cart will certainly get through the door,
with its entire load intact.
The only solution is to put aside our binoculars, and get
to work. We need to start taking
misdeeds and undesirable traits off of the cart, one by one. Nothing else will help.
Then we can, indeed, be certain that our cart will carry
us through the gates of mercy and forgiveness’ to a new year of blessing and