I Met the Cossack

In the old days, in the old country, when there was persecution, when there were the pogroms, in a small shtetl there was a rabbi who used to go down to the temple to pray every Friday afternoon. As he went, he had to pass by the Cossack Captain who was the head of what you would call the local police, if so polite a term could be used for such a one. Every time the rabbi passed, the Cossack Captain would glower at him angrily, but he never said a word, nor did the rabbi. this went on for several years, just like that.

Then, one day as the rabbi passed, the Cossack Captain spoke–

“You, rabbi! Where are you going!” he asked with scornful arrogance.

“I don’t know,” the rabbi replied with a shrug and a rueful smile.

The other was infuriated. “What! I see you go to the temple to pray every Friday afternoon for years, and today you tell me you don’t know where you’re going!”

“I’m sorry,” replied the rabbi. “Today, I don’t know.”

“You’ll pay for this!” the Cossack Captain yelled, and he grabbed him, dragged him down to the jail, and threw him into a dirty cell, tumbling onto the floor. The iron bars closed on him with a clang. The rabbi calmly  got up, dusted the dirty straw off himself, and came forward to hold the bars. Looking out, he smiled again, even more ruefully than before.

“See?” he said. “You never know.”

The story isn’t original with me, but I like to remember it because life is like that.  We think we know where we’re going, we have our plans, but there’s always The Cossack. When we meet him, we need to be ready to readjust both our plans and our expectations, and especially our attitudes. What kinds of Cossacks have you met? How did you respond to them?


About jamesmatter

Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) in private practice in San Francisco. I work with adults, adolescents, and couples, with focus on substance use and abuse and co-occurring disorders (having both a mental illness and an addiction).
This entry was posted in behavioral health, change, dealing with change, handling the unexpected, happiness, humor, mindfulness, spirituality and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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