From Partners with God by Gila Gevirtz
Once there was a rabbi named Zusya who loved God with all his heart and soul, and who treated all God’s creatures with respect and kindness. Rabbi Zusya studied Torah, kept Shabbat, visited the sick, and praised God for all the goodness in the world. Though he was not a rich man, Zusya gave generously to those in need. Students came from far and near, hoping to learn from this gentle and wise rabbi. Zusya often told his students, “Listen to the still, small voice inside you. Your neshamah will tell you how you must live and what you must do.”
Each day Rabbi Zusya”s students came to the House of Study, called the Bet Midrash, eager to learn what they could from him. One day, Zusya did not appear at the usual hour. His students waited all morning and through the afternoon. But Zusya did not come. By evening his students realized that something terrible must have happened. So they all rushed to Zusya’s house. The students knocked on the door. No one answered. They knocked more loudly and peered through the frost-covered windows. Finally, they heard a weak voice say, “Shalom aleichem, peace be with you. Come in.” The students entered Rabbi Zusya’s house. In the far corner of the room they saw the old rabbi lying huddled in bed, too ill to get up and greet them.
“Rabbi Zusya!” his students cried. “What has happened? How can we help you?”
“There is nothing you can do,” answered Zusya. “I’m dying and I am very frightened.”
“Why are you afraid?” the youngest student asked. “Didn’t you teach us that all living things die?”
“Of course, every living thing must die some day,” said the Rabbi. The young student tried to comfort Rabbi Zusya saying, “Then why are you afraid? You have led such a good life. You have believed in God with a faith as strong as Abraham’s. and you have followed the
commandments as carefully as Moses.”
“Thank you. But this is not why I am afraid,” explained the rabbi. “For if God should ask me why I did not act like Abraham, I can say that I was not Abraham. And if God asks me why I did not act like Rebecca or Moses, I can also say that I was not Moses.” Then the rabbi said, “But if God should ask me to account for the times when I did not act like Zusya, what shall I say then?”
The students were silent, for they understood Zusya’s final lesson. To do your best is to be yourself, to hear and follow the still, small voice of your own neshamah.