RADZYN, Poland 1889

The orderly line belied the people waiting in it. Erev Shabbos was always a busy time outside the Rebbe's study, but this morning was unordinary.

Mottel extended his head around the old man in front of him to calculate how long he'd have to wait. Ahead of him, payyis dangled and swayed with the men who read tehillim in preparation for their consultation.

What, he wondered, could be more important than what he had to discuss? Was there anybody as plagued by misfortune as he was?

Mottel shuddered at the thought, and his impatience was momentarily abated by his shame. If he was to be granted yichud with his holy master, he knew he must approach it humbly. In the short meeting, he’d be obligated to express why he needed money to buy food for Shabbos, more than any of the other worthy souls of Radzyn needed it, and present his reason for taking such extreme measures to try and earn it. Mottel was nervous, and his mind balked at confronting what he already knew in the deepest parts of where his intentions were conceived: that his reason was neither humble nor selfless, but desperate, small, and confused.

Realizing his wait was no more than an opportunity to prepare, Mottel reached for his book of Psalms and tried to focus his mind away from his nerves and towards the task at hand.

Suddenly, he felt a sharp jab in his side from the Rebbe's gabbai, who was escorting a man to the front of the line. As the convoy made its way past, the groans were audible.

"Of course," Mottel heard from behind. "How much did Issur pay for it this time?"

Every day was a process for Mottel. A process of waking up big, and being made smaller with every passing moment of not having what he wanted, of not achieving what he imagined he was in this world to achieve. His wife felt it, his children felt it, and now, standing so far from the Rebbe's door, a door so accessible to a man with so much more than he had, Mottel never felt smaller.

He buried his face in his tehillim, and braced himself. He knew that when he uttered even one word, they would all pour out of him.

"Please," he begged. "Please, just a little koach."

He could feel his eyes swelling, and when he heard a voice booming over the others in the cramped room, he wasn't sure if it was coming from above or below.

"Mottel?" he heard, suddenly. "Where is Mottel? The Rebbe needs to see him right now!"

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