When Napoleon’s armies approached Liadi in the summer of 1812, Rabbi Schneur Zalman, who had been active in his support of the Czar against the French emperor, was forced to flee. The Rebbe left Liadi with sixty wagons carrying his extended family and many of his Chassidim, escorted by a troupe of soldiers attached to his convoy by express order from the Czar.
The Rebbe rode in the third wagon. In the first wagon sat the Rebbe’s grandson, Rabbi Nachum, with two military officers. Whenever they would arrive at a crossroads, the entire procession would halt while Rabbi Nachum walked to the third wagon to ask Rabbi Schneur Zalman which way to proceed. At times, the Rebbe would reply without moving from his seat; other times, he would walk to the crossroads, lean on his staff, and meditate for a while before issuing his directive.
On one occasion, Rabbi Nachum erred in his understanding of the Rebbe’s instruction, and the convoy took the opposite turn. When the error was revealed, Rabbi Schneur Zalman instructed that they continue along the road already taken, but said with great regret in his voice: “How fortunate it is when the grandson follows the grandfather; how unfortunate it is when the grandfather must follow the lead of the grandson.”
Many trials and tribulations followed that wrong turn in the road, culminating in the passing of Rabbi Schneur Zalman that winter in the town of Pyena.
Adapted from the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe by Yanki Tauber.
. See WIR, vol. VI, no. 26.