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Panning For Gold

by Mr. Chaim Wilson


Library » Chassidism » Chassidic Perspective | Subscribe | What is RSS?


Somehow, I feel like a California forty-niner gold miner.

These men were living normal lives back in 1849, then they got all excited about finding gold. Heading west, they endured many hardships on their way to California, where gold was hidden under many layers of dirt and gravel.

They used different kinds of tools to pick, dig, and sift for gold. Every once in a while, they would discover a small glimmer of gold that would spur them on to dig and sift for more. The work was arduous and time consuming. But when they struck gold, there was nothing better in the world.

Yet, finding gold did not make them complacent -- they went right back to sifting through the mud and dirt to once again get close to that gold.

That's me, a California forty-niner, only a Jewish one. The thing that first got the gleam in my eye and the desire to begin a journey towards becoming a Jew was marrying Esti. I had an innate feeling there was gold somewhere. I could sniff it, but I certainly couldn't define it. So my journey began.

I endured many difficulties in culling out that feeling of gold. It's hard for me to put a frame around what "it" was. How to get started, where to start, and simple things such as knowing which questions to ask. It all seemed mind boggling and very difficult.

These obstacles were in place even before I began panning for gold. But on my journey, I began to see little tiny sparkles of gold. Those special sparkles included our Rabbi, our Shul, Shabbos spent with other Jews, lectures, books and our lovely children. Those pebbles started turning into rocks. We began to feel G-d's presence in our home. Finally, I discovered what the gold was - it was Torah, and I wanted to get at it.

That's when I decided to convert.

Today, I am still mining. The excitement of the promising boulders already found and the prospect of hitting real gold keeps me moving forward. The gold is often hidden from me by outside influences in my life, including my job. Life goes on, and the mining continues. I continue to hope for the gold at the end of the rainbow. I continue to expose the gold, I dig through the gravel using the tools of a Jewish miner: Talmud, Chumash and Tanya.

Most analogies are not perfect, particularly when they pertain to life-changing events such as mine. The imperfection in this analogy is that in my quest for the gold, the mining in itself is very rewarding and fulfilling.

I suppose that is why I am so drawn to Chassidic philosophy. Rather than provide shallow or superficial explanations, Chassidic thought can go very deep. It goes to the heart of the matter, to it's very soul. It offers me a unique mining approach that is encouraging, rewarding, and joyful.

The Talmud says: "If you didn't work hard, and just found it easily, don't believe it." The mining process, the struggle to go deeper, contains its own rewards.

I guess I will always be a miner. I continue to occasionally see the gleam and find that piece of ore. Then the pebbles and the mud cover up again, and I begin my search once more.

Reprinted from


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Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Usually referring to the Babylonian edition, it is a compilation of Rabbinic law, commentary and analysis compiled over a 600 year period (200 BCE - 427 CE). Talmudic verse serves as the bedrock of all classic and modern-day Torah-Jewish literature.
(Pl.: Chassidim; Adj.: Chassidic) A follower of the teachings of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov (1698-1760), the founder of "Chassidut." Chassidut emphasizes serving G-d with sincerity and joy, and the importance of connecting to a Rebbe (saintly mentor).
Foundation text of Chabad chassidism. Authored by Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, founder of the Chabad movement, and first published in 1796. Considered to be the "Bible" of Chassidism.
(Yiddish) Synagogue.
The Five Books of Moses.
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.