A Coachmans View
Once, a group of Chassidim decided that they wished to spend Chanukah with their rebbe. The only problem was that it was already a week before the festival, and no coachman was willing to guarantee that the long and difficult journey could be made in that time.
Finally, they found Feivel, who, eager for the high price the chassidim were offering, agreed to their condition.
"If am not there by Chanukah," Feivel promised cheerfully, "you owe me nothing."
Anyway, they set out in the dead of winter and, as the father of all cynics put it, anything that could possibly go wrong, did.
One of the horses slipped on an ice patch and broke its leg.
The coach skidded off the road and had to be dug out of a snowdrift. They lost their way in the forest. You get the picture.
In short, when Feivel and his coachfull of Chassidim finally hobbled into the Rebbe's courtyard it was two weeks after Chanukah.
When Feivel realized that his passengers had no intention of paying him, he was outraged. He immediately summoned them to the town's rabbinical court.
After carefully listening to the arguments offered by both sides, the presiding rabbi ruled that the Chassidim have no obligation to pay their hapless coachman.
Now poor Feivel turned on the rabbi:
"This is justice?! Have you no heart? I work myself to the bone for a month, and I don't get anything for my trouble?"
Patiently, the rabbi tried to explain. "My dear man," he said, "I do not decide these things on my own---I can only rule by what the Torah says.
According to Torah law, if a person makes a contract and is aware of all the implications of the agreement, he is bound by it. There is absolutely no other decision I could have arrived at."
"You mean the Torah says that they don't have to pay me?" demanded Feivel.
"Yes," replied the rabbi.
"Aha!" cried the coachman triumphantly.
"Now I understand. The Torah was given on Shavuos, right? On Shavuos the roads are perfect, the days are long, the weather is beautiful. Of course! If I would have failed to make the trip in time for Shavuos, they certainly ought not to pay me. But had the Torah been given on Chanukah, it surely would have ruled in my favor!"