The dark clouds of WWII had finally passed. Remnants of European Jewry were slowly recovering from the Nazi horror, and making their way to Eretz Yisrael, where they hoped to begin a new life. One of these unfortunates was Reb Velvel. Reb Velvel’s entire family had been consumed by the crematorium, and he was left alone in the world.
After making his way to Eretz Yisrael, he began to wander aimlessly through the streets of Jerusalem, gripped with hopelessness and despair. For him there was no hope of a fresh start; he felt that all meaning in his life had gone up in smoke, destroyed together with his loved ones in the concentration camps.
One day, Reb Velvel happened to wander into the shuk. He was oblivious to the shouts and cries of the peddlers and customers in the marketplace; he wandered down the street, locked in his lonely world.
As he walked, out of the corner of his eye, he noticed a young boy moving furtively along. The boy ducked into a corner and snatched some food from a pushcart. Reb Velvel stared at the boy. He noticed the tattered clothes, the thin pinched face, the hopeless look in his eyes. Reb Velvel stopped in his tracks. In his mind’s eye, he imagined that he was looking at himself-this boy was also alone in the world.
As the boy dashed away from the pushcart, Reb Velvel ran after him.
“What’s your name?” he asked, panting as he finally caught up with him.
The boy looked at him fearfully. “M-M-Meshulam,” he stammered. Tears of fright began to well up in his eyes.
Reb Velvel smiled reassuringly. “Don’t worry, I won’t hurt you,” he said gently. “Just tell me why you took the food.”
“I’m so hungry!” Meshulam wailed, and he burst into tears.
Reb Velvel held Meshulam and waited for the boy to calm down. “Where do you live?” he asked him finally.
Meshulam hung his head. “I have no family,” he whispered. “They all died in the war. I sleep in the Beis Midrash*.”
Reb Velvel took Meshulam’s hand. “I also lost my family. Why don’t you live with me? That way, together, we’ll be less lonely.”
And so, a new chapter began for the lonely man and the orphan boy. The two of them grew so close, and so dependent upon each other, that they were almost insperable. Reb Velvel used to carry Meshulam on his shoulders wherever he went. He continued to wander the streets, but now he was no longer alone on his journeys, and his bearing as walked became straighter and more erect. For Meshulam, Reb Velvel was the father figure who provided for him and protected him. Reb Velvel realized that he could no longer spend his days wandering the streets of the city. With Meshulum to care for, he would have to find a way to provide a livelihood. And so he hired himself out as a day-worker. Every day, he would go to plow the fields, with a song on his lips and Meshulum sitting happily on his shoulders.
One hot summer day, a passerby remarked at the unusual site of a boy perched upon a worker’s shoulders. “Wouldn’t it be easier if the boy sat and watched you?” he asked.
“Not at all,” Reb Velvel said emphatically. “You probably think that I am holding up the boy. In reality, though, it is the boy who is supporting me!”