I rarely repeat stories (not intentionally, anyway; a few have slipped
by recently as it gets harder to keep track of all 750 of them), but
this time I am happy to do so. This story sent to the list ten years
ago (and the first one I ever published professionally!) is about
a song, and I now have a link to it for you --at the end-- being sung
by the current Kaliver Rebbe. Be amazed...and enjoy! --YT
The Forest and the Rose
Shabbat had ended. Silver stars twinkled in
the black sky. The Chassidim had all returned to their homes, and
their Rebbe, Leib Sarah's (called such because of the extraordinary
deeds of his mother and the exceptional circumstances surrounding
his birth, but that's a story for another time) left his shul for
home to make havdalah for his family.
Shortly after, he returned to the shul. Agitated, he paced back and
forth, muttering "Oy, Oy" over and over again. Suddenly
he stood still, and after tremoring slightly, stated with finality:
"Whatever happens, I must do something."
Stepping outside, he summoned his driver. In a short time they were
off. The tzaddik whispered something in the driver's ear, and then
switched places with him, taking over the reins while the driver went
to sleep inside the carriage. When he woke, the sun had already risen
on Sunday morning, and he was amazed to hear from the tzaddik in the
outside driver's seat how far they had come. Even though, being the
regular driver for the tzaddik, he had experience in these miraculous-seeming
journeys, this time they had actually crossed the border and were
deep into Hungary. He could barely believe the evidence of his eyes.
* * *
Little Isaac was only ten years old, but was already the man of the
house. His father, Yusseleh, had recently passed away, and his mother
Reizel desperately needed him to help support the family. She took
whatever meager work was available to her, while little Isaac took
care of their tiny gaggle of geese.
Actually, Isaac liked his job. Every morning he rose early to pray
with the minyan in shul and say Kaddish for his father. He
would then lead the geese to one of the fields outside of town. He
loved the quiet and peacefulness there. After carefully counting his
meager charges, he would sit against the trunk of a tree and enjoy
the cool shade under its big, leafy branches.
Many thoughts would race through his little head-some joyous, some
sad. In those moments when his young soul was bursting with a variety
of different feelings, he would open his knapsack and seek the soothing
comfort provided by his beloved flute. Quickly he would extract from
it a medley of folk tunes, passed down from generation to generation
in the Hungarian countryside, all learned from the other shepherds
that he knew. Of his whole repertoire, he liked best the song whose
Forest, forest, how vast you are.
Rose, oh rose, how far you are.
If the forest were but smaller,
Then the rose would be closer.
If you would take me from this forest,
Then we could be, the two of us, together.
Whenever he played the notes of this tune, he would close his eyes
and allow the lyrics and the music to carry him off to a world of
distant pleasurable visions.
* * *
Little Isaac was momentarily startled in the midst of his song, by
the regal appearance of the bearded Jew who appeared suddenly from
behind him. "What are you doing here, little boy?" the man
asked gently. "Helping my mother by tending to our geese,"
Isaac answered. "But what about learning Torah in school like
the other boys?" the man continued.
Isaac looked away. "Not so long ago, I was still a student.
And I was doing pretty well too. But ever since my father died, I've
had to help my poor mother support our family, so I had to drop out
The tzaddik, Leib Sarah's, immediately went to visit the poor widow,
Reizel. After introducing himself, he asked her for permission to
take her Isaac away with him. "Know that your son has a very
lofty soul," he explained, "and he can become very great.
But for that he must be brought up in the right way, and that means
he has to study Torah intensively." He promised her a monthly
stipend to more than make up for any loss of income that the boy's
departure would entail.
It took a lot of entreating, but finally his mother agreed. Leib
Sarah's took little Isaac to Nicholsberg, to the Yeshiva of the great
rabbinical authority and Chassidic Rebbe, Reb Shmelke, a friend of
Leib Sarah's and one of the inner circle of disciples of the Magid
of Mezritch. He said to him: "I have brought you a special soul
from the Chamber of Melody. I hope you will help it to realize its
full potential in this world."
The boy remained in the yeshiva for many years, and
thrived and grew great in Torah and Chassidut.
* * *
Years later, when throngs of Chassidim would crowd into the shul
of the holy rebbe, Rabbi Yitzchak Isaac of Kaliv, he would
sometimes relate to them the long path of his development from a goose-tending
childhood to the present. He would also tell them about his favorite
tune when he played the shepherd's flute: the Ballad of the Forest
and the Rose.
On these occasions, he always mentioned his great debt to the tzaddik
Leib Sarah's, who went to such trouble to "discover" him
and to redeem the holy melody which had been "held captive"
"Now, however," he would always conclude, "the words
are different." The chassidim would listen intently, for the
Rebbe's musical talents were well-known.
Exile, exile, how long you are.
Divine Presence, how far you are.
If only the exile were shorter,
Then Your Presence could be closer.
If You would take us out of exile,
Then we could be, the two of us, together.
This song is still sung by Kaliver chassidim, in Hungarian, till
this very day.Indeed, here is a link to it being
sung by the current Kaliver Rebbe!
Source: Translated-adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles (and
first published in Kfar Chabad Magazine - English) from
Sichat HaShavua #528. You may pass on this email rendition to
whomever you wish as long as you give full credit, including Ascent's
email and internet addresses. The video link was first sent to me
by dear friend Yosef Ben Shlomo HaKohen (nee Jeff Obler), who passed
away this year after long illness. May he rest in peace.
Connection: Seasonal (2) -- The yahrzeit of each
of the two great rebbes in the story both fall this week.
Rabbi Leib Sarah's (1730-4 Adar 1796) was held in high
esteem by the Baal Shem Tov. One of the "hidden tzaddikim,"
he spent his life wandering from place to place to raise money for
the ransoming of imprisoned Jews and the support of other hidden tzaddikim.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe stated the possibility that Rabbi Leib Sarah's
and the Shpoler Zeide are the same person.
Rabbi Yitzchak-Isaac Taub of Kaliv (1744-7 Adar II
1821) was a leader in the dissemination of chassidism in Hungary.
He was known as "The Sweet Singer of Israel."