Weekly Chasidic Story #
/ 10 Shvat 5777)
When he was a young child, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, the sixth
Lubavitcher Rebbe, wondered why it took his father so long with the
prayers, which even he, a boy of five, knew so well and could read so fluently.
Connection: Seasonal - the 67th yahrzeit of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak,
and the 184th yahrzeit of his paternal grandmother, Rebbetzin Rivka Shneersohn,
wife of the 4th Rebbe.
Even at the tender age of five, the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef
Yitzchak Schneersohn (the "Rayatz"), had a fixed
daily schedule. At eight o'clock in the morning, he jumped out of bed, and half
an hour later he was in the synagogue praying with the congregation. From 9:30
until 10:00 was breakfast. Then, for four hours he studied in yeshiva.
Then came lunch for an hour and another hour devoted to writing. From 4:00 until
8:00 there was yeshiva again, then supper and some free time to spend
in his room, before retiring to bed.
Shabbat, of course, was different. Most of the morning was spent praying in
shul. In addition, he had a special treat, a visit to his grandmother,
his father's mother, Rebbetzin Rikva. There he would find the elder members
of the Chasidic community, white-bearded chasidim who came to pay their respects
to the "Grand Old Rebbetzin." They would stay for a while and relate
stories about the lives of older chasidim or even of the Rebbe Maharash,
the Previous Rebbe's grandfather (Rebbetzin Rikva's husband).
When everybody went home to eat the Shabbat meal, the boy would go back to the
shul. There all the worshippers had long since finished their prayers
and gone home - all except his father, the Rebbe Rashab. He sat with his head
near the ark. He was still praying. Once, the boy approached his father quietly
in order to listen to his prayers. His father prayed very slowly, as if he were
counting the words. Sometimes he paused, and then would slowly continue.
The Rebbe's son wondered why it took his father so long with the prayers, which
even he, a boy of five, knew so well and could read so fluently. But his heart
throbbed as he listened to the soulful melody which his father hummed now and
again, and the singsong of the words.
He asked his uncle, Rabbi Zalman Aaron, his father's brother. "Why does
Father pray so slowly?"
His uncle smiled as he answered with a twinkle in his eyes, "Your father
finds it difficult to read the words from the siddur very quickly. He has to
say each word separately, and can't pray very fast. That's why it takes him
The boy turned away without saying another word. But he felt a deep pain and
a burning shame that his father couldn't pray more fluently.
The following Shabbat, he silently approached his father and listened carefully.
His father was saying the Shema. "Shema Yisrael..." His father
said slowly, then he paused. The son was startled to hear his father sobbing.
His father said another couple of words, and sobbed again, and when he said
"Hashem Echad - G-d is One" the words seemed to burst from his heart,
with a flood of tears.
The son couldn't listen any more. His heart was bursting with pity for his father.
He went home, and with tears in his eyes, appealed to his mother, "Mother,
Father is crying in the shul. Why does he pray so slowly, and why is
he crying? Come, see for yourself. I can't bear it."
"There is nothing to be worried about," his mother consoled her little
son. "Go to your grandmother and tell her about it. She is a very wise
lady, maybe she will be able to explain it to you."
The boy lost no time and went to his grandmother, certain that the wise, old
Rebbetzin would find a remedy to help his father learn to read the prayers more
quickly, perhaps even as quickly as all the other Jews in the synagogue.
When he came to his grandmother, the child told her about his poor father's
difficulty saying the prayers. "Mother said that you could do something
about it," he concluded hopefully.
Grandmother looked at him seriously and said, "Your father is a great chasid
and a righteous man. Before he reads any word from the prayerbook, he thinks
about it carefully. What it means and to Whom he is saying it. And when he thinks
about the holy words of the prayers, his heart is filled with love for G-d,
just as a son loves his dear father who is near and yet far away. So your father
longs to be closer to Him and the tears just come. I cannot tell you more now,
but when you grow older you will understand this better, and you will know how
With his grandmother's explanation, the boy felt as if a tremendous weight came
off his heart. So it wasn't that his father couldn't read the prayers quickly.
It was because his father was such a great person that he prayed differently.
Yes, he realized that his father was different, in the way he spoke, the way
he acted, the way he studied, the way he prayed. That very day, the Rebbe Rayatz
recounted, he resolved that as the only child of such a great person, he too
must act differently, to merit being his child.
Source: Adapted and supplemented by Yerachmiel Tilles from //LChaimWeekly.org,
(#878), with permission.
Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn [of blessed memory: 12 Tammuz 5640 -
10 Shvat 5710 (Jan. 1880-June 1950 C.E.)], known as the Rebbe Rayatz,
was the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, from 1920 to 1950. He established a network
of Jewish educational institutions and Chassidim that was the single most significant
factor for the preservation of Judaism during the dread reign of the communist
Soviets. In 1940 he moved to the USA, established Chabad world-wide headquarters
in Brooklyn and launched the global campaign to renew and spread Judaism in
all languages and in every corner of the world, the campaign continued and expanded
so remarkably successfully by his son-in-law and successor, Rabbi Menachem Mendel
Rabbi Sholom-Dovber Schneersohn [of blessed memory: 20 Cheshvan 5621
- 2 Nissan 5680 (Oct. 1860 - April 1920)], known as the Rebbe Rashab,
was the fifth Rebbe of the Lubavitcher dynasty. He is the author of hundreds
of major tracts in the exposition of Chasidic thought.
Rebbetzin Rivka Schneerson (1833- 10 Shvat 1914) a maternal granddaughter
of Rabbi DovBer, the 2nd Rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch, at age 16 married her first
cousin, Rabbi Shmuel, who later became the fourth Lubavitcher Rebbe. Surviving
her husband by 33 years, for many years she was the esteemed matriarch of Lubavitch,
and chasidim frequented her home to listen to her accounts of the early years
of Lubavitch. She is the source of many of the stories recorded in the talks,
letters and memoirs of her grandson, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak (the sixth Lubavitcher
Rebbe). Today's Beis Rivka network of girls' schools, founded by Rabbi Yosef
Yitzchak in the 1940's, are named after her.
Connection: Seasonal-the 67th yahrzeit of the Rayatz, and the 184th
yahrzeit of his paternal grandmother, the Rebbetzin Rivka Schneersohn.
Tilles is co-founder and associate director of Ascent-of-Safed, and chief editor
of this website (and of KabbalaOnline.org). He has hundreds of published stories
to his credit, and many have been translated into other languages. He tells
them live at Ascent nearly every Saturday night.
To receive the Story by e-mail every Wednesday--sign
"Festivals of the
(Under the Full Moon" vol 2 - holiday stories)
is now available
for purchase from ASCENT
* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *
Book 1 of Yerachmiel Tilles's 3-volume set,
"Saturday Night, Full Moon",
is also available for purchase on
Important notice: Due
to a change in publishers, both
books will no longer be available online or in stores
until November --
ONLY THROUGH US!
back to Top back
to this year's Story Index Stories
home page Stories Archives