Elevated Spirits

Shalom Aleichem!

Mazel tov to Menachem & Batzione Brody on the birth of their first child, Esther Miriam. Mazel tov to the grandparents Dr. & Mrs. Moshe Snow.

* * *
It was Shabbat of the Torah portion Lech Lecha, 1890, and Rabbi Yosef Y. Schneerson entered his father’s study. Ten years old at the time, little Yosef Yitzchak went to speak with his father, the fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe, before the morning prayers.

He found his father sitting at his table in elevated spirits. He was reviewing the weekly Torah portion — and tears were streaming down his face.

The young boy was confused: How were these two emotions possible at the same time? On the one hand, his father was clearly in elevated spirits, yet on the other hand, he was crying.

He wanted to ask his father to explain what was going on, but was not bold enough to do so.

During the winter of that year, the boy’s father, Rabbi Sholom Dovber Schneerson, would test his son every Motzaei Shabbat (Saturday night) on what he had learned that week. After each exam, Rabbi Sholom Dovber would give his son a “treat,” consisting of a Chassidic story, to which he would add an explanation of the lesson it contained. Sometimes, he would give the “gift” of delivering a Chassidic discourse for his son.

The same thing happened at the conclusion of this particular Shabbat. His father tested him, and gave him the gift of the recitation of a Chassidic discourse, a mystical exposition on the meaning of Chanukah that Rabbi Sholom Dovber had delivered publicly eight years earlier.

“I so desperately yearned to know why my father was crying that morning while he read the Torah portion,” recounted Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak years later, “and how he could simultaneously be in such elevated spirits. I couldn’t decide whether or not to ask him.”

“Why are you just standing there?” his father suddenly asked. “If you have something to say, say it!”

Little Yosef Yitzchak asked his father about what he saw that morning.

“The tears were tears of joy,” replied his father. Continuing, he explained, “One day, in the early years of the leadership of the Alter Rebbe (the first Chabad Rebbe), he said that ‘we must live with the times.’ His Chassidim didn’t know what he meant by this, so they asked his brother, who explained that ‘living with the times’ meant to live with the Torah portion of the week. Every day of every week, we should ‘live’ with the Torah portion of that day.

“You see, the first portion of the Torah, Bereishit, is a joyous one. After all, the Almighty G-d created the world and everything in it, and was pleased with His creations. However, the conclusion of that portion (i.e., the moral corruption of humankind), is not so good. Overall, Bereishit is a joyous portion, and Jews across the world rejoice at having once again started reading the Torah from the beginning.

“The second portion, Noah, however, contains the Flood. It’s a gloomy week. Yet, the portion concludes with the birth of Abraham, a joyous event indeed.

“The first truly joyous week is this week, Lech Lecha. Each and every day of the week, we read about — and live with — our Forefather Abraham. He was the first person to give of himself, to the extent of self-sacrifice, to spread awareness of the One G-d. He bequeathed this self-sacrifice for Torah and Mitzvot to each and every one of us.”

And that is why the little boy’s father had wept tears of joy.

Wishing you a truly joyous week! Shabbat Shalom,