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Living With The Times

In 1941, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok of Lubavitch related an experience of over 50 years earlier, when he was a child of eleven:

It was early in the morning of the Shabbos in which the Torah portion of Lech-Lechais read, before the morning prayers, when I entered my father's room. I found him sitting at his table in very high spirits, reviewing the Torah reading of the week. Tears were streaming from his eyes. I was very confused, for I was unable to understand how the two come together - an elated mood and tears - but I didn't dare to ask.

That Shabbos, as every Shabbos, father prayed till late. As was his custom during winter Shabosos, he made kiddushafter praying and then went to pray mincha. After mincha, shortly before sunset, he sat to the Shabbos meal.

After Shabbos, father would test me on what I had studied during the week and on the mishnayos1 I had reviewed by heart. If he was satisfied, he would present to me a gift: either a story, whose moral he would point out and explain, or a manuscript of a maamer(discourse of chassidic teaching). This was the arrangement in winter of 1890-1.

The same took place the evening following that Shabbos Lech-Lecha: Father tested me and then gave me the discourse 'Ner Chanukah 5643' as a gift. I very much wanted to know why father had been crying, and yet in such an elevated mood, while reviewing the Torah portion that morning. I stood there in confusion, unable to decide whether I should ask or not.

Father noticed my confusion said to me: "Why do you stand there like that? If you wish to say something, say it…" I decided to ask.

Father answered me:

"Those were tears of joy."

He explained: "Once, in the early years of his leadership, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi told his chassidim: 'One must live with the times.'

"The younger chassidim asked the older ones what the Rebbe's statement meant. The elders discused the matter between themselves. (Years later, Rabbi Schneur Zalman's son and successor, Rabbi DovBer, was to elaborate on this saying in his unique style of 'binah' - a broad, comprehensive treatment of his father's nuggets of wisdom. But when Rabbi Schneur Zalman first said these words, even the great chassidim struggled to understand their meaning.) Finally, Rabbi Schneur Zalman's brother, our great-uncle Rabbi Yehudah Leib, explained what the Rebbe meant.

"'One must live with the times' means that every day one should 'live with' and experience in one's own life the Torah portion of the week and the specific section of the week's portion which is connected to that day.2

"The Rebbe's chassidim, young and old, would study the daily section of the Chumash3 with Rashi's commentary. The Rebbe was telling them: One must live withthe times. One must not only learnthe daily portion, but actually experience it in one's own life.

"The portion of Breishis," continued my father, "is a happy portion. G-d is creating universes and creatures and is satisfied 'that it is good.'4 However, the ending, which describes the corruption of humanity and G-d's 'regret' at its creation, is not so pleasant. Still in all, it is generally a happy Torah portion and in all Jewish communities there is joy and delight - we have begun the Torah anew. With the next week's reading, Noach, comes the flood. It is a depressing week, but with a happy ending - Abraham our father is born.

"But the truly joyous week" father concluded, explaining his mood that morning "is Lech-Lecha. Every day of the week we live our lives together with Abraham.

"Together with Abraham, the first to sacrifice his self to bring the message of G-dliness to the world. Together with Abraham, who bequeathed his self-sacrifice for Torah and mitzvos as an inheritance to each and every Jew."

FOOTNOTES
1. The Mishnah is a summery of Torah law, compiled in the 4th century by Rabbi Yehudah HaNassi, which forms the crux of the Talmud. as a child, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok memorized hundreds of chapters of mishnah as part of the daily scheduale and curriculum set down by his father. See A Boy And a Calf on page ---.
2. Each weekly portion is subdivided into seven sections, one for each of the seven individuals who are called to the Torah in the course of the weekly public reading in the synagogue on Shabbos. From the days of Rabbi Schneur Zalman, it has been the custom among Chabad Chassidim to study one of these sub-sections each day of the week.
3. The Five Books of Moses
4. Genesis 1:4,10,12,18,21,25,31.

 

 


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