The Unforgotten Melody
HEARD BY ZALMAN BAHARAV FROM
Reb Ḥayyim, who held the lease on a nobleman's distillery, wanted a scholar for his daughter, Zippora, who had reached marriageable age. What did he do? He turned to Rebbe Eliezer, the head of the yeshivah* in the nearby city, and requested a groom: one of the young men who studied all the time, could learn a page of Gemara with the Tosafot commentary, knew how to sing, and was a God-fearing Hasid.
The rosh yeshivah complied with his supporter Reb Ḥayyim's request and picked out a student named Yaacov, who was faithful and studious, upright and melodious, with a sweet voice that captivated every heart. The rosh yeshivah gave the young man a letter, recommending him as a worthy son-in-law for the leaseholder and suggesting that the father-in-law support the scholar after the wedding until he became a householder in his own right.
The yeshivah student came to the house of his intended father-in-law and within a short time married Zippora, the daughter of Reb Ḥayyim the leaseholder. Reb Ḥayyim gave the couple their own room in his house, and Yaacov was allotted a place in the attic to study Torah. They ate their meals at the table of the well-to-do father-in-law. Within three years two children were born to them.
In this fashion, the young scholar led a comfortable and agreeable life, chanting his Gemara** melodiously and committing his learning to memory. From time to time he would travel to visit the rebbe, bringing him melodies he had heard and memorized. The rebbe used them chiefly at his public feasts, for the third Sabbath meal, and for bidding farewell to the Sabbath Queen.
Three years passed, and the period of support promised by his father-
*Jewish school of higher learning.
**Rabbinic commentaries on the Mishnah in the Talmud: colloquially referring to the Talmud.