The Power of a Melody
HEARD BY ZALMAN BAHARAV FROM
At his receptions to bid farewell to the Sabbath Queen on Saturday night after the Sabbath, Rebbe Shneur Zalman of Lyady, the founder of Ḥabad, would relate Torah novellae and Hasidic insights to the Hasidim who were sitting around the table. Once, while he was speaking, the rebbe spied an old Jew who was not one of his close circle of Hasidim. This Jew was sitting at the corner of the table, his brow furrowed, his eyes focused on the rebbe. His face revealed the pain of a man who does not understand what he is hearing, despite his great efforts.
After Havdalah* the rebbe** called the stranger over to him. "I saw in your face, Reb Jew, that you did not understand what I was saying when bidding farewell to the Sabbath Queen."
The Jew acknowledged as much. "Holy Rebbe," he said, "when I was a small child, my parents sent me to the religious school of the best teacher in town so I could learn Torah. And indeed my soul thirsted for Torah, and I made great progress in my studies. But it was my bad luck that my parents died of an infectious disease and my relatives apprenticed me to a wagon driver. When I married, I followed the same profession. I drove a horse and wagon until I reached old age. Now I have free time, and my children (may they live) support me. So I have joined your community of Hasidim to hear words of Torah from your holy mouth. But what can I do if I cannot fathom their depth? Please guide me, sainted and revered Rebbe, in the ways of your Torah, so that I may understand them.
What did the rebbe do? He began singing a nigun.§
*The ceremony that marks the end of the Sabbath.
**A Hasidic rabbi.
§Nigun in Hebrew is melody.