It was the
evening of the Festival of Rejoicing in the Torah. That evening the rabbi's
house of study was full of bright lights, every light fixture glowing with a
radiance from On high. Righteous and saintly Hasidim clothed in white robes
of pure silk, with Torah scrolls in their arms, circled the pulpit, dancing
with holy fervor and enjoying the pleasures of the Torah.
A number of Hasidim
as well as ordinary householders get the privilege of dancing with
them, and they cling to the sacred Torah and to those who selflessly
obey the Torah, and they forget all anger and all disputes and all
kinds of troublesome trivialities. And their young children form an
outer circle around them, each child carrying a colored flag, red
or green or white or blue, each flag inscribed with letters of gold.
On top of each flag is an apple, and on top of each apple a burning
candle, and all the candles glow like planets in the mystical "field
of sacred apples." And when young boys or girls see their father
receive this honor, carrying a Torah Scroll in his arms, they immediately
jump toward him grasping the Scroll, caressing, embracing, kissing
it with their pure lips that have not tasted sin; they clap their
hands and sing sweetly, "Happy art thou, O Israel," and
the fathers nod their heads toward the children, singing, "Ye
holy lambs." And the women in the outer lobby feast their eyes
on this exalted holiness.
When the seventh
round of the procession around the pulpit is reached, the cantor takes
a Torah Scroll to his bosom and calls out to the youths; "Whoever
studies the Torah let him come and take a Torah Scroll," and
a number of fine youths come and take scrolls in their arms.
the cantor calls out again. "The distinguished young man, Raphael, is
honored with the honor of the Torah, and with the singing of a beautiful melody."
Raphael came forward, went to the ark, accepted the Scroll from the cantor,
and walked at the head of the procession. The elders stood and clapped their
hands, adding to the rejoicing. The children stood on the benches chanting
aloud, "Ye holy lambs" and waving their flags over the heads of
But when Raphael
began to sing his melody all hands became still, and everyone stood
motionless without saying a word. Even the older Hasidim whose saintly
way in prayer and in dancing with great fervor is like that of the
ancient sage Rabbi Akiba of whom it is
told that when he prayed by himself, his bowing and genuflecting were
so fervent that "if when you left him he was in one corner, you
found him in another corner at the next moment"
even they restrained themselves with all their might from doing this.
They did not lift a hand to clap because of the ecstatic sweetness,
even though their hearts were consumed with fire. The women leaned
from the windows of the women's gallery, and their heads hung out
like a flock of doves lined up on the frieze of a wall.
the Scroll in his arm, walking in the lead with all the other youths following
him in the procession around the pulpit. At that moment a young girl pushed
her way through the legs of the dancers, leaped toward Raphael, sank her red
lips into the white mantle of the Torah Scroll in Raphael's arm, and kept
on kissing the Scroll and caressing it with her hands. Just then the flag
fell out of her hand, and the burning candle dropped on Raphael's clothing.
After the holiday
Raphael's father brought an action before the rabbi against the girl's
father in the matter of Raphael's robe that had been burned because
of the girl. The rabbi, indulging himself in the pleasure of a wise
remark, said to the girl's father, "God willing, for their wedding
day you will have a new garment made for him." Immediately they
brought a decanter of brandy and wrote the betrothal contract. And
for Raphael and Miriam's wedding, anew garment was made for him.
This is the story
of the melody.
Stories, ed. Nahum Glatzer, translated by Isaac Franck (NY: Schocken,
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