A chassid came to see the Karliner Rebbe because he was depressed. “I don’t know what to do,” he said. “I’m not a good Jew. I don’t study enough, I don’t know enough; all I do is work, work, work. But I want to study more. Rebbe, I have a question. What do our great and holy rabbis study on Friday night?”
“Well,” said the Karliner, “some study Kabbalah.”
“Oh,” said the chassid, “that is not for me.”
“No,” said the Karliner, “that is not for everybody. But I am sure you study Talmud regularly. How does it go?”
“Rebbe, I am ashamed to admit it, but I do not study Talmud regularly. You see, I grew up poor. I had to work from an early age to help out my family. I did not get much of an education. I find the Talmud very difficult.”
“And if you study together with a friend?” asked the Karliner.
“My friends also work very hard; they don’t know much either. Besides, I have no time to sit in the study hall for hours. What else can I do?”
“Working hard for your family is a mitzvah,” said the Karliner. “You can study the weekly Torah reading with Rashi’s commentary and with Midrashim.”
“Oh no,” said the man. “I always found Rashi very difficult. As I told you, I hardly got an education. I struggle through the Parshah each week, but it doesn’t uplift me. I am a failure. Besides, I am really not a scholar. I prefer to work with my hands. My family is big, and I work long hours.”
“No Jew is a failure,” said the Karliner sternly. “Every Jew can learn. And every Jew should learn. I know something for you. You certainly will enjoy telling beautiful stories about our great sages and tzaddikim (righteous people) to your friends and with your family!”
“I am bad at telling stories,” objected the chassid. “I always forget the important points, I mix them up, and I am not a good talker either. Please, I can’t do that . . .”
The Karliner leaned back in his chair. He closed his eyes and he began to hum. He hummed and he swayed back and forth, and the chassid listened in amazement. This was beautiful. What a melody! And he began to sing along. He never had felt so wonderful before, so close to G‑d.
After a long time the singing stopped. The Karliner opened his eyes and looked at the chassid intently.
“Rebbe,” the chassid exclaimed, “I understand. Oh yes, I do! I don’t feel depressed any more. Thank you, thank you!”
And he went home, and every Shabbat he sang the most beautiful niggunim. But most of all, he loved the niggun of the Karliner Rebbe. And he did not feel depressed anymore.