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A Small Candle

A Small Candle

''Child Prodigy'' by chassidic artist Zalman Kleinman
"Child Prodigy" by chassidic artist Zalman Kleinman

Yisrolik was a young Jewish boy who just loved to learn Torah. At the age of seven, he was already so advanced that he "graduated" from learning with his teachers and began individual lessons with the rabbi of the town. In a very short time, he no longer needed even these lessons, but spent his time learning alone. He turned to the rabbi for help only when he came across a difficult text in the Talmud.

Yisrolik was such an ardent student, that he was ready to learn day and night. His father, Reb Shabse, was worried that his son would get sick from too much study and insufficient rest and sleep.

At first, Reb Shabse tried to insist that his son should leave the beit hamidrash (study hall) at a certain time. But when Yisrolik sat down and began to study the Talmud, he forgot about everything else, even about his promise to his father. Very often his father had to go out late in the night to bring him home. So Reb Shabse arranged with the shamash (caretaker) that when Yisrolik came to study after supper, he should give him one candle by which to learn, which should burn not more than one hour. When the candle would burn out, Yisrolik would have to go home and stay home till it was time for him to go to bed.

That evening, after supper, Yisrolik went to learn as usual. More than an hour passed and Yisrolik had not yet come home. Reb Shabse became worried. He tried to tell himself that Yisrolik must have gone to the rabbi about some problem in his studies, for he surely would not remain in the dark alone in the study hall.

But when another hour passed and Yisrolik had not yet come home, Reb Shabse hurried to the rabbi's house. Yisrolik was not there, so his father became quite alarmed. Both men then dashed off to the caretaker and woke him up. Seeing his two anxious looking visitors, the caretaker was really frightened. When they told him that Yisrolik had not returned home, he assured them that he had given Yisrolik a candle that burned only one hour, as he had been asked.

The three worried men rushed to the study hall. As they approached the beit hamidrash, they were astonished to see a light in the window. They entered and found Yisrolik sitting, deeply engrossed in the Talmud, by the light of a small candle. He sat there swaying to the rhythm of his sweet voice, completely oblivious of anything around him.

Reb Shabse could not wait and burst out, "Yisrolik! Why did you not keep your word?"

Yisrolik stopped learning and looked up in surprise.

The candle light went out at once.

"Yisrolik, what is the matter with you? How dare you put out the candle while the rabbi and father are here. That is a terrible thing to do," said his father.

"I did not put out the light," answered Yisrolik, as tears filled his eyes.

The rabbi then began to speak to Yisrolik in a serious tone, "You know, Yisrolik, that the command to honor your parents is a big mitzvah. You promised to learn only as long as the candles burns and then go home."

"The candle burned, so I sat and learned," said Yisrolik tearfully.

"But when did you get more candles, or did the caretaker not keep his word?" Reb Shabse demanded.

"What are you saying, Reb Shabse?" burst out the caretaker. "I gave him only one little candle and the rest I locked away."

Only then did the rabbi realize that something very extraordinary had happened. While the caretaker went to fetch and light another candle, and Yisrolik went to place the Talmud back on its shelf, the rabbi said to the bewildered father: "Reb Shabse, Yisrolik is a very special child. When he started to learn with such devotion, his sweet voice created great joy in heaven. Angels descended and surrounded him, catching every word that left his lips. They kept the candle burning as long as Yisrolik was learning. But when we came and interrupted, the candle light went out."

From that time onwards, Reb Shabse never stopped his son from learning as much as he desired. He believed that his saintly son would grow up to be a great luminary in the world, who would illuminate the darkness of the exile.

Yisrolik grew up to be the famous Rabbi Yisroel, the maggid of Kozshenitz, a great teacher to many.

Excerpted from The Storyteller (Kehot, NY).
Excerpted from The Storyteller by Dr Nissan Mindel, published by Kehot
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Mae Philippines August 28, 2014

Splendid! wonderful story. It warms my heart after reading this story. Reply

Sandy Midland City, Alabama December 31, 2010

Just Beautiful We should all be so ready to learn and please G-d with such innocence and purity. Reply

Marcia Chico, CA September 23, 2010

The light of devotion and learning A teacher retired from 30 years of public school teaching, I am touched deeply by the devotion of the student who cannot quit his studies and toils on. May we desire to humbly study our G-d and our duties to Him and to the Creation. Reply

Martha May 12, 2008

One of the most beautiful stories i have ever heard.

Thank you for this amazing "reminder": the everyday miracle.

To be read for inspiration ... always. And i always want more. Reply

Rac Phila, PA USA May 12, 2008

What a lovely story I have heard it said that there are no miracles (since the Dividing of the Red Sea) but who could doubt that miracles still happen. Who can explain the bombs falling on Eretz Yisrael during the first war in the early 90s, yet no one being killed? Reply

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