Today is not yesterday. Isn’t that pretty obvious?

One of my favorite personalities among the great chasidic mentors is Rabbi Shmuel Betzalel Sheftel, known as Rashbatz (circa 1829–1905).

Rashbatz served as the childhood tutor of the sixth Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn (1880–1950). One of the stories he particularly enjoyed telling his young charge had an important lesson:

In a small town in Russia lived a porter who made his living by transporting people and packages to and from the train station. The porter had a young son who assisted him with his work. Every morning the two would awaken very early, recite their morning prayers, eat breakfast, prepare the horse and wagon, and hit the road. During the summer months, when the sun often rose as early as 3:00 AM, the porter and his son awoke even earlier.

The porter informed his son that today there would be no eating due to the fastA summer fast day arrived on the Jewish calendar. The porter roused his son at the usual time, and off to the synagogue they went. When they had finished praying, the porter informed his son that today there would be no eating due to the fast.

The day wore on. The son grew hungrier and hungrier. He began to ask his father incessantly when they would finally eat. Finally, the day ended and his hunger was satisfied.

The following morning, the boy refused to budge when his father tried to wake him. With an air of indignation the boy told his father, “I do not want to get up, and I do not want to work. I am afraid that you will not let me eat anything today either!”

“Ah, my son, have no fear,” replied the porter. “Today is not yesterday.”

Whenever Rashbatz told this story, he would tap his listener on the shoulder, as if to exclaim, “Get up! Get up! Today is not yesterday!”