My father was raised in the Old Country, in a place called Nujoisy, in the town of Elizabeth. His parents had come there from Israel, where he had been born. They had come to Israel from Russia shortly before his birth. They had left Russia after my grandfather’s father was murdered in a pogrom. My grandfather's family — grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins — had already been in America for a generation.

When my grandmother would get together with the extended family, she would pack a kosher lunch: they quickly nicknamed her "Sanviches." In the streets of her Jewish neighborhood, older kids would snatch the yarmulkes off the heads of her young sons — my father and my Uncle Laibel. A sneer is not a lesser challenge than a pogrom.

The previous Lubavitcher Rebbe (Rabbi Joseph Isaac Schneersohn, 1880-1950) had just escaped the Bolsheviks' death penalty and was visiting America. My grandmother took her two little boys to see him. She walked into the room and burst into tears. "How am I supposed to raise Jewish kids in aza shverre land, such a hard land?"

"It is truly a hard country, zayer a shverre land,” the Rebbe agreed, “a very hard land. But you will raise good, Jewish, and pious children in this country."

Several years later, my father and his brother, by then teenagers, were by the Rebbe. "Everything must be reckoned relative to the time and place where you are," he told them. "Your parents came from a very different place than you are now. It would not be fair to compare yourselves to them. But you also can't become a product of your surroundings. You must produce your surroundings. You're not boys from the streets. Look up to your parents, 'live towards' your parents."

My father and his brother still "live towards" their father. The Rebbe spoke to them in the early forties. I first heard the story in the early seventies, and have heard it dozens of times since. When either of them tells the story, you could think it happened ten minutes ago.

"These are the generations of Isaac, son of Abraham; Abraham gave birth to Isaac." The parshah seems repetitive, until the great commenter, Rashi, distinguishes the convergent energies vital to education: children "living towards" their parents, parents living for their children. Sandwiched in between is Yiddishe and Chassidishe nachas.