The Alter Rebbe, the founder of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, lived in the bottom story of a two-story home in Liadi. His son, later to become the Mitteler Rebbe, lived on the upper floor.

Once the Mitteler Rebbe’s son fell out of the cradle in which he was sleeping and began to cry. The Mitteler Rebbe was so absorbed in his studies, he did not even hear the baby’s cries.

The Alter Rebbe was also studying. Nevertheless, he heard the baby and went upstairs to calm him. Afterwards, he reprimanded his own son. “How could you leave the baby crying?”

The Mitteler Rebbe had what he thought was a legitimate excuse and explained to his father that he simply hadn’t heard. He had been so enwrapped in the subject he was studying that he was oblivious to everything else.

The Alter Rebbe refused to accept the excuse. “You should never be so involved in your own spiritual endeavors that you fail to hear the cry of a Jewish child,” he told his son.

When the Rebbe repeated this story, he explained that there are children who cry out because of physical discomfort and others whose pain is spiritual. Sometimes, the child himself may not consciously know that he is in pain. We must, however, listen carefully and heed his call. We should never be so involved in our own spiritual refinement that we remain insensitive to the cries of others.

Parshas Vayeishev

This week’s Torah reading mentions the selling of Joseph into slavery by his brothers. When discussing this puzzling narrative, our Sages note that Reuven — the oldest of Jacob’s sons — had originally protested against selling Joseph and after discovering that he had been sold, bemoaned the pain that this would cause their father Jacob.

So where was Reuven when Joseph was being sold? Some of the Rabbis explain that he was involved in fasting and repentance in solitude. He had seriously offended his father’s honorpreviously, and from time to time would go off to lament the gravity of his offense. While he was away trying to atone for his deeds, his brothers sold Joseph.

This narrative gives us a clear perspective on how a person should order his priorities. Because Reuven was crying over his sins, Joseph was sold into slavery. By mourning the past instead of acting to correct the present, Reuven allowed his brother to be taken to Egypt.

Certainly, a person must be concerned with his own spiritual development and he must seek to correct his personal failures. But this concern should never stand in the way of steps that are immediately necessary to help his fellow man. When a person realizes that someone else is in danger — whether physically or spiritually — he should temporarily put aside his striving for self-development and deal with the pressing problem at hand.

Looking to the Horizon

The importance with which we must regard every individualalso relates to the future Redemption. In the redemption from Egypt, our Sages explain, only one Jew out of five left. Four-fifths of the people died in the plague of darkness. In the Future Redemption, by contrast, no Jew will be left behind. Every member of our people will share in Mashiach’s coming.

Why the difference? Because at the time of Mashiach’s coming, the truth of G‑dliness will be revealed. At the core of every Jew lies a soul that is “an actual part of G‑d,” a spark of His being. When the truth of G‑dliness will be revealed, every Jew will realize that G‑dliness is the truth of his own being.

By anticipating the Redemption and applying its truths to our own lives now, we can bring it closer. Realizing and focusing on the G‑dly spark within ourselves serves as a catalyst for the revelation of G‑dliness throughout existence.