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The Rebbe's New Clothes

All that walk on four... (11:21)

When Rabbi Shmuel of Lubavitch was a child of seven, he asked his father: Why does man walk upright, while animals walk on all fours? Rabbi Menachem Mendel replied: "This is a kindness from G-d to man: although man treads upon the material earth, he sees the sublime heaven. Not so those that crawl on four, who see only the mundane."

On Passover of 1943, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok of Lubavitch related the following incident from his childhood years:

"For the Passover festival of 1890 - I was several months short of his tenth birthday at the time - a new suit of clothes was made up for me, together with a brand new pair of shoes.

"In Lubavitch, the preparations for the festival were conducted in a meticulous and thorough manner. On the day before Passover, a strict procedure was followed: first, all chametz1was searched out and eradicated from the yard, chicken coop, and stable. The servant Reb Mendel was busy with this for a good part of the night before and followed up with a double-check in the morning. Then, the chametz was burned, following which we would go immerse ourselves in the mikveh, dress for the festival, and bake the special matzas mitzvah2for the seder. Finally, there were always the last-minute preparations to be taken care of.

"Among these final odds and ends was a job entrusted to me: to remove the seals from the wine bottles (especially those with wording on them3) and to partially pull out the corks. The latter was a most challenging task, for one had to take care that the metal of the corkscrew should not come in contact with the wine.

"That year, I was busy at my appointed task in my father's room. I went about my work with great caution, careful not to dirty my new suit and - most importantly - not to dull the shine on my spanking new shoes.

"My father noticed what was uppermost in my mind and said to me: 'Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi cites the following metaphor: A great nobleman sits at a table laden with all sorts of gourmet dishes and delicacies. Under the table lies a dog, gnawing a bone. Now, how seemly would it be were the nobleman to climb down from his chair and join the dog under the table to chew on a luscious bone?!'

"My father's words so affected me that I was ashamed to even look at my new clothes. This is education."

 

FOOTNOTES

1. Leavened substances.

2. The paschal lamb was offered in the Holy Temple on the afternoon before the beginning of the festival. Hence the custom of baking the matzoh to be eaten during the seder at this time.

3. To tear through a word is tantamount to 'erasing', an act forbidden on the Shabbos or the festivals.

 

 


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