The Powerful Dance
Reb Yisrael lived for his Rebbe. That is to say, his Rebbe's words inspired everything he did in life. Not only did he live according to his Rebbe's teachings, but he spread his holy words wherever he went.
Although it wasn't easy, Reb Yisrael traveled to his Rebbe twice a year. A trip to the Rebbe, however, wasn't like a trip to the market. Certainly not. Reb Yisrael began his preparations months in advance, with daily immersions, constant stud y of Chasidut, fervent prayer and a course of general self-improvement. Even his children were caught up in the excitement of the impending trip, emulating their father by increasing their own good deeds and Torah study.
Suddenly, with no warning, in the midst of all this flurry of preparation, Reb Yisrael's youngest son, Yaakov, fell desperately ill. A stream of doctors attended his bedside, but nothing could cure the illness that was sapping the child's life away.
In desperation, Reb Yisrael hurriedly packed his bags. He would go to the Rebbe and ask for his holy blessing. After all, now it was the month of Elul, the month when the King of Kings was most accessible, the month of mercy and forgiveness. The long journey passed in a fog. Hours merged into one another, as the distraught father recited the Book of Psalms. As the houses of the town emerged in the distance, Reb Yisrael began to feel a flutter of hope in his heart. As he entered the study hall, he barely returned the enthusiastic greetings of his fellow chasidim. All his thoughts centered on his beloved Rebbe and the audience he would soon have.
Meanwhile, Reb Yisrael prepared himself for the holy day of Rosh Hashana. When the day arrived, Reb Yisrael barely lifted his eyes from his prayer book, for he never stopped beseeching the Almighty to spare his son. By Yom Kippur, Reb Yisrael was even more desperate, his prayers even more intense. Now, added to his pleas for the life of his son was another prayer: that when he entered the Rebbe's room, his note would be accepted. It was a known custom that a chasid would place a note containing his requests on a table, and if the Rebbe took the note, it was assured that the requests would be fulfilled. If the Rebbe did not take the note...
As the day of his audience approached, Reb Yisrael became more and more anxious. He stopped sleeping and couldn't eat. Finally his turn came and there he was, standing in the Rebbe's room. He placed the tear-stained note on the table and waited for the Rebbe to take it. What seemed like hours passed, and it became apparent there would be no salvation -- the Rebbe did not take the note. Somehow, the dazed Reb Yisrael made his way out of the room. His worst fears had come to pass; perhaps his dear son had already left this world.
He wandered until he came to the edge of town, and there, under a tree, Reb Yisrael fell fast asleep. When he awoke, the sun was high in the sky, and he realized that it would soon be Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah. Tears poured from his eyes as he thought, "What is my life?"
Back in town, everyone was rushing to and fro in a tornado of preparation for the festival. But he, like an automaton, proceeded to the synagogue where he sank into a corner, oblivious to the joy which surrounded him.
What caused him to lift his eyes is not clear, but Reb Yisrael looked up for a moment and his eyes locked onto the dancing figure of Reb Mula. Reb Mula, who during the entire week could barely put one foot in front of the other, was dancing and leaping like a young stag. The town beggar was whirling with a strength that he never before possessed, his face gleaming with holy joy.
As he watched in fascination, Reb Yisrael felt a great yearning well up inside himself. And he thought, "Today, all of creation is joyful. And what of me? When all the angels and all the worlds are rejoicing, should I remain alone in my own private sorrow?"
Reb Yisrael rose from his corner and joined the circle of dancers. Forgetting everything in this world, he whirled and spun and leapt and jumped. He stamped and turned and never stopped until his joy merged with the joy of the universe and he no longer remembered his son, his pain, or even his own name. His entire being was only rejoicing.
Reb Yisrael entered the Rebbe's room for a blessing on his departure. He had decided not to ask about his son. The Rebbe blessed him and then spoke, "When you came and asked my blessing for your son's recovery, I saw that Heaven had decreed his death, and so I left your note on the table. But on Simchat Torah, when you annulled your own pain and rejoiced in the Torah in pure joy, the Heavenly decree was also annulled. Your son will live."