Young Yisrolik loved to learn Torah. In fact, he quickly mastered all that his teachers had to offer him and instead spent his time learning alone in the town shul, often till late at night.
Worried that his son would get sick from lack of sleep, his father, R’ Shabse gave Yisrolik a curfew. But when Yisrolik sat down to learn, he forgot about everything else, and completely lost track of time. R’ Shabse came up with an idea. After supper, before Yisrolik returned to the shul to learn, he gave him a candle that would burn for one hour. This way, when the candle would burn out, Yisrolik would realize that it was time to go home to sleep.
That evening, Yisrolik returned to shul as usual, carrying his candle. More than an hour passed and Yisrolik had not yet come home. R’ Shabse became worried. When another hour passed and Yisrolik was still not back, R’ Shabse hurried to the shul. As he approached he was surprised to see a light in the window. He entered and found Yisrolik sitting and learning, completely unaware that his father had arrived.
“Yisrolik Why did you not keep your word?” R’ Shabse blurted out.
Startled, Yisrolik looked up from his sefer in surprise and immediately the candle went out.
“The candle burned, so I continued learning,” he said.
It became clear to R’ Shabse that when Yisrolik learned with such purity and love, the Shechina came down and rested there, keeping the candle burning so he could continue to learn. That was why as soon as he stopped learning the candle went out.
From then on R’ Shabse never stopped his son from learning Torah. Sure enough Yisrolik grew up to be the famous Maggid of Kozhnitz.”
From Pirkei Avos – the Weiss Edition Chapter 3 verse 6 Page 95.
(modified and adapted from Sippurei Chassidim by Rabbi Zevin on Moadim story #256.)
*Rebbe Yisroel the Maggid of Kozhnitz (1737-1814) was a student of the Maggid of Mezritch and Rebbe Elimelech of Lizhensk. He was born in Opatow, Poland to his father Shabse, a poor bookbinder and his mother Perl. From an early age he displayed a love of learning and was known as an iluy. He grew up to be one of the leading Chassidic masters of Poland, and founded the Kozhnitz Chassidic dynasty. He was known as a G-dly man of wonders and miracles, whose prayers for the sick and needy and for childless couples were answered from Above. He authored many Jewish books, among them: Avodas Yisroel on the Torah and Pirkei Avos and two seforim on the Zohar, and more.