Idle chatter

Marc Chagall’s “The Praying Jew”

From Levi Yitzhak of Berditchev, Kedushas Levi, Parshat Chayei Sarah

Isaac went out to converse (1) in the field towards evening… Genesis 24:63

My master and teacher Dov Ber of Mezeritch explained this verse to teach that when you talk to another person yet continue to think holy thoughts, then the holy sparks of the words are raised (2). This brings great joy to G!d. Thus laughter, the meaning of “Isaac,” is brought out in the “conversation in the field,” that is, mundane conversation, and the holy sparks are raised “towards evening,” which also means “towards heaven.”


1) Since the Torah mentions no one else being with him, this has traditionally been understood to mean he was talking to G!d in prayer or meditation. We’ll see how this teaching takes the verse in a different direction.   2) That is, the inherent divinity in them is discovered and returned to its root in G!d.

Jeff says…

A story is told of Levi Yitzhak’s visit to Rabbi Shmelke, his master from his youth. He went into the kitchen in his tallit and tefillin and asked Rabbi Shmelke’s wife what was for lunch. Then he proceeded to ask whether the cooks were well trained and other similar things. Then he went to the synagogue and—in the middle of public prayers—began to chat up someone standing nearby. One of Rabbi Shmelke’s disciples tried to silence him, but the Berditchever ignored him and carried on. At lunch Rabbi Shmelke greeted him warmly, sat beside him, and shared his own bowl with him. His disciples didn’t know what to make of it. When the meal was over, one of them couldn’t stand it any longer and asked his master why he honored this bizarre ignoramus. Rebbe Shmelke answered: “The Gemara tells us of a rabbi who never spoke of worldly matters his whole life. Isn’t this strange? Should we assume that the other masters spent their time in worldly talk? Is this the best that the Gemara can come up with? No. Rather, each of his words was actually filled with secret meaning and purpose, and rose to heaven. That is his special merit. The level of cleaving to G!d that others could maintain for only a while, he could hold all day long. So it is with Levi Yitzhak.”

This entry was posted in Chayei Sarah, Divine Service, Dov Ber, the Maggid of Mezeritch, Hasidic Masters, Levi Yitzhak of Berditchev/Kedushas Levi, Parsha, the Maggid of Mezritch and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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