The winds of Enlightenment and Reform were overspreading Germany, threatening to swallow the hapless Orthodox communities that maintained their religious identities. Into this hostile environment, rose the great Rav Shamshon Raphael Hirsch zt”l, who fought back the taint of the secular invaders with the courage of a lion and the wisdom of generations of Torah knowledge. But even in his early days, Rav Hirsch was unsure of his true calling in life.

At the age of 20, Rav Hirsch traveled to Mannheim, to study in the yeshivah of the great “Aruch LaNeir.” On the wagon to Mannheim, Rav Hirsch relates, in a letter he wrote, that he dozed off and dreamt that he was standing in a beautiful garden. Flowers were in full bloom, and fruit trees were giving off their ripened scent. He noticed how the grape vines were growing steadily, and although they were still weak and under-developed, they were being supported by branches that protruded forth and held the vines in place, until the grapes themselves were fully ripened and ready to be picked.

Rav Hirsch’s initial awe at the beauty of the garden quickly turned to angst as he stared at the vines. “At least these weak vines have branches to support them until they are firmly entrenched,” he thought. “But, I, and the whole of the Jewish community, we are also weak; we are engaged in a battle for our very existence. Who will support us? How will we be able to withstand the challenges that confront us and menace us with total religious extinction?”

Suddenly, he felt a tap on his shoulder. He turned around to see the glistening countenance of a man, dressed all in white, tall and regal in appearance. The man smiled at him kindly and asked, “Tell me, what is bothering you, my son?”

Rav Hirsch explained what he was thinking, and the man took him by the arm. “You are looking for support? Come, I will show you what your support is.” He led him into a huge outdoor playground where people milled about everywhere.

The distinguished man pointed to a corner of the playground. There, sat rows of elderly men, hunched over from age and years of life experience. Each man sat with his hands folded over and leaning on his cane, a thick and sturdy piece of wood, worn with age but solid in its construction, supporting each man’s full weight on its solid round base. “These men,” said the tall shining man, “are old and frail, yet at the same time, they are strong and formidable because they enjoy the full support of their canes. The wood may be worn, but the base is solid and will easily carry their weight.”

He then pointed to another area, where Rav Hirsch watched as young children of various ages ran, skipped, danced, and played their childish games. They, too, were holding sticks, but their sticks were thin and short, and looked as if they might snap at any moment. The children even used the sticks in their games, throwing them about and thrashing them in the air. “What you see here,” said the man again, “are the children and grandchildren of the elderly men. They, too, carry sticks, but there is an obvious difference between their sticks and those of their elders. Their sticks are small and weak, because they have whittled them down and turned them into playthings. They took their solid stakes of wood and sanded them down until they are no more than twigs. These sticks cannot support them for if they leaned on them, they would surely snap!”

Now, the man pointed in a third direction, and there Rav Hirsch saw an amazing sight. A group of young people walking together with an upright and aristocratic bearing. Their faces shone with light, and they behaved with polished refinement. Just looking at them made one’s heart soar with joy and pride. They also carried sticks in their hands, and these sticks were objects of beauty. Handcrafted wood, polished to a gleam, obviously objects of better quality.

“My son,” the man said to Rav Hirsch, “these are the wise youth. They have seen the ways of their fathers and have chosen to walk in their footsteps. They are refined and pure, and they carry sticks that not only support them, but enhance the quality of their lives.” He paused for a moment. “Do you know what type of stick they are carrying?”

Rav Hirsch shook his head. “Hold out your hand,” said the man, and Rav Hirsch held out his hand. The man placed one of these sticks into his hand. “Look for yourself at what this stick is.” Rav Hirsch opened his hand and in it was...a sefer Torah.

“Take this as your support,” said the majestic man, “and let it guide you throughout your life. This will support you!”

Rabbi Dovid Hoffman is the author of the popular “Torah Tavlin” book series, filled with stories, wit and hundreds of divrei Torah, including the brand new “Torah Tavlin Yamim Noraim” in stores everywhere. You’ll love this popular series. Also look for his book, “Heroes of Spirit,” containing one hundred fascinating stories on the Holocaust. They are fantastic gifts, available in all Judaica bookstores and online at To receive Rabbi Hoffman’s weekly “Torah Tavlin” sheet on the parsha, e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.