Wedding are such joyous affairs. Yet today’s weddings are fairly tame compared to the way they used to be. In prewar Europe, the average Jewish wedding was an all-night event. Musicians were hired to play a full program of lively tunes and people would dance happily for many hours. The joyous atmosphere was infectious. Reb Noson once attended the wedding of a very distant relative, although he usually didn’t attend the affairs of distant relations. When asked why, he explained that he went to attain joy.
During the wedding season, musicians worked extremely long hours, night after night. When there were several consecutive weddings, it became quite a challenge to keep up the pace. Not surprisingly, the parents of the bride and groom kept a sharp eye out for a musician who was slacking off. As far as they were concerned, they were paying for his time and were determined to get their money’s worth.
Yankele the drummer was extremely exhausted. He had played many nights in a row and hadn’t gotten much rest. From the start of the wedding it was clear that he was tired, but he just kept going. He worked to keep up his usual tempo, and for many hours he somehow managed. But then he dozed off.
It took a few moments for the father of the bride to notice something was amiss. The moment he realized the drum had stopped playing, he strode up to the drummer and administered a stinging slap across his face. “Yankele!” he cried. “Klap freilich – Beat [your drum] with joy!”
The smack jerked Yankele out of his slumber. He was so shocked and exhausted that he cried a little, but he immediately resumed beating his drum to the tune in a lively manner.
Rebbe Nachman was at that wedding and witnessed this harsh rebuke. He commented, “Even when we get a klap—a slap from on high—we have to keep on being freilich!”
Reb Noson added, “This is a lesson for our service of God. Even though a person feels as if he’s been flung away from God, sustaining many ‘slaps,’ still, he must pick himself up and hit back against the forces of negativity with joy!”
Based on Siach Sarfey Kodesh II:543