The love and patience which Rabbi Yitzchak Shaul showed to all the people he met - men, women and children - were unsurpassed. Even animals and birds benefitted from his uniquely warm and caring personality. This, his father, Rabbi Nissan, had implanted in him since earliest childhood. His father always told him that one must love everything that G-d has made, and one must not harm any of His creatures.
Rabbi Nissan had had good reason to teach his son to be merciful, for, as a child, like many other children, Yitzchak Shaul had thought nothing of throwing stones at birds, chasing cows, goats, dogs or cats.
Rabbi Nissan had a favorite rooster. Each morning it crowed loudly, awakening Rabbi Nissan at the break of dawn, thus allowing him to begin his day. Rabbi Nissan looked after the rooster himself, making sure it had enough to eat, and keeping it in good health so that nothing would effect its excellent crowing. The louder the cock crowed, the more pleased was Rabbi Nissan. But not so little Yitzchak Shaul. As much as his father loved the rooster, so did his young son hate it. He delighted in persecuting the bird at every opportunity.
One day, unnoticed by Yitzchak Shaul, Rabbi Nissan came into the yard and observed his son's cruel behavior toward all of the farm animals, and the rooster in particular. Suddenly, Yitzchak Shaul felt a heavy hand on his shoulder and looked up to see his father's angry face.
"So, this is the way you spend your time! Ill-treating helpless creatures!" his father rebuked him sternly. "I could never imagine that a child of mine could be so cruel!"
The frightened little boy thought his father would surely give him a beating, he looked so angry. But this was not Rabbi Nissan's way. He was a teacher of young boys. But in all of his years of teaching, he had never laid a hand on his pupils, nor any of his own children. True, his "strap" hung on the wall of the class-room. But if a pupil deserved punishment Rabbi Nissan had only to indicate the strap on the wall, and tell him what he deserved, and it was always enough for the culprit.
Entering the house with his son, Rabbi Nissan asked him to bring the Talmud and open it to page 125. He told him to read the section relating to the injunction to look after chickens with gentle care. "See how the Torah thinks of everything," Rabbi Nissan enthusiastically explained to his little son. "In another part of the Talmud, we find that we must never sit down to a meal before first looking after our animals.
"Thus, we see that we must first of all care for the other of G-d's creatures before we look after our own needs. Yet, you, my son, have not only ignored this teaching, but have moreover shown a cruelty towards the poor creatures, which I could hardly have believed possible in a child of mine!"
Yitzchak Shaul trembled before the reproof and reproach of his father. He thought his father had finished with him when, instead, he heard his father saying in a very serious voice:
"You know that it is not in my nature to hit anyone, and I have never hit you, but this time, I am going to ask you to take down the strap which is hanging on the wall. I want you to understand the pain you have inflicted upon the creatures you have so thoughtlessly persecuted."
Yitzchak Shaul gravely took a chair and reached up for the strap which he had never before seen his father use. This in itself impressed upon him the enormity of his crime.
"Before I hit you," Rabbi Nissan said, "I want you to know quite clearly that the only reason I am doing this, is so that you will the better remember the pain you have inflicted upon the birds and other living creatures."
This was the first and last time Rabbi Nissan ever used the strap on Yitzchak Shaul, and he accepted them without a murmur.
Rabbi Nissan quickly went into another room without a backward glance, and a moment later Yitzchak Shaul heard his father crying, deep and painful sobs escaping him which he seemed unable to restrain.
When Yitzchak Shaul heard his father sobbing, he realized that it was all his fault for having made his father do something so contrary to his nature. This gave the little boy more pain that the actual hitting, and he determined, from that moment, never again to hurt anything or anyone.
He felt the pain a couple of days, and walked about full of regret and shame for his misdeeds. On the third day, he suddenly went up to his father, kissed him and asked him, with tears in his eyes, if he would forgive him.
Rabbi Nissan's eyes also filled with tears as he said to his son tenderly, "My son, you are still a little boy and I, your father, have to bear all your sins, which are not quite serious. But it would be dreadful if you grew up to be an unfeeling, cruel creature!"
Yitzchak Shaul felt a changed boy. Gone was his previous pleasure in his cruel pastimes.
From The Lubavitcher Rebbe's Memoirs