The year was 5594, and there was much joy and celebration among the followers of the Tzemach Tzedek. On Beis Iyar, his seventh son had been born to their beloved Rebbe. Many of the chassidim who had come to spend Pessach in Lubavitch decided to stay for the bris, scheduled for the ninth of Iyar, the eighth day of the child’s life.
Early in the morning of the appointed day, all was ready for the bris: the tables were set, the Chassidim had assembled, and the mohel had laid out his instruments. All awaited the appearance of the Rebbe. But the Rebbe’s door remained closed. An hour passed and then another, and the Chassidim began to wonder if the bris was perhaps going to be postponed. Soon word came from the Rebbe that “The bris, G-d willing, will be held today.” But no more was said.
Morning passed, and the better part of the afternoon. Finally, late in the afternoon, the Rebbe emerged from his room and instructed that the bris commence. The only clue to his delay was the mysterious sentence that passed his lips, “Ay… the Polotzk burial society…” No one dared ask for further explanation.
Another mystery was the name given to the newborn – Shmuel. No one knew of a Shmuel in the Rebbe’s family. When one of Tzemach Tzedeks’s older children asked his father after whom the child was named, the white Russian town was again mentioned. “A water-carrier from Polotzk,” was the Rebbe’s reply.
Among the Chassidim present at the bris were several from Polotzk, who proceeded to investigate the matter when they returned home. It turned out that on the day that the bris was held, two townspeople had passed away: a rich and influential resident, as well as a simple, impoverished water-carrier by the name of Shmuel. The burial society devoted its attention solely to the departed “pillar of the community”; only after his heavily attended funeral was over did they begin taking care of the water-carrier’s body, which was finally brought to burial late in the day. One of the Chassidim noted that the Zohar instructs not to name a child after one who has passed away before the departed has been buried. The Rebbe had delayed the bris so that he could name his youngest child and ultimate successor after a water-carrier from Polotzk.