A Lovely Hasidic Tale of Prayer

March 29, 2018

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

Once during the Days of Awe (the ten days from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur), the saint Yitzhak Luria heard the voice of God tell him that for all his prayerful mastery there was a man in a neighbouring town whose capacity for prayer exceeded even his own. As soon as he could, Rabbi Yitzhak travelled to that town and sought the man out.

‘I have heard wondrous things about you,’ he said to the man when he found him, ‘Are you a Torah scholar?’ ‘No,’ the man replied. ‘I have never had the opportunity to study.’

‘Then you must be a master of Psalms, a devotional genius who prays with great intensity.’ ‘No,’ the man said. ‘I have heard the Psalms many times, of course, but I do not know one well enough to recite it.’

‘And yet,’ Rabbi Luria cried, ‘I was told that the quality of your prayer surpasses even my own! What did you do during the Days of Awe that would merit such praise?’

‘Rabbi,’ the man said, ‘I am illiterate. Of the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet I know about ten. When I entered the synagogue and saw the congregation so fervent in their prayers, my heart shattered within me. I couldn’t pray at all. So I said, O Lord of the Universe (Ribbono shel Olom) here are the letters I know: aleph, beis, gimmel, daled, hay, vav, zayin, chet, tes, yud. Combine them in a manner You understand, and I hope that they will be pleasing to you. And then I repeated these ten letters over and over again, trusting God to weave them into words”

– From Hasidic Tales: Annotated and Explained, trans. Rabbi Rami Shapiro 

Ya Haqq!

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Where God Lives!

March 27, 2017

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

“When Rabbi Yitzchak Meir was a small child, his mother once took him to meet Reb Yasrael, the Maggid of Kosnitz. As they stood in line with the Maggid’s Hasidim, each waiting to see the holy rebbe, one of the disciples called to the young Yitzchak Meir. ‘Your mother tells us that you are quite bright and worthy of meeting our holy Maggid. But I am not so sure. So I will make a bet with you. I will give you a gulden if you can tell me where God lives!’ The Hasidim laughed at their fellow’s jest. When their laughter faded, Yitzchak Meir looked up at the man and said, ‘And I will give you two gulden if you can tell me where God does not live!’ The Hasidim laughed even louder, and Yitzchak Meir and his mother were moved to the front line.”

– Hasidic Tales, translated and annotated by Rabbi Rami Shapiro

Ya Haqq!