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Holding the Ladder

10/15/2011 11:55:55 AM


Rabbi George Gittleman

One of my favorites stories about the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Hassidism is about his morning prayer practice. Apparently he would daven Shacharit (pray the morning service) much longer than his followers and they became accustomed to waiting for him to finish. One morning one of the group suggested that perhaps they could just slip out of the room, have a little herring, maybe a shot of schnaps (or what ever they drank), come back and the Baal Shem Tov wouldn’t even know they were gone. They debated this idea for a moment and decided to go for it, but as soon as they got up to leave, the Baal Shem Tov let out a horrible scream like he had just fallen off a cliff! They were aghast. “Rebbe, what happened?” they asked. This was his response:

“When I pray it is as if I climb up a ladder, moving rung by rung up to commune with The Holy One on our behalf. You, my disciples, my community, hold the ladder, so when you got up to have a little nasch. I fell.”

I love the story not for the guilt factor but rather what it teaches about community; we all hold the ladder for each other.

This Holy Days was one of the deepest I have ever experienced. It felt to me like together we ascended a ladder that we held for each other. As I write this note just a few days after Yom Kippur I am a little tired but also full of gratitude to the many people who worked so hard and gave so much to make the Holy Days what they were this year; it’s an honor to hold and climb the ladder with you!

Shannah Tovah!


Thu, July 9 2020 17 Tammuz 5780