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Holding the Ladder

08/31/2016 02:22:39 PM


Rabbi George Gittleman

A story…

The Baal Shem Tov, the founder of the Hassidic movement, took a long time to pray over Shabbat.  He would begin Shabbat morning services with his followers, and a couple hours later, they would be done yet he would still be engrossed in prayer.  They would sit in quiet reverence and wait; twenty minutes, a half hour, even an hour until he was done.  Together they would make Kiddush and eat a nice Shabbas meal.

You have to understand that the Baal Shem Tov (which means, Master of a Good Name), was no ordinary person. Some say he could be in two places at one time!  Others noted that a short ride in his carriage could land you temporarily in another country half way around the world! Everyone who had ever been in his presence knew that he could see right into your neshama, your soul. Legend or fact, well it is hard to tell. One thing for sure, the Baal Shem Tov was no ordinary man.

One day, after his followers had finished praying and they were waiting for the Baal Shem Tov to finish, the aromas of the Kiddush lunch were especially enticing. One man said to another, “You know, we could quietly leave this room, enjoy a little herring, maybe some schnapps, come back and he would not even know we were gone.” Another replied, “How can you say such a thing, we could never leave our master before he is done davening.”  “We really won’t be leaving,” another said. “We’ll be just next door. We’ll be back soon enough.” The Baal Shem Tov’s followers argued among themselves for a little while, when one Hassid quietly left his seat and began to ease out toward the Oneg table.  Seeing him go, the others followed but even before they left their seats, the Baal Shem Tov let out a horrific cry – “AHHHHHH”!  It was as if he had just fallen off a cliff!

Rebbe, Rebbe”, they yelled.  “What is the matter?” He caught the men in his otherworldly gaze and said, “When I pray it is as if I ascend a ladder. Higher and higher I climb to bring our prayers before the Ribbono Shel Ha-olam (The Master of the Universe). You, my beloved, hold the ladder; when you left for the Oneg Table, the ladder fell and brought me down with it.”

I love this story, not for its potential to guilt y’all to come and sit through services, but rather as an illustration of what it means to be in community.  In community, we all hold the ladder for each other.  When we fulfill our membership and building pledges, we hold the ladder.  When we deliver food to someone recovering from an illness, we hold the ladder.  When we come to services, we hold the ladder.  When we pull weeds on our beautiful property, we hold the ladder. Large and small, every act we make in our community contributes to the life of our community.

We all hold the ladder for each other…

In gratitude as we enter the New Year.

L’shanah Tovah!

Rabbi George

Thu, July 16 2020 24 Tammuz 5780