In the time of the Baal Shem Tov, a community was threatened with
severe Divine punishment. Aware of the frightful state of affairs,
the Baal Shem Tov prayed unusually long that Rosh Hashana and
During the Ne'ila prayers his students saw that something most
serious was amiss, and they too prayed with all the more warmth, with
tears and heartfelt supplication. Both the men and women in the
synagogue, witnessing the fervent prayers of the Baal Shem Tov and
his disciples, were moved, and their fervent worship joined with those
of their leaders.
It was time for Maariv - the Holy Day should have come to an end -
and still the Baal Shem Tov prayed with increased fervor. Obviously
something extraordinarily grave was involved, and the entire
congregation wept from the depths of their hearts. The wailing
created a commotion in the synagogue.
For several years now a Jewish shepherd lad had been attending
High Holy Day services in the prayer-house of the Baal Shem Tov. A
total illiterate, he would simply stand there, listening attentively,
and stare into the chazan's face. Not a word did he utter.
A country boy, he was expert in imitating the sounds of
animals-goats, sheep, birds and fowl. His favorite was the crow of the
rooster. When he saw the excitement in the synagogue now, and
heard the weeping of the worshippers, he could contain himself no
longer, and loudly cried, "Cock-a-doodle-doo! G-d, have mercy!"
When this bizarre call was heard in the synagogue the men were
startled and the women terrified. Where could this strange sound
have come from? But when the lad shouted, "G-d, have mercy!"
they saw who it was. Some of the people standing near him wanted
to expel him from the synagogue. But he retorted, "I am also a Jew.
Your G-d is my G-d, too."
The aged sexton, Yosef Yuzpa, calmed the worshippers and told the
villager to remain in his place. A few minutes after this incident the
congregation heard the Baal Shem Tov and his disciples hurrying to
conclude the service. The Master's face radiated with joy. With rare
spirit and delight the Baal Shem Tov ended Ne'ila, and with deep
emotion he recited the verses Shema, Boruch Shem, and Hashem Hu
HaElokim that mark the close of the Yom Kippur services. Then he
sang joyous melodies.
Later that evening, during the meal, the Baal Shem Tov described to
his disciples the danger that had hovered over the unfortunate
community. He found, when pleading mercy for the community in
question, that he was himself under censure for advocating
settlement of Jews in villages and rural areas where they might be
adversely influenced by the non-Jewish environment.
"As the deeds and status of the Jewish villagers were being
examined, I saw that the charges were substantial and I was
dismayed. But suddenly the lad's voice was heard On High, calling,
'Cock-a-doodle-doo! G-d have mercy!' His simple but sincere prayer
caused such Heavenly delight that all accusations against the
community and myself were nullified."
The account demonstrates the integrity of the Jew's soul, since the
boy's deep-rooted feelings were acceptable to G-d despite his