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A Tale of Baal Shem Tov

  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 
Yom Kippur.

 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 
ignorance.




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