A Prayer from the Heart

By Rabbi Mendy Piekarski

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A Prayer from the Heart
October 13, 2023 As we just concluded the Jewish High Holidays, a remarkable story comes to mind, which I would like to share with you: In the village of Medzhybizh, Ukraine, there lived a young lad who grew up on a humble farm. Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, arrived, and a curiosity sparked within him. This young boy, unfamiliar with the synagogue, decided to step into the sacred space for the very first time. Inside, he found himself amidst a congregation led by none other than the Holy Kabbalist, the Baal Shem Tov. The atmosphere was charged with solemnity, and the Baal Shem Tov’s prayers echoed throughout the synagogue. However, something extraordinary happened that would forever change the lad’s perception of prayer. As the Baal Shem Tov fervently chanted the liturgy, his face turned serious, and tears welled up in his eyes. Sensing the gravity of the moment, the young lad felt a deep desire to connect with G-D, despite not knowing a word of Hebrew or the proper prayers. In his earnestness, he cried out in the only language he knew well — “Cock-a-doodle-do.” In that instant, all eyes turned toward him, and whispers of disapproval filled the air. “Quiet down,” they urged. “It’s disrespectful to make rooster noises in a synagogue.” Undeterred by the disapproval, the lad continued, driven by a profound intention to connect with the Divine. And then, something remarkable occurred. The Baal Shem Tov’s demeanor shifted from solemnity to joy, and he led the congregation in prayer with a joyful melody that seemed to radiate from his very soul. After the prayers concluded, the Baal Shem Tov turned to the congregants and shared a revelation that left everyone in awe. “While I was deep in prayer,” he explained, “I sensed a heavenly decree against a certain town, one that was destined for a year of curses and hardship. I prayed fervently to overturn this decree, but my pleas seemed to fall on deaf ears. “However, in that crucial moment, a simple cry of ‘cock-a-doodle-do’ pierced the heavens and miraculously annulled the decree. This year shall be one of blessings.” I think this heartwarming tale offers a profound lesson on the essence of prayer. It reminds us that beyond the intricacies of language and the structure of words, prayer is about the sincerity of our intentions, the devotion in our hearts, and the spirit that emanates from our very souls. With this story in mind, I would like to hear your thoughts on prayer, and what does prayer mean to you? Feel free to reach me at RabbiMendyPiekarski@gmail.com.

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