Monday, December 06, 2021

Prayer, again/still

[A story] told in Sefer Hasidim, concerns a young shepherd who was unable to read the Hebrew prayers. The only way in which he worshipped God was to say: “O Lord, I should like to pray, but I cannot read Hebrew. There is only one thing I can do for you——if you would give me your sheep, I would take care of them for nothing." One day a learned man passing by heard the shepherd pronounce his offer and shouted at him: “You are blasphemous!” He told the boy that he should read the daily Hebrew prayers instead of uttering irreverent words. When the shepherd told him that he could not read Hebrew, he took him to his house and began to teach him to read the prayerbook. One night the learned man had a dream in which he was told that there was great sadness in heaven because the young shepherd had ceased to say his usual prayer. He was commanded to advise the boy to return to his old way of praying.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 351

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