Rosh Hashanah: God Is Busy Writing

by Bob Schwartz

Hebrew Alphabet

This week begins the Jewish Days of Awe, starting with Rosh Hashanah, the New Year. Shana Tova – a good year.

A tale about Hasidic master Reb Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev (1740-1809):

It was Yom Kippur. The faithful, weak from fasting, were waiting for the Rebbe to begin the Mussaf prayer, but he too was waiting. An hour went by, and another. Impatience turned into anguish. This time the Rebbe was really going too far. It was late. Why was he waiting?

When he finally emerged from his meditation, he explained: “There is in our midst someone who cannot read. It is not his fault; he has been too busy providing for his family to go to school or study with a teacher. But he wishes to sing. And so he allows his heart to speak: ‘You are God; I am but a man. You are Almighty and know everything; I am weak and ignorant. All I can do is decipher the twenty-two letters of the sacred tongue; let me give them to You to make into prayers for me and they will be more beautiful than mine.’ ” The Rebbe raised his voice: “And that, brethren, is why we had to wait. God was busy writing.”

From Souls on Fire: Portraits and Legends of Hasidic Masters by Elie Wiesel