The congregation, assembled in the synagogue for the Kol Nidre service scheduled to begin before sunset, waited impatiently for the arrival of their rabbi, Israel Lipkin Salanter. The sun had already set over the treetops. The Jews were bewildered, for their saintly rabbi always came to the synagogue very early on the eve of the holiest night in the year.

Fearing that some tragedy might have befallen the rabbi, the congregants left the house of worship and sought to locate him.

Rabbi Israel was not found in his home. The streets and alleys were searched in vain. About to give up hope of locating the rabbi, the sexton noticed a light in the window of a shack, and he peered inside. To his amazement, he saw the saintly sage seated by the side of a cradle, rocking it gently. Entering the shack, the sexton angrily exclaimed: "Rabbi, the entire congregation is looking for you. The time for beginning the Kol Nidre service is already past. What are you doing here?"

Motioning silence from the sexton, the rabbi softly rejoined: "On my way to the synagogue long before sunset, I passed this house and heard a baby crying. Receiving no reply when I knocked, I entered and saw the baby was alone. Since the infant's mother had evidently gone to the synagogue I remained here to rock the baby to sleep and watch over him."



From: "Hasidic Tales and Teachings"
The Yom Kippur Anthology
, ed. Philip Goodman
(JPS, 1992).