During the Yom Kippur services Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech Dinover was absorbed in a Kabbalistic prayer book, without turning a single page. Asked why it seemed he was not praying, he narrated the following story:

"An orphaned Jewish boy reared by a Christian family never had an opportunity to learn the ways of his forebears, although he knew he was Jewish. He had inherited from his father a Hebrew prayer book which he cherished dearly. When the lad was about seven years old, he was invited by the sexton of the synagogue of the Baal Shem Tov to attend the services on the Day of Atonement. The youngster cheerfully accepted the invitation and came to the synagogue with his prayer book.

"The Baal Shem Tov, noticing that the boy felt very uncomfortable because he was unable to join the congregation in prayer, prayed that the lad might be inspired to act in a suitable manner. Suddenly, in desperation, the boy shouted:

"'Lord! Listen to me also. I was never taught how to pray and I don't know what to tell You; however. I have my father's prayer book with me. Take it. I give You the entire book!" This caused the Baal Shem Tov to rejoice.

"I am like this boy," concluded Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech."I am keeping this prayer book open and I have said to the Lord, ‘Accept my prayers as if they were recited with all the hidden meanings found in the book itself.'"


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