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Higher Than Heaven

Wednesday, 11 January, 2012 - 3:34 pm

There is a story that has been passed from generation to generation. It has many variations, but its eternal message is unchanged: In a small European village a few hundred years ago, there lived a beloved Rabbi who would mysteriously disappear each Friday afternoon.

His devoted and admiring chassidim would speculate that he went to heaven, connecting to G-d and His angels in the heavenly spheres in preparation for the holy Shabbat.heavenstairway.jpg

One day, a stranger was visiting the town. He scoffed to hear the townsfolk’s presumptions about the Rebbe’s whereabouts.

More than a little skeptical, he secretly followed him the following Friday afternoon.

Speechless, he watched this esteemed Rebbe, dressed as a peasant, climb deep into the woods with a sack on his back, and chop down wood.

He then proceeded to bring the firewood and the sack into the lonely little house of an impoverished widow and five small children.

No task was beneath this great Torah scholar as he created a blazing fire in the fireplace, unpacked the food and clothes from the sack, lovingly fed the children and left the woman with many kind and caring words.

Arriving back into the village, the chassidim eagerly asked the stranger to describe the Rebbe’s ascent to heaven.

“Nu, do you believe us now that our Rebbe goes to heaven?!” they asked him.

The humbled man replied, “Perhaps even higher.”


What is true goodness? What is true giving?

Judaism gently teaches us through the stories of the scroll that true goodness is not carried out in a blaze of glory.

True goodness and giving often involves nurturing and caring in little ways that go unseen.

Often when it’s hard.

Often when it hurts.

Often when it’s not really “my job.”

Impacting this world is not reserved for the knight in shining armor, for the air-brushed faces of Hollywood.

It is the responsibility and right of every one of us- with all of our talents and strengths, and yes, with all of our weaknesses.

We, and our loved ones, are immortalized long after we are gone through the kind acts on this earth- the comforting whisper to a frightened child, the mending of a broken heart, the giving of tzedakah when we need to dig deep, the patience and forbearance to a cantankerous relative, the nourishing home-cooked meal delivered with love…

It is through the goodness and giving here below that we touch the divine, ascending higher than heaven.

Comments on: Higher Than Heaven

R.L Arzi wrote...

Shula, you are expert at healing broken hearts yourself. You have soothed mine more than once.

Denise wrote...

If you go to a Reform shul (which I think you do, after looking at the site) there is only one day of chag at the end of Sukkot. This means that Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah are caslopled into a single day. Therefore it was correct to do hakafot on Friday night. Hope that helps.