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The Ladder

The Ladder

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The great Chassidic master Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov would pray for many hours every day. His disciples, who had long concluded their own prayers, would form a circle around him to listen to the melody of his prayers and feast their eyes on the spectacle of a soul soaring in meditative attachment to its Maker. It was an unspoken rule amongst them that no one abandoned his post until their master had concluded his prayers.

One day, a great fatigue and hunger befell them. One by one, they slipped home for a bite and a few moments rest, certain that their master's prayers would continue for several hours more. But when they returned, they found that he had finished praying while they were gone.

"Tell us, Rebbe," they asked him, "why did you conclude your prayers so early today?"

The Baal Shem Tov answered them with a parable: Once, a group of people were journeying through a forest. Their leader, who was blessed with a keen eyesight, spotted a beautiful bird perched atop a tall tree.

"Come," he said to his companions, "I wish to capture this beautiful bird, so that we may delight in her song and gaze upon her wondrous hues."

"But how can you reach this bird you see," asked they, "the tree being so high and ourselves held captive by the ground?"

"If you each climb up onto the shoulders of your fellow," their leader explained, "I will climb on to the shoulders of the topmost man and reach for the treasure that beckons to us from the heights."

And so they did. Together, they formed a chain reaching from the earth toward the heavens, to raise their leader to his aspired goal. But they soon wearied of the exercise and went off to eat and rest, and the man who had sighted the bird tumbled to the ground.

From Be'er HaChassidut by Eliezer Steinman; from the Hebrew by Yanki Tauber
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Anonymous February 11, 2014

yertle the turtle Did Dr Suess take this tale from the Besht? Or just coincidence...?? Reply

Abraham November 12, 2013

Ladder Synergy is the thing, which makes more result.

Compromise: 1+1 = 1.5

Synergy: 1+1 = 10 or 100 or more:-)
Reply

Stan Canada December 1, 2012

Unity Collective efforts have better results... Reply

Pete Brooklyn, NY USA February 10, 2012

An old Taoist saying: A beautiful bird singing a lovely tune perched on high suddenly forgets its song when in a cage...when one tries to grasp he loses all.
Be still, watch & listen...no need to climb...don't capture...the bird will perch on your shoulder and sing...when one prays, be still, quiet the senses, let muddy waters settle and g_d's song will inhabit all of you! Peace & joy!! Reply

Anonymous brooklyn, ny November 2, 2010

an other kind of ladder I was reminded of an other story: Once, a chossid went to his Rebbe for advice as to how to conquer his evil inclination. The Rebbe told him to go to a certain town and be the guest of a person he named. The chossid duly went and was graciously received by this person, but the chossid could not fathom why the Rebbe had sent him to such a plain man to learn from. In the morning, the man left for work after his prayers and breakfast, and the chossid was left alone in the house. He had nothing special to do, and looking around, he noticed a window, very, very high placed. Intrigued, he found a ladder and climbed up. His eyes met a dreadful scene. When his host returned at night, the chossid told him what he had seen through the window after climbing up to it: a scene of blatant immorality. The host replied:" I have lived in this house for many years, but never have I peeped through this window." The chossid had his answer. Reply

HGross May 19, 2010

What a great story. The community is needed by the leader to actualize mutual needs, it is only on the backs of supportive others that the greatest among us are carried; without that chain we fall together, and even the greatest fatigue and fall. Reply

Anonymous worcester, Ma May 10, 2010

the story Maybe it refers to when the chassidim left while the Baal Shem Tov was still praying the Baal Shem Tov couldn't pray anymore because there was no point of praying without his chassidim. So too if there is no bottom on the ladder, it can't balance, like the chassidim were the Rebbe's bottom of the ladder. Reply

elsa davidson concord, california September 30, 2009

the ladder and maybe it means that leaders are dependent upon those "under" them, cannot achieve their goals without them. Reply

Elizabeth via chabadofbakersfield.com March 22, 2009

American Dream! It is the commercializing of the American Dream that has made the leaders and the people alike conform to evil practices to achieve their materialistic dreams. They have created laws to socially control people and, yet they are breaking the laws themselves in every dimension; political, social, economical, and religious to meet their criteria. By chasing after the wind (materialism) and making it their one and only ethic in life, people have forgotten the moral code.
I do believe that nations will only come to the realization with a judgment from G-d. Until then 'Love they neighbor as thyself and Love G-d with all your heart, strength, and might has been forgotten. When G-d said that love Him with all your might, He meant that we have to use our prosperity to do His work. When we abide by these clauses, we might truly serve G-d. Reply

Anonymous Rural, Australia March 21, 2009

The Ladder Maybe part of the parable is that if we the community loose faith in the leaders goals, that is capturing the bird, the leader is thus prevented from the act of capture, by our turning away.

This story could provide food for much discussion about the current political changes in leadership that have occurred in USA and Australia.

It may also give food for thought about the current financial crisis, in that people are losing faith in our economic and financial leaders because of the gross inequities, so obvious after the free marketeers promised that only world trade and a free market could bring prosperity to everyone all through the 1990s.

Maybe the story has something to say about a loss of faith in leaders over their failure to act to mitigate and prevent climate change due to human atmospheric polluting activities.

Maybe the story is saying people do have power to influence leaders if we choose to act on this!

Could be a hint about ways to create future peaceful social change Reply

Elizabeth via chabadofbakersfield.com November 4, 2007

Collective effort has better results The gist of the article is that the disciples do not depend on the Rebbe to sustain them with constant prayers, but rather collective prayers availeth much, allowing the Rebee to rejuvenate for future service.

It is imperative that we attend Chabad services and collectively make an effort to carry the burdens of the ministry in order to reach the highest goal of G-d service. Reply

Anonymous glasgow, scotland February 21, 2006

community and the goals of our leaders. It strikes me that this parable could also apply to each generation as a rung on the ladder, each as dependant on the last for the sustinance and clear transmission, for its stability in faith and knowledge.

One strange thing in this story which is in constrast to my feelings about nature is that the leader of the generation sought to capture and observe this bird with its beautiful song. Could he not have instead taught his deciples about how to better observe come to a deeper appreciation, a stronger awareness a more subtle conscienceness of this bird in its environment, teaching them how to see and to listen with more sensitivity? Afterwards teaching them how to sustain this memory, to hold onto and re-acces those moments, rather than trying to capture and rely on the beauty of this creature, robbing it of its own inner peace and environment. Reply

Mordechai Rubin London, England October 2, 2005

Stories The stories are very inspiring, they're very good, Reply

Learn about the life and teachings of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, the 18th century mystic who permanently changed the Jewish landscape.