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The Shepherd

The Shepherd


The Baal Shem Tov was once shown from heaven that a certain simple man called Moshe the Shepherd served G‑d, blessed be He, better than he did. He longed to meet this shepherd, so he ordered his horses harnessed to his coach, and traveled, with a few of his disciples, to the place where he was told the shepherd lived.

They stopped in a field at the foot of a hill, and saw, on the hillside above them, a shepherd who was blowing his horn to call his flock. After the sheep gathered to him, he led them to a nearby trough to water them. While they were drinking, he looked up to heaven and began to call out loudly, “Master of the world, You are so great! You created heaven and earth, and everything else! I’m a simple man; I’m ignorant and unlearned, and I don’t know how to serve You or praise You. I was orphaned as a child and raised among gentiles, so I never learned any Torah. But I can blow on my shepherd’s horn like a shofar, with all my strength, and call out, ‘The L-rd is G‑d!’” After blowing with all his might on the horn, he collapsed to the ground, without an ounce of energy, and lay there motionless until his strength returned.

Then he got up and said, “Master of the world, I’m just a simple shepherd; I don’t know any Torah, and I don’t know how to pray. What can I do for You? The only thing I know is to sing shepherds’ songs!” He then began to sing loudly and fervently with all his strength until, again, he fell to the earth, exhausted, without an ounce of energy.

After recovering, he got up again and began to call out, “Master of the world! What is it worth that I blew on my horn and sang songs for You, when You’re so great? What more can I do to serve You?” He paused for a moment and said, “There’s something else I know how to do, and I’ll do it for Your honor and glory!” He then stood on his head and began to wave his feet wildly in the air. Then he did somersaults one after the other, until he collapsed on the ground, exhausted. The Baal Shem Tov and his disciples watched all this from a distance, in amazement.

The shepherd lay there silently until his strength returned. Again, he began to speak and said, “Master of the world, I’ve done what I can, but I know it’s not enough! What more can I do to serve You?” After pausing to reflect, he said, “Yesterday, the nobleman who owns the flock made a feast for his servants, and when it ended, he gave each of us a silver coin. I’m giving that coin to You as a gift, O G‑d, because You created everything and You feed all Your creatures, including me, Moshe the little shepherd!” Saying this, he threw the coin upward.

At that moment, the Baal Shem Tov saw a hand reach out from heaven to receive the coin. He said to his disciples, “This shepherd has taught me how to fulfill the verse: ‘You shall love the L‑rd your G‑d with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your might.’”

From The Light and Fire of The Baal Shem Tov by Yitzhak Buxbaum, Copyright 2005 by the author. Reprinted by permission of The Continuum International Publishing Group. To purchase this book click here.
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Sylvia commerford chilliwack , Canada August 10, 2012

the Good shepherd Was king David not a shepherd of the sheep, and David was a man after G-d's own heart. as David would have to watch over the flock, to keep the wolves away, and He would use His staff to keep away the wolves by day and night. And would the Lord not also be like a Good shepherd towards us, so that He watches over us His sheep, and keep us in His care? Reply

emily saskatoon, canada August 2, 2012

re sylvia commerfords comment you just don't get it Reply

Anonymous Green Bay, WI May 30, 2012

To Sylvia.. You are right that HaShem doesn't need anything from us, but yet he made each person so vastly different, some able to feed the hungry, some able only to do somersaults, but does He love the one more than the other. If you you have two children one talented and one slow, do you love the one more than the other? NO, you love each one for his/her inner beauty, for the joy each brings to your days. When your child brings you a boquet of dandylions, do you cast it down in disgust and exclaim, "I don't NEED this!" Neither does the Almighty react that way. No rigid rules pertain to the art of loving, HaShem is able to accept the somersault as graciously as the act of hospitality, BOTH are good, because HE says they are good. He searches the hearts... Reply

ruth housman marshfield hills, ma May 23, 2012

Coin of the Realm This was not a simple shepherd, this was a wise man, and he was humble, and he tended to his sheep, and he revered G_d.

I think it's wrong to think that those who are learned, who study in Yeshivas are the only ones to receive truth, because the lessons of the simple people, who tend to the land, who tend to their flocks, in so doing, teach a bigger lesson, perhaps, about love, about reverence. They learn by doing. And they learn by being close to the land, close to Nature.

We often closet ourselves with books, with another kind of "learning" but it could be, to truly smell the morning grasses, to be there for the rising sun, with the birds, on the hills, and dipping into the valleys, to rise and fall with the light itself, is to know something beautiful about all Creation first hand. Reply

Sylvia commerford chilliwack , canada May 23, 2012

The shepherd Nice story, but I always thought the Lord
G-d serves us much more than we even realize or give Him thanks for. He lengthens our days He sends the rain to make our crops grow, and is it not writtten "the earth is the Lord and the fullness thereoff" So what can mankind do to serve Him? surely not by standing on our heads and waving our feet around. Are we not commanded to clothe the naked, feed the hungry and show hospitality? I doubt if the Lord G-d is in need of anything from us, except to serve Him wtih a spiritof praise and thanksgiving. shalom Reply

Anonymous mesa May 22, 2012

The Shepherd What a beautiful story! Hashem showed the shepherd, by catching the coin, that He, blessed be He, was there very close to him, and that He, blessed be He, accepted the shepherd's gift of love to him. Although simple, they were meaningful to our Heavenly Father. I believe that that is what He wants. Love the L-rd your G-d with all your heart and soul. Baruch Hashem! Precious Father!! Reply

Anonymous Green Bay, WI May 22, 2012

Does Hashem really need a coin? Without a doubt, NO, Hashem does not need a coin, but by accepting the coin, HaShem was showing the shepherd that HaShem accepted all of his sacrifices, the blowing of the horn, the songs, the physical rejoicing that the shepherd had directed unto HaShem. That small act of kindness toward the Shepherd spoke volumes to the Baal Shem Tov and to the shepherd. HaShem can shower the poor with coins if need be, but for the Holy One to respond to one's sacrifice is a rare treasure indeed!! Reply

Justin Roth Staten Island, NY May 22, 2012

An act of tzedakah... but does Hashem really need a coin given to Him? Wouldn't it have been better for the shepherd to give the coin to a needy person? No doubt, this shepherd served G-d in his own, simple way and that is a beautiful thing. In fact, according to this story, the simple shepherd served Hashem better than the wise, learned Baal Shem Tov.
So the lesson I got from this story is that Hashem values simple, sincere, heartfelt reverence more than even a wise Torah scholar, which The Besht no doubt was (this is not to say that the Best was not sincere or heartfelt).
This story is encouraging to a Baal Teshuva in progress like myself! Reply

Jack Omaha, NE via March 24, 2006

Sometimes we think that if we don't have the background and capacity to serve G-d, we may as well not bother. I learn from this story that we can. Reply

Anonymous lee, ma usa via March 24, 2006

baal shem tov the tale at first seems about the Baal shem Tov, but then about the shepard, however it is about G-d...who hears the prayers and adorations of each of us, in any form, Reply

Anonymous Jerusalem, Israel March 24, 2006

Gave me the chills This story was so beautiful, it made me teary. Good Shabbos!! Reply

J Bates Winnipeg, Manitoba March 23, 2006

tears This story brings tears to my eyes
This is how we should behave
Do the very best we can ,with what Hashem
has given us, and be full of joy. Reply

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