A thief, at the mouth of the tunnel, calls to G‑d in prayer.
Variant text of Talmud Berachot 63a.

It was already late at night and most people in the town of Mezerich were fast asleep when the famed Maggid of Mezerich, the town’s spiritual leader, strode into the study hall and gathered his students.

“Come, let us say Psalms,” he told them. “There is a Jew in grave danger now who needs our prayers.”

After some time, he said, “This Jew has resolved to mend his ways and return to G‑d. Let us help him fulfill his resolution by praying for him.”

In time, the Maggid returned to his chambers and the matter was soon forgotten.

A while later, one of the students who had been present that night ended up in a distant town and recognized one of the poor wayfarers in the synagogue as someone who once lived in his Mezerich.

“What are you doing here and why did you leave our village?” he asked him.

“I’ll tell you my story,” answered the vagrant. “As you know, from a young age I rebelled against the moral and religious teachings I had been brought up with.

“One thing led to another and I was soon stealing horses for a living. I would steal the best horses at night and hustle them over to nearby towns where I would quickly sell them at bargain prices

“Before long, I became the best of all the horse thieves. Once I set my eyes on a horse it was only a matter of time until it was in my hands.

“When I came to a certain village, I saw a magnificent pair of horses pulling a farmer’s cart. ‘Say goodbye to your horses!’ I said in my mind to the farmer. ‘Tomorrow they will be mine.’

“That night, I made my way into the farmer’s barn and started to take the horses. Suddenly the unexpected happened: One of the farm hands sleeping above the barn woke up from the noise and called for help.

“I started praying like I never prayed before. I thought to myself: ‘Here I am, acting in such a terrible way and asking G‑d to help me? Why should He want to help a thief like me?’ Then and there I resolved to turn over a new leaf and change my life for the better if only I would be saved from this predicament. Suddenly, I noticed some clothes scrunched up in the barn and I had an idea. I quickly stuffed the clothing with straw until it looked like a person, put it on the back of one of the horses and sent it running out of the barn. Everyone gave chase and I was able to escape.

“So now you see that I am fulfilling my promise to return to G‑d. I can never repay all that I have taken, for the victims of my crimes are many and I do not know who they are. So I live the life of a poor wayfarer, going from one synagogue to the next and living off the kindness of strangers, hoping that G‑d will forgive me.”

With a little thought, the student realized that the dramatic events in the barn had taken place the very night he and his fellow students had been reciting Psalms in the study hall with the Maggid of Mezerich.

Do we truly realize the power of saying Tehillim (Psalms)? We may not always realize who is being helped, but it surely has an effect.

Translated and adapted from Sipurei Mofet Hamaggid Mimezerich, pg. 53.