“I Can Almost Hear My Heart Sigh”

In Experiencing Spirituality, Ernie Kurtz and I write often about the word “beyond.” Spirituality itself is beyond words, beyond analysis, beyond even understanding. It just is. And it is also true that those who have it don’t seem to realize that they have it.

A cobbler approached the Rabbi Isaac of Ger, seeking advice. “Tell me,” the cobbler asked with a heavy heart, “what shall I do about my morning prayers?” He went on to explain that his clients were poor men who had only one pair of shoes. He picked up the shoes late at night, when the men returned from work, and then he worked all night to repair the shoes. But when dawn came around, there were still shoes left to be repaired and so he often missed his morning prayers.

“I don’t know what to do,” the cobbler said, his head bowed down in shame.

“What have you been doing so far?” the rabbi asked.

“Well, sometimes I rush through the prayers, which makes me feel bad,” the cobbler admitted. “Other times I am so busy that I will let the hour of prayer go by, and at those times I feel even worse. Lifting my hammer, I can almost hear my heart sigh, realizing what an unfortunate man I am that I cannot find the time to say my morning prayers.”

“If I were God,” the rabbi said, “I would value that sigh more than the prayer.”