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The Return

retold by Doug Lipman

One day in the synagogue, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev seemed to be observing a group of his Hasidim as they prayed. When they were finished, he approached them with a hearty greeting, "Shalom aleichem!"

They looked startled to hear their rabbi pronounce the greeting traditionally given after returning from a long journey. "But Rabbi," they said, "we have not been anywhere!"

The rabbi continued to shake hands with them, as though they were travellers arriving in Berditchev. He said, "From your faces it was obvious that your thoughts were in the grain market in Odessa or the woolen market in Lodz. None of you were actually here while you recited the prayers, so I was glad to welcome you back once you stopped."

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This story is presented as one of two stories about Rabbi Levi Yitzhak of Berdichev, and his attitude toward intention in prayer:

  1. The Return
  2. The Cantor Who Lost His Voice

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