Rabbi Y. Carlebach told the following story that makes us aware of how we can elevate ourselves. Often it is our own choice
The Baal Shem Tov was a Rabbi who lived in the 18th century. He had extraordinary powers to uplift the down-trodden Jewish populations of Eastern Europe. As most of the Jews in Europe at that time The Baal Shem Tov lived in a small Jewish village. However, he had so much to teach and he was so eager to help Jews everywhere (it was reported he not only helped but miracles often happened after a meeting with him) that he could not confine himself to his village.
After Shabbos each week, he would hitch his horses to his wagon and he set out for somewhere else to help or inspire other Jews. It was said that it was an absolute miracle that he was able to get around all around Russia, which was a giant country, and yet get back to his village in a timely fashion.
It was proported that the way that he did this was as follows: After he left his village and no one was watching, he would encourage his horses and they would begin to fly. Because they were flying, they were able to cover incredible distances. Once he reached a particular town and was able to help someone or give someone critical advice or a special blessing that might even lead to a miracle happening, he would then set out for his town.
Again, once no one was looking, he would nudge the horses lightly and they would begin to fly. And, so he did this repeatedly, week after week. Meanwhile, it was said that the horses would talk to each other while they were flying. One horse would say to the other, “Do you realize that we are flying?” The other horse would answer and say, “Yes, we are flying. This is amazing!” Then the first horse would say, “We must be extremely special. We must be like the angels because we are able to fly.” And the other horse said, “You know, you’re right! We must be just as good as angels since we can fly.” And they would banter back and forth with conversation as they flew through the skies.
But, it was also said that once they got back to earth and once the bag of oats was put on each horse so that he could eat, he ate just like a horse. There was nothing going on that was elevating or different from any horse eating. They were not like angels. They were simply, two horses eating their oats.
What is the message that this story is trying to teach us?
The message is that the horses, even though they could fly, were still just animals. For us, as human beings we may or may not feel that we are flying, but we always have the opportunity to raise ourselves up toward the heavens. We can elevate ourselves in the ways that we conduct ourselves, so that whether we are eating a meal, befriending someone, going to work, talking to a neighbor, whatever it is no matter how small, no matter how routine, we have the opportunity to elevate our acts. Our acts can be caring, helpful, kind, sensitive, refined, timely, thoughtful. And the list goes on. And so as humans, we are always approaching the angels if we will but bother to elevate ourselves.
(I hope Rabbi Carlebach will be happy with the way I presented this story, since I was not able to take notes and I’ve mixed in my own ways of telling a story.)
Elevation homework for you: How can you begin to elevate yourself this week in three small ways? One might be as simple as smiling and asking a neighbor how he is or you might let someone go in front of you in line at the supermarket or you might listen to what someone is saying while not multi-tasking literally or in your mind. Good luck on flying this week!
Please write and share what you did for your elevation homework.