Translated by Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum
From THE PRAYER LEADER
Once there was a prayer leader who was constantly engaged in prayer, songs and praise to God. He lived far from any inhabited area, but he would regularly visit the towns and villages. He would enter the home of somebody - usually a poor person or someone of little status - and talk to him heart to heart about the purpose of this world. For the truth is that there is no other purpose in life than to devote ourselves to serving God every day and to spend our time in prayer, songs and praises to God.
The prayer leader would speak to the person very inspiringly for a long time, until his words enter ed his ears and the person agree d to join him. As soon as he was willing, the prayer leader would take him to his chosen place far away from the city. It had a flowing river and trees and fruits. They lived off the fruit. As for clothing, the prayer leader didn't mind what they wore.
He would regularly go into the city to persuade people to serve God and follow his path of prayer. He would take whoever was willing to follow him to his place outside the city, and there they engaged in nothing but prayer, songs and praises to God, confessions, fasting, self-discipline and repentance. He would give them books he had on these subjects.
They continued following these practices until some of the people he had brought there were also fit to draw others to serve God. Eventually he would give one or two permission to go into the city to bring people closer to God.
The prayer leader was constantly busy drawing people closer and taking them from the city. He began to make an impact and the matter became public knowledge. Suddenly people started noticing that someone or other had gone missing from the city and no-one knew where they were. Somebody's son or the like would go missing and no-one knew where they were. Until it became known that a prayer leader was going around persuading people to devote themselves to serving God.
However, it was impossible to recognize or catch him, because this prayer leader acted very cleverly. He used to change the way he looked, and he would appear to each person differently. To one he looked like a poor man, to another like a merchant, and to someone else he would appear in a different guise.
Sometimes, when speaking with people, he saw that he could not succeed in his purpose . He would intentionally mislead them so they would not understand his real goal. The truth was that his only intention was to bring people to God. But if he saw he was accomplishing nothing with someone, he would steer the conversation in a different direction, making it impossible for the person to understand his real intention.
The Prayer Leader was making an impact and people were on the lookout for him, but it was impossible to catch him. He and his men lived far away from any human habitation, engaged in nothing but prayer, songs and praises to God, confessions, self-discipline and repentance.
This Prayer Leader had the ability to provide each one with what he needed. If he saw that one of his men thought he needed to serve God wearing golden clothes, he would provide him with them. Conversely he would sometimes attract a wealthy person and take him away from civilization, and he understood that this rich man needed to go about in cheap, torn clothing. He would lead each one according to what he knew he needed.
In the eyes of the people he brought to God, a fast or a great penance was more precious than all the pleasures in the world. They had more pleasure from fasting and repentance than all the pleasures in the world.
Now there was a certain very wealthy country where all the people were rich. However, they had the strangest customs. For them, everything depended on wealth. Each person's status depended on how much money he had. Someone who possessed a given sum of so many thousands or tens of thousands had a certain rank, while a person who possessed a different amount had a different rank. Their entire class system depended on how much money each person possessed. The one who possessed a specified sum of so many thousands and tens of thousands was king.
They all had flags corresponding to how much money they had. Someone who possessed a given sum had one flag and the corresponding social rank as indicated by that flag. A person with a different sum had a different flag and status, depending on the value of his property. They had laid down how much wealth a person had to possess in order to have a given flag and rank. Each person's rank depended on how much money he had in accordance with their rules.
They had instituted that a person having only a limited sum would be a mere human, whereas if he possessed less he was an animal or a bird. They had different kinds of beasts and birds. Someone possessing no more than a given sum would be labeled a human lion while others were considered as different species of animals or birds, because anyone who had very little property was considered a mere animal or bird. For them the main thing was how much money a person possessed, and his rank and status depended on that alone.
They also agreed that they wanted to have planets and stars. Whoever possessed a specified sum would be a planet, because, having so much money, he was thought to possess the same power as that planet. There is a planet that causes gold to grow: where gold-dust is found on earth, the reason is because that planet makes the earth produce gold. Therefore gold ultimately derives from the planets and stars. If a person had so much gold, they thought that he must have the power of that planet and must therefore be a planet.
They also decided to have constellations. Somebody who possessed a specified sum would be a constellation. They also appointed those possessing enormous wealth as angels, until eventually they all agreed that they should also have gods. Whoever possessed a specified sum of so many multi-millions was to be a god. Since God had blessed him with so much wealth, he himself must be a god.
They also came to the conclusion that , in order not to become defiled, they should not live in the air of this world or mix with other people . . Everyone else in the world was impure in their eyes. They therefore decided to seek out the highest mountains in the world and live there, so as to be above the air of this world. They sent out men in search of the highest mountains, and when they found some very high mountains, all the people of the country migrated there.
Different groups of them lived on each mountain. They built huge fortified walls around each mountain and dug deep moats in order to make it impossible for anyone to get there. Each mountain had only one secret path so that no stranger could ever reach them. They posted guards at a distance from each mountain so that no stranger could even get near. They lived there on these mountains practicing their customs, and they had numerous gods depending on how much money each possessed.
Since the main thing for them was money and great wealth made a person a god, they were very worried about murder and robbery, because people could kill and steal in order to become gods. Nevertheless, they said that since anyone who possessed very great wealth was a god, he would have a protective power against robbery and murder.
They instituted services and sacrifices. They used to make offerings and pray to their gods. They also sacrificed humans. People would sacrifice themselves to their god in order to become incorporated in him so as to then be reincarnated as a person of wealth. For their main religion was money. They held services and offered sacrifices and incense to their gods - the owners of great wealth.
Even so, the country was plagued with murder and robbery, because those who did not believe in the services resorted to killing and stealing in order to gain wealth. This was because the most important thing in life for them was money, since money buys every kind of food and clothing, and man needs money for his livelihood. This was why money was the foundation of their belief and religion.
They made every effort to ensure that they should never be lacking in money at all, since money was their god. They considered it essential to try to increase their wealth by import ing wealth from elsewhere. Traders went out from there to other countries in order to earn profits and bring more wealth back into their country.
They certainly strictly prohibited the giving of charity, since charity diminishes the wealth with which God blesses a person, whereas the main thing for them was to possess wealth. Since charity cuts into a person's wealth, they strictly prohibited giving charity.
They also had officers whose task was to check each person to see if he had as much money as he claimed. Everyone had constantly to display his wealth in order to maintain the rank he had been awarded on the basis of his wealth.
Sometimes an animal might become a man or a man an animal. If a person lost his money he turned from being a man into a penniless animal. Conversely, when a person made a profit, he turned from an animal into a man. The same applied to all the other ranks as determined by their wealth.
They had pictures and portraits of their gods - the owners of enormous wealth. They all surrounded themselves with these pictures and used to kiss and embrace them since this was their religion and belief...
Some of the Prayer Leader's virtuous followers had visited this country of wealth, and on their return they told the Prayer Leader how deeply enmeshed the people of that country were in the lust for wealth. The Prayer Leader had great pity on them and decided to go there in person to try to persuade them to give up this error.
The Prayer Leader related:
The king I was with possessed a hand - a picture of a hand with five fingers and all the lines found on a hand. This hand was a map of all the worlds and everything that has ever or will ever exist, from the beginning of the creation of heaven and earth until the very end and afterwards - everything was pictured on this hand.
The lines of the hand formed pictures of how each of the different worlds exists in all its details, similar to the way they would be marked on a map. The lines of the hand formed letters, just as there are letters on a map by the side of each different thing to indicate what it is - a certain city or a river or the like. Similarly, the lines of the hand formed letters by each thing to explain what it is.
All the details of all the different countries, towns, rivers, bridges, mountains and so on were marked on the hand with these lines. By the side of each one were letters indicating what it was. All the people in each country and everything that happened to them were all marked there. Also written there were all the paths leading from country to country and from place to place..
Also marked on the hand was the path leading from world to world. There is a path by which one can go from earth up to heaven. The only reason why people cannot go up to heaven is that they do not know the way. But the hand showed the way to go up to heaven, and it marked all the paths from world to world. Elijah went up to heaven by one path, which was inscribed on the hand, while Moses our Teacher went up to heaven by a different path, which was also inscribed there. Enoch went up to heaven by yet another path, and that too was inscribed there. So it was from world to world: everything was marked in the lines of the hand.
Also marked on the hand was how each individual thing existed at the time of the creation of the world, how it is now and how it will be afterwards. Thus Sodom was marked there as it was when it was inhabited prior to its destruction. The destruction of Sodom was also pictured, and so was Sodom as it is after its destruction. The hand was marked with everything that ever was, is or will be..
By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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