A young man
traveled to seek the advice of the Saadia Gaon.
The Saadia Gaon (c. 900) was one of the greatest
and most important Rabbinic Scholars of all
time. Many people sought out his wisdom. The
young man arrived shortly before the High
Holidays. He spoke about his situation with the
Saadia Gaon and received a brilliant answer. The
young man rested up before beginning his journey
back home. While resting, he heard a strange
sound. It sounded almost like howling.
The young man
investigated and found the very same Saadia Gaon
rolling in the snow, sobbing as if he were
pleading to someone, but no one was there.
Eventually he realized that the Saadia Gaon was
in fact pleading with Hashem. The young man was
struck with awe at this sight. The Saadia Gaon
would cry and plead with Hashem for heavenly
mercy and forgiveness of his sins, all the while
rolling and writhing on the ground in the snow.
Saadia Gaon was finished, the young man unable
to control his curiosity asked the Gaon why he
Gaon answered, "Once I was traveling and came
across a man who did not know who I was. The man
treated me normally and politely as anyone would
treat a fellow Jew who was new in town. Later,
others who knew who that I was a famous Torah
scholar began heaping all kinds of honors upon
me. When the first man heard that there was a
famous Rabbi in town, he went to see who it was.
When he saw that it was me, he was mortified. He
threw himself down to the ground and begged my
forgiveness for not treating me as one would
treat a scholar of the Torah. I was taken aback
by his behavior and assured him that I forgave
him with my whole heart. I reminded him that he
didn't know who I was at first, and that he
never treated me badly. He treated me like any
reflected upon the incident, it occured to me
that if this is the manner in which a person
askes forgiveness from another human being, how
much more so should I beseech Hashem in this
humbling pleading manner."
A lesser man
might have become haughty and arrogant as a
result of the great honor bestowed on him. Not
the Saadia Gaon. He used that honor to teach him
how to properly approach and honor Hashem.
Gersham & Chava Stein in memory of his father
Congregation Kehillas Torah, San Diego, CA