All that day, the holiest of the year, they had stood in the synagogue, fasting, repenting, beseeching the Almighty to grant them a year of life, health and happiness. Now, the ‘‘gate closing’’ prayers had concluded, the shofar had been sounded, and the townspeople of Berditchev were breaking their fast with the festive post-Yom Kippur meal.
Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev turned to his disciples and said: ‘‘Let me tell you of a deal that was struck today with the Almighty in the women’s section of the synagogue.
‘‘Sarah Leah, a widow with a houseful of hungry tots, lifted her eyes heavenward and said: ‘Father in Heaven! I know that I’ve sinned. I’ve gossiped, I’ve neglected my prayers, I’ve gotten angry. But You, G-d, did not do that great, either. Look how You’ve treated a poor woman and her five little orphans: our goat stopped giving milk, the roof of our humble hut caved in, and the baby was ill all winter. But I’ll tell you what. Let’s make a deal—I’ll forgive You, You’ll forgive me, and from now on we’ll both do only good to each other…’
‘‘Foolish woman,’’ concluded Rabbi Levi Yitzchak. ‘‘Why did she let Him off so easily? She could have brought Moshiach!’’