The Bucket

The two saintly brothers, Reb Zusha and Reb Elimelech, who lived in 18th century Poland, wandered for years disguised as beggars, seeking to refine their characters and encourage their deprived brethren.

In one city, the two brothers, who later became mentors to many thousands of Jews, earned the wrath of a "real" beggar who informed the local police and had them cast into prison for the night.

As they awoke in their prison cell, Reb Zusha noticed his brother weeping silently. "Why do you cry?" asked Reb Zusha.

Reb Elimelech pointed to the pail situated in the corner of the room that inmates used for a toilet. "Jewish law forbids one to pray in a room inundated with such a repulsive odor," he told his brother. "This will be the first day in my life in which I will not have the opportunity to pray."

"And why are you upset about this?" asked Reb Zusha. "What do you mean?" responded his brother. "How can I begin my day without connecting to G‑d?"

"But you are connecting to G‑d," insisted Reb Zusha. "The same G‑d who commanded you to pray each morning, also commanded you to abstain from prayer under such circumstances. In a location such as this, you connect to G‑d by the absence of prayer."

His brother's viewpoint elated Reb Elimelech's heart. The awareness that the waste-filled pail in the corner of the room allowed him the opportunity to enjoy an intimate — though different — type of relationship with G‑d inspired him so deeply that he began to dance. The two brothers were now holding hands and dancing in celebration of their newly discovered relationship with their Father in heaven.

The non-Jewish inmates imprisoned in the same cell were so moved by the sight, that they soon joined the dancing. It did not take long before the entire room was swept away by an electrifying energy of joy, as dozens of prisoners were dancing and jumping around ecstatically.

When the prison warden heard the commotion coming from the cell, he burst open the gate, only to be stunned by the inmates enjoying such a liberating dance. In his fury, he attempted to stop the dancing, but to no avail: The prisoners were by now totally consumed by a deeper happiness, stemming from a very deep place within their souls.

Finally, the warden pulled aside one of the inmates, demanding from him an explanation for what was going on.

The frightened prisoner related that the outburst was not his fault, nor was it the fault of the other inmates. It was rather the two Jews dancing in the center of the circle who triggered the trouble.

"And what inspired the two Jews to go into such a dance?" thundered the warden.

The prisoner pointed to the pail in the corner of the room. "It is the pail, they claim, that brought about the joy in their heart."

“How can this smelly pail make them happy?”

“Well… they explained, that the pail allowed them to experience a new type of relationship with G‑d. There was the pre-pail relationship… and the post-pail relationship… Somehow the pail transformed their spiritual perception.”

"If that's the case, I will teach them a lesson," shouted the angry warden. He took the pail and threw it out of the cell.

Reb Zusha turned to his brother and said: "And now, my brother, you can begin your prayers!"

This is the essence of Judaism. We are always in a relationship. Even when we are in a psychological dungeon, and there is a bucket of dirt around us, we are empowered to live fully and to love fully.