The Baal Shem Tov, founder of Hasidism, who lived from 1700 to 1760, taught: If a Zaddik (righteous one) wishes to raise a man up from the depths of sin, he must descend to his level. To what can it be compared? To a man trying to lift up someone who has fallen into a muddy pit. He cannot do so by remaining above and stretching out a hand. He must climb into the pit itself, into the mud, hold him firmly in his arms and carry him up into the light.”1
This man who is most righteous when compared to others in Judaism has spoken with great profundity. Those of us who have fallen into the pit of sin cannot climb out; we can only look up, dismayed and devastated by our helplessness. Our attempts at climbing end in continued downfall until we are exhausted by our efforts. What shall we do? Shall we declare that this prison-pit is the place of reality? Shall we call such a pit home? Shall we eat the mud and drink the murky water to survive? Shall we make the best of the situation and resign ourselves to die in this pit of sin? What is the way out?
No man can rescue another, for every man is in his own pit, dug deeper by his own sinful actions. The walls threaten to close in about us at any moment, and this abyss becomes our grave. Religion is not the way out, for the well-informed man sees even more cause for despair. The fact that there are many others in their own pits is no comfort to the person who desires to live and not die. The prophets shout and moan from their pits; they inform of the death that awaits us, but they cannot rescue us. They can only beseech us to look above to the one true Zaddik who can effect the rescue. For it is the Lord God of Hosts, and only He, who can raise a man up from the depths of sin. He did so by descending to man’s level. God came to earth in the form of man.
He climbed into our pit of suffering and grief and took our s life.”2 FOOTNOTES
1. Rabbi Shmuel Avidor Hacohen, Touching Heaven Touching Earth (Tel Aviv: Sadan Publishing House Ltd., 1976) p. 29.
2. Bible, New American Standard Version, John 8:12.