The man walked slowly into the beit midrash. He glanced around and found an empty seat next to my son, Rafi. So began a very special relationship.
My son was in his third year of Hesder Yeshivah. He found the atmosphere very conducive to growing in Torah knowledge. He learned with chavrutot,as well as attending several shiurim given by his rosh yeshiva and other rabbis. The week before, one of Rafi’s chavrutot had gotten married and left for a yeshivacloser to his new home. Hence, the empty seat next to my son.
The man now occupying that seat was in his late 60s. He leaned his cane against the wall and turned to my son. The two became chavrutot, and found they were a perfect match. My son gained from the man’s vast experience in Torah learning, while he in turn gained new perspective and challenge learning with a much younger man.
As time went by and their connection grew, the man shared his story with Rafi. He had been a rebbe for about 30 years, teaching Gemara to young men like my son. One day, he woke up and felt a very strange sensation of weakness in his body. When the feeling intensified, he underwent a series of tests to determine the cause of his problem.
He was told his condition would worsen over time, and that he did not have long to live – a few months at the most. He sat and thought about how he wanted to spend the last months of his life. And so he found himself back in yeshiva, this time as a talmid. He now looked forward to each day, and felt new energy infusing his body.
Rafi and his chavrutah learned together for a few years until my son left the yeshiva and returned to Yerushalayim. Whenever he has free time from his university studies, Rafi travels back to his old yeshiva. The first person he always seeks out is his old friend, who is, baruch Hashem, still to be found sitting in the same seat. Next to him sits another young man and together, they intensely discuss a point in Gemara.
May Hashem grant him many more years of good health, along with the ability to continue enjoying the study and teaching of Torah.