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September 17, 2014 / 22 Elul, 5774
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Love The Stranger

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Sensing that it was time to consult with someone else who knew him, the rosh yeshiva asked him if he had any relatives with whom he could talk. The young man gave him his sister’s phone number.

Not knowing what kind of reception his telephone call would receive, the rosh yeshiva introduced himself to the young man’s sister and explained that he had been talking to her brother for the last hour. He got no further. There was a tremendous cry on the other end of the line. “He’s talking. Yossi’s talking. I can’t believe it. I can’t believe it. Yossi’s actually talking.”

When the lady calmed down enough to continue the conversation, the astounded rosh yeshiva learned that Yossi had been involved in a traumatic military disaster in his early days in the Israeli army almost eight years earlier. He had shut himself in his room ever since, refusing to speak to anyone. He accepted meals but nothing else. All attempts to help him, to reach him, by both family and professionals had met with futility.

A few weeks before he had somehow been persuaded to leave his seclusion by a group of young men from a ba’al teshuvah yeshiva who had come to visit him after hearing his story. His family, delighted to see him leave his room for the first time in years, had assumed that they would soon hear from him. But now they were beginning to worry that he had not gotten in touch with them.

The yeshiva proved to be too intense for Yossi. When he left that Shabbat, his self-esteem, it appeared, had been at its lowest ebb. He had presumably felt the need to re-invent himself by copying others.

The boys in this yeshiva who had accepted Yossi’s odd behavior without comment, who had welcomed him to their home and given freely of themselves, their rooms and their time without any criticism, had started to break down his reserve. This, together with the kind, understanding rosh yeshiva who had listened when Yossi needed to open his heart, had brought back his will to communicate – hopefully to return to a normal life.

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