I have always told my husband that Hashem apparently loves him very much. And I have even proven my theory by citing the fact that Hashem, in His infinite goodness, gave him me! My husband usually agreed with the first part of the statement.
True, my husband did not exactly live a charmed life. He faced some genuine challenges over the years, most dramatically the loss of his beloved father and role model soon after our chassanah. However, he has always been the textbook perpetual optimist and a staunch believer in the assurance that Hashem will provide. Invariably He did just that.
Some three decades ago, about a year after our chassanah, we decided to leave all that was near, dear and familiar and made aliyah. We were about to become well acquainted with Israeli-style bureaucracy. I was pregnant with our first child, and, to make things even more exciting, it was a shemitah year. Baruch Hashem, we persevered despite the myriad challenges; my husband learned in kollel, drinking in the avira d’ara (spiritual atmosphere). Life was good.
Then, for family reasons beyond our control, we were compelled to temporarily return to the U.S. We spoke to my husband’s rosh yeshiva prior to our departure, and were advised to purchase an apartment in Eretz Yisrael to help guarantee our eventual return. So we bought a small, fixer-upper apartment in a suburb of Yerushalayim. Then we left, with tear-filled eyes and heavy hearts.
We remained in chutz la’aretz for one year. My husband took a job teaching high school limudei kodesh, and I worked as a computer programmer. Then we gratefully returned to the Holy Land.
My husband had been assured of a position in a high school geared for children of olim from the U.S. Unfortunately there had apparently been a “minor” misunderstanding. My husband had assumed that his teaching position would be full-time and afford us a decent parnassah. The school administration, however, had never said so explicitly, nor committed to it in writing. When my husband met with them prior to the start of the school year, he was shocked to discover that the job was actually a mere hour a day (at around noon). He boarded the bus to return to our home in the boondocks, concerned about what my reaction would be and how we would manage to make ends meet.
He need not have worried: “Yeshuas Hashem k’heref ayin” – literally. As he was agonizing about our uncertain future, he alit from the bus and practically bumped into a familiar figure from the past. After a hearty exchange of greetings and small talk, they discovered that each was the answer to the other’s prayers.
My husband’s friend, a respected rav and talmid chacham from his hometown, had since made aliyah. He now worked tirelessly as a rosh yeshiva in a post-high school yeshiva intentionally located in our sleepy little town, far from the enticements of the big cities. His yeshiva had enjoyed much success in the past and was about to begin another year of its mission to turn hitherto uninspired youth on to Yiddishkeit. There was, however, one glaring problem: an unforeseen hitch had left them short-staffed, and they were desperately in need of another rebbe. That’s when hashgachah pratis and Hashem’s sense of humor staged a resounding victory. My husband found the job he was seeking and for which he was highly qualified, while his chaver found a phenomenal rebbe for his yeshiva. It was indisputably a match made in heaven. The ironic downside was that every day my husband had to hustle back and forth to Yerushalayim on his lunch break in order to honor the commitment he had made to his original employers.
After a couple of wonderful years forging lifelong connections with these remarkable boys, my husband decided to leave that position to pursue an opportunity with his original employer to open a school for boys from chutz la’aretz. Aside from being part of something new and exciting, he benefitted from leaving the other yeshiva just before it faced a very trying ordeal that shook up the entire institution and reverberated for years to come.
His next job literally came looking for him. It is said that opportunity knocks, and we witnessed it firsthand. A very prominent rav from Yerushalayim had a dream of opening a groundbreaking yeshiva, whereby boys would be given the best of all worlds. He visited our remote suburb and came “knocking” on our door to entice my husband to join him in making his dream a reality. Despite numerous obstacles and roadblocks, they ultimately were successful in establishing a unique and enviable place of learning that became immensely popular and, Baruch Hashem, turned out generations of esteemed bnei Torah.
The next position was presented via an unexpected phone call from abroad. The rav of an aesthetically beautiful but religiously desolate community had decided that my husband was the man they needed to inject more ruchniyus into their struggling kehillah. I disagreed. We went on a pilot trip to see the city for ourselves. My husband returned to Eretz Yisrael with that familiar sparkle that meant he was intrigued by the possibilities and tantalized by the challenge. I was neither.
We decided to consult with Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, zt”l. After deliberating for a while, the great posek decided that if it constituted a “makom nidach” we should go and be matzliach. Its intermarriage rate of over 70 percent definitely qualified the city for the status of makom nidach. So off we went, despite my misgivings. My husband did, in fact, prove himself the man for the job, making tremendous inroads in raising the level of frumkeit during the two years we spent there. At that time, we asked a shailah to Rav Elya Svei, zt”l, because our oldest son was about to begin high school. Rav Elya paskened that our son was too young to be sent away from home and the local school was not appropriate for him; we were told to return to Eretz Yisrael.
By then, it was nearly summertime and we still had no plans in place for the coming year. Another phone call “min hashamayim” changed all that instantaneously. Months earlier, my husband had heard about an exciting fellowship program that was being offered in Eretz Yisrael, and had commented that it seemed interesting. Then he had promptly forgotten about it. But the organizers of the program and the universal Organizer on High apparently had not.
When we were unexpectedly facing a dilemma of what to do for the upcoming year, the answer miraculously landed in our laps. Incredibly, they were holding a fellowship slot for my husband and needed his response ASAP. We gratefully seized that opportunity and returned to the Promised Land – and to a year full of promise as well.
There were so many other miracles, both subtle and more obvious, that formed the basis of our daily existence – and continue to do so.
When our ancestors reached the outskirts of the Land of Canaan after 40 years spent wandering the desert, the manna that had been their daily sustenance suddenly ceased to fall. B’chasdei Hashem, ours is sustaining us still.
Editor’s Note: The d’var Torah in last week’s Lessons in Emunah column was by Rabbi Yechezkel Aishishkin, zt”l, who was the chief rabbi of Detroit.
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