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September 19, 2014 / 24 Elul, 5774
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Place Of Honor


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I have a girlfriend I’ll call Esti who works for a kiruv organization. During the summer semester, this organization offered an experiential history program. They taught a subject for a week, and then the next week toured the places they discussed in order to experience history firsthand. If they studied the First Temple era, for example, they would then visit the City of David.

My friend chose to join the students on the tour that focused on the kabbalists in 16th century Tzfat. There, they visited the synagogue of Rabbi Yosef Caro, author of the Beit Yosef – later abridged to become the Shulchan Aruch.

“The holiness there was so powerful,” said Esti. “It was a very emotional experience.”

While the guide started his talk in the synagogue, Esti stood outside speaking with a student. When she entered, she took a seat on an empty bench in the back.

“What’s your name?” asked the tour guide.

She thought he was addressing someone else, so she did not answer.

“No, no, I want your name,” he said.

“Esti.”

“Okay, now everyone look where Esti’s sitting,” he said, pointing at the bench in the back of the room. “This is a very special bench. Whoever sits on that bench is blessed with a boy within the year.”

It was the 25th of Av.

At that time, Esti was 43. She had her last child five years earlier, and had already started giving away baby clothes. Exactly a year later, on the 25th of Av, the family celebrated the Bar Mitzvah of one of her sons. They also celebrated the Shalom Zachar of her new baby boy and the naming of his twin sister.

“No one told me it was a two-for-one special,” said Esti.

The pregnancy was high risk and she had to be on bed rest. At one point, she was in serious danger of losing the babies. The doctor was incredulous when her condition stabilized. He went to check with the ultrasound technician to be sure.

The secular doctor asked, “Did you pray at a tzaddik’s grave?”

Well, not exactly. But I guess it was the next best thing.

The synagogue of the tzaddik, Rabbi Yosef Caro, is located in the old city of Tzfat.

Be sure to take a back seat!

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