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July 28, 2014 / 1 Av, 5774
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The Cat from Jerusalem

"In New York I partied almost every night and the next day I didn’t feel good about myself. But here, after spending the night at the Wall, I feel an exhilaration."
Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

In high spirits we proceeded to the hotel dining room for Sabbath dinner. I invited my nine-year-old granddaughter, who to my delight had joined us on the trip, to share some Torah thoughts.

It is a timeless tradition that at every Sabbath meal wisdom from that week’s parshah is discussed. Over the years I have discovered that whatever transpires on the world scene, or whatever predicament a person finds himself in, the portion of the week always gives illumination. So it was that my little granddaughter found an allusion to Beth’s cat story in the portion that was studied that week – Deuteronomy 11:15, “And you shall give grass to your cattle and you shall eat and be satisfied” – from which our sages conclude that since the animals are mentioned first they must be fed first and we humans are to satisfy our appetites only afterward.

“This mitzvah,” my granddaughter went on to say, “is so important that when Noah entered the ark, G-d charged him with this responsibility. On one occasion, when Noah was late with the feeding, the lion in his hunger became so infuriated that he bit Noah, and that injury left him limping.” With an adorable smile lighting up her face my granddaughter concluded by saying, “The other night in the restaurant, Beth fed the cat before she herself ate. And so you see, everything is in the Torah portion of the week!”

“This truly made a believer of me,” Beth called out with tears in her eyes. As much as our group chuckled at the story, and tried to laugh it off as coincidence, we were awed by it.

No one had a logical explanation for how that kitten could have known which hotel we were staying in and how it found its way to us. If anyone reading this thinks it must have been another kitten, Beth will tell you she recognized the kitten immediately and identified all its signs.

Should you still harbor doubts, consider that it was on that particular night, as we arrived at the hotel, that the kitten was waiting at the entrance. I have stayed at that hotel frequently but at no other time have I ever seen a kitten crying at its front door.

When our group left Israel, Beth stayed on for a few days to make arrangements for her newfound friend to return with her to America. And so it was that the kitten from Jerusalem became a resident of New York City.

The cat, however, had a difficult time adjusting to its new habitat, so Beth decided to give it to one of our Hineni members who was a psychologist. “Perhaps you could help him to adjust” she told Karen, who willingly took up the challenge.

As the years passed the cat story faded from my memory. Two weeks ago, though, something happened that reminded me about the cat and I asked Karen how it was doing. Was it still alive? Her face lit up with a big smile and she said, “Rebbetzin, you can’t imagine. He’s the oldest cat around and he’s just a sweetheart. I’ll send you a photograph.”

I share that photograph with readers so that you can see for yourselves the cat from Jerusalem. But I’m sure you’re wondering what drove me to write about it.

A cat – a simple cat that has no ability to think or evaluate –changes character, becoming restless, sad and angry when uprooted from Jerusalem. Well, if a cat born in Jerusalem couldn’t bear to leave the Holy City and feels destitute and nervous in a foreign land, how much more does this hold true for the Jewish people? We were uprooted from our land and taken to foreign and hostile soil millennia ago. Of course we must feel the pain of leaving Jerusalem. How can we possibly forget?

But the cat eventually settled in and became fat and comfy. He learned to love his new, good life and being away from Jerusalem no longer bothered him.

Could it be that we, sons and daughters of Jerusalem, are not much different from that cat? Today the cat is perfectly adjusted, happy with his delicious cat chow and wallowing in his pampered life. Jerusalem has long faded from his cat mind.

So what does this cat story tell me? What does it tell you? Think about it.

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One Response to “The Cat from Jerusalem”

  1. I met plenty of really nice friendly cats in Israel and two that I fell in love with. Cats do think and evaluate and they are able to give love. "What greater gift than the love of a cat"

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