Latest update: April 26th, 2013
We were an overnight success in Israel. Invitations kept pouring in from army bases as well as from the municipalities of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa. Our plans had called for a ten-day tour, but the pressure was on to extend our visit.
I called my beloved husband, of blessed memory. “What should I do?” I asked.
“Is that a question?” he replied. “Of course you must stay. The children are in camp and I’m just fine. Speak in as many places as you can and may Hashem help you to spark the pintele Yid in every heart.”
“But I have a problem,” I told him. “My musicians returned to the States, and I have no one to replace them.”
“Don’t worry,” my husband said. “G-d will send you someone.”
That Sabbath eve, as we sat in the dining room of our hotel in Jerusalem, the maitre d’ told me there were some yeshiva boys in the lobby who wanted to speak to me.
I went out to greet them.
“Rebbetzin,” one of them said, “we are yeshiva students and we have our own band. We came to welcome you to Jerusalem and to offer our services.”
“That’s wonderful,” I said. “How did you know I needed a band?”
“Well, actually, we didn’t know. We just wanted to participate and help.”
“Thank you so much,” I said.
“Aren’t you going to ask why we are volunteering?” their leader asked.
“I know why. You are yeshiva guys and know the importance of reaching out.”
“Yes, that’s true, but there is an additional reason.” And then he began telling me his story.
“A few years ago, I lived in New York. I had no understanding of Judaism. My life was music and I was going to go to Paris to continue my musical studies. One day I was walking on Kings Highway in Brooklyn when suddenly I heard a crash and the screech of brakes. I looked up, and there in the street, covered with blood, was a rabbi who had been run over by a car. I rushed to his side and tried to talk to him but he didn’t respond, so I stayed with him and held his hand until the police and an ambulance came.
“As he was lifted onto a stretcher, I noticed his lips were moving. It seemed like he wanted to tell me something. I leaned down and bent my ear close to his lips so that I might hear him.
“ ‘Sonny,’ he asked in broken English, ‘are you Jewish?’
“ ‘Yes,’ I answered. ‘I’m Jewish.’
“ ‘Sonny,’ the rabbi whispered again, though it was obviously very painful for him to speak, ‘you must go to Jerusalem and study Torah.’ ”
The young man paused for a moment before continuing: “Here was this rabbi, suffering from multiple fractures, his body bloody and bruised. And despite his pain, what does he do? He tells me to go to Jerusalem and study Torah. That experience changed my life. So now you know why I’m here. The rabbi saved my life and I want to give back.”
I had difficulty answering him. I recognized that story – I knew it well. That rabbi was my father. When he had recovered from the accident he told us of the incident and asked that we try to find the young man so that he could thank him for staying with him until the ambulance came. We never did find him, but now, years later, here in Jerusalem, he had come to thank me and offer his services in gratitude, and I was able to thank him in the name of my father.
The words of King Solomon came to mind: “Cast your bread upon the waters, and in days to come, you shall find it.”
No act of kindness is ever lost – it lives on in grateful hearts. A grateful heart has the power to illuminate dense darkness and impart faith even in the most horrific times. And if there was ever a generation in need of it, surely it is ours.Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis
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