I have often been told that, when it comes to Jewish self-discovery – teshuvah, it is easier to reach out to females than to males and, indeed, there are some indications of this. But I have found this theory to be wrong. If, in some circles, there are more females attending Torah study programs, it is only because the men have not yet been tapped. The truth is that the pintele Yid is as potent in males as females and is able to ignite the heart of a man even as that of a woman. Just as the pintele Yid is not affected by the ravages of time, so it is not subject to gender differences.
Tommy’s story is a case in point. His first Hineni encounter occurred on a Tuesday night at my Torah class at KJ. He had been dating Donna, a lovely woman, who, for some reason, insisted that he come to my class. Tommy himself was a personable businessman from a totally secular background. He had no knowledge of Judaism and that Tuesday night class was his first Torah exposure.
As always, the formula worked – the magic of Hashem’s words are so powerful that they can awaken even the most dormant, assimilated heart. So it was that, as Tommy absorbed the teachings of the parshah, the pintele Yid in his neshamah started to flicker, and in no time at all, burst into a flame. Tommy wanted to find out more, obtained a copy of one of my books and asked me to sign it for him.
“What is your Jewish name?” I asked.
“I don’t have one,” he answered matter-of-factly.
“Are you certain?” I asked. “Could it be that someone in your family …your parents, an elderly aunt or uncle, might know what your Jewish name is, even if you, yourself are not aware of it?”
“No,” he assured me. “While they are Jewish, they are Reform Jews and I was never given a Jewish name.”
When I encounter such situations, it always raises a red flag and makes me wonder whether the person had a proper Bris. As we know, Jewish males are named at their Bris, so if a person has no Jewish name, it is possible that he never had one, or more likely, that a surgeon, rather than a mohel, performed the circumcision. While such an individual may have undergone a surgical procedure, he was not inducted into the Bris – G-d’s covenant… and indeed, upon further investigation, Tommy discovered that a surgeon had performed his circumcision in a hospital, but the covenant that Hashem sealed with our Father Abraham, binding us for all eternity, was never sanctified.
I explained to Tommy that this omission had to be rectified, and suggested that he attend my son, Rabbi Osher’s Talmud shiur and make arrangements with him to contact a mohel. At the same time, I told him to ask Rabbi Osher to take him for tefillin. The tefillin, I explained, represent a sign between the Jewish people and the Almighty G-d and have to be donned every weekday by every Jewish male. Tommy had a lot to digest as I explained the deeper significance of tefillin.
I told him that one of the prayers said when placing the straps of the tefillin around his middle finger would be “I will betroth you to Me forever, and I will betroth you to Me with righteousness, justice, kindness, and mercy. I will betroth you to Me with fidelity and you shall know Hashem.”
Tommy absorbed it all with utmost respect and, as he was about to leave, I told him that when he met the mohel, he should tell him that I suggested his name be “Tuvia.” For some reason, that was the name that came to my mind. I explained to him the name was comprised of two words – Tov – good, and Kah – G-d. “May this name be a blessing for you… that you may be a good servant to G-d. Tuvia smiled, but his eyes were moist. “That’s powerful,” he said, “very, very powerful. I thank you.”
The following Monday, Tommy did attend my son’s Talmud class at our Hineni Center and soon became a regular, but every time my son tried to make arrangements for the bris or the tefillin, something intervened. Tommy, as many others who were hurt by the economic turndown, found himself overwhelmed by business concerns that took him on the road. Thus, his meeting with the mohel and getting the tefillin kept getting delayed.
Then, one day, he called my son and said, “Rabbi, I’m ready for the tefillin.”
Delighted, Rabbi Osher took him to Sofer Stam, a Judaica store on Coney Island Avenue in Brooklyn. Rabbi Pincus, the proprietor, has a marvelous way of imparting the awesomeness of the mitzvah of tefillin. He shows how the tefillin are actually made, explains their contents, and makes the entire experience both inspirational and memorable. Incredibly, no sooner did my son and Tommy enter the store than the renowned mohel, Rabbi Paysach Krohn, walked in.
“Shalom Aleichem, Reb Paysach!” my son greeted him, delighted at this marvelous turn of events. “You are just the person we want to see!” And so it was that right then and there, a great simcha took place and all the men in the store joined in the celebration as Tommy entered the Bris of our Father Abraham, and became Tuvia.
But the story doesn’t quite end there. Amazingly, this all happened on Parshas Shemos, the parshah in which the birth of Moshe Rabbeinu is announced and, as we know, one of the names of Moshe Rabbeinu was Tuvia.
Coincidence? Think for a moment…. When I gave the name Tuvia to Tommy, could I have possibly have known that it would be on parshas Shemos that he would have his name given to him? Coincidence? Think for a moment – when my son, Rabbi Osher decided to go to Sofer Stam with Tommy for his tefillin, could he have possibly known that precisely at the moment they arrived, Rabbi Paysach Krohn would walk in (and mind you, Rabbi Krohn does not reside in Brooklyn). …. Coincidence? Think about it. How is it that Donna, Tommy’s date, who was not particularly observant, and is not a regular at Hineni, insisted that Tommy attend my Torah class although they were not dating seriously?
No. There are no coincidences. In the Holy Tongue every word is definitive. Mikreh, the word for coincidence, also means, “Karah MeiHashem – It happened from G-d.” Nothing, but nothing, in our lives is random. The Almighty oversees the world, guides our every step and our every breath. We need only keep our eyes and ears open to see His Hand.
So how are we to understand it all?
There is yet another covenant that G-d sealed with us, a covenant that dictates our lives and is embedded in our souls. We recite it every day in our prayers… a covenant that it is recorded for all time in the Book of Isaiah: “Zos Brisi osam – This is My covenant with them: ‘And the words that I shall place upon your lips shall never depart from your lips, nor from the lips of your children or your children’s children’ thus sayeth the L-rd, forever and evermore.”
We are witness today to the fulfillment of that Covenant. Hashem is gathering His lost neshamos and bringing them home – and it’s happening all over the world. In recent years, I have traveled on every continent, visited Jewish communities on every part of the globe and, time and again, I saw the great miracle reoccurring. I receive countless e-mails from people who read my books in the various languages in which they have been translated. These letters and e-mails all contain the same message: “Thank you for connecting me with our Torah. I am on the journey home.”
Today Tuvia defines his life through Torah. He confided to me that, “while the economic crunch has made these last years very challenging, nevertheless, all my stress has been rendered inconsequential by the inner joy that I discovered through Torah and mitzvos.”
I could share with you many more amazing stories. The saga of the pintele Yid has no boundaries or limitations. I have chosen to write about just a few of these amazing events, and I do so in honor of my revered, beloved saintly father, HaRav, HaGaon, HaTzaddik, Avraham HaLevi Jungreis, zt’l, who told me to write the “Living Megillah” that relates the miraculous saga of the pintele Yid that is embedded for all eternity in the heart of every Jew and is unfolding before our very eyes.Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis