First day Rosh Hashanah. A Sephardic synagogue somewhere in Israel. A time of deep prayer and contemplation, a time of hope and renewal. For David (not his real name), this day was also a great opportunity. He and his wife had been childless for many years and this year he was determined to purchase the aliyah and reading for Maftir at any cost because it’s a segulah for children because it features the story of Chana. And purchase it he did for 15,000 shekels (over $4000) which, for anyone, is a lot of money. They were almost there and he waited in anticipation to be called to the Torah.
Yechiel (also a pseudonym) had yahrzeit for his father and he ran into the beit knesset unfashionably late. He told the gabbai he had to have an aliyah for his father’s yahrzeit. But the only aliyah left was the seventh and Yechiel’s brother had gotten the sixth. As it’s against halacha to give two close family members one aliyah after the other, Yechiel had a problem. “Who has Maftir?” he asked the gabbai desperately. The gabbai pointed to David. Yechiel went over to him and explained his predicament asking, nay begging him to take the seventh aliyah and give him Maftir.
What could David do? He wanted to help out a fellow Jew but he had waited for this opportunity all year, had scrimped and saved. His wife was at that very moment waiting to hear her husband in the woman’s gallery no doubt with tears in her eyes, prayers on her lips and hope in her heart. What could he do? But he looked at Yechiel’s face and there was no question. Helping a fellow Jews was the priority here. And after all, didn’t Rav Chanina ben Dossa tell his daughter that He who makes oil burn can make vinegar burn when she mixed up the two? Couldn’t the seventh aliyah be a segulah as well?
David agreed. And went up for shviyi while Yechiel had Maftir. When Yechiel got off the bimah, people rushed over to him. “What have you done?” they said. “This was supposed to be David’s aliyah. He’d been preparing all year. He and his wife are childless, this was supposed to help them.” How was he supposed to know? He felt terrible. Worse than terrible. He would never have asked had he known. He went over to David and apologized profusely. David reassured him that everything was fine and there was no need to feel bad.
One year later. First day Rosh Hashanah. David came early to the synagogue as usual but found that there was someone already there waiting for him. Yechiel was standing in the door and he hardly waited for David to acknowledge him before he started talking in a rush. “I feel terrible, terrible for what happened last year. I didn’t get a decent night’s sleep all year. But I’ve fixed it. I bought Maftir for you at 15,000 shekels. It’s yours. And may it bring you mazal.”
David smiled at him. “Thank you, that’s very nice of you,” he said. “But there’s really no need! Baruch Hashem, a month ago, my wife and I were blessed with twins.