Our son Eliyahu Yeshaya, already known to you from previous articles, adores the outdoors. He has a dream to fly to Mongolia which is mostly unspoiled by humans. He wants to spend quiet time away from civilization and he yearns to hike in gorgeous unsullied areas. His mother is not thrilled by this idea.
In the meanwhile, he decided to hike part of the Israel Trail, a hiking trail that crosses Israel between the southern and northern borders, traversing a wide range of landscapes and a rich variety of flora and fauna. He hiked the southern trail from Eilat to Jerusalem. We hoped this would quell his hiking fever, but it didn’t.
He looked online for someone frum with whom he could travel to Mongolia, but he was not successful. I told him that he could go on a honeymoon there one day. Since a trek in Mongolia didn’t actualize, Eliyahu Yeshaya looked for another destination.
His good friend, also Eliyahu, expressed interest in going to northern India with our son. Preparations were made, supplies were purchased and off they flew, albeit on flights that were a day apart. Our son did not know when he would return to Israel. We hoped that he would come back before Rosh Hashanah.
I must say that I am not a fan of so many young people going off to places like India and Nepal. Part of the reason is what happened long ago to a friend’s daughter. Her daughter had gone off to India with a friend. One day she wasn’t feeling well; she was having pain in her abdominal area. Somehow she ended up in an Indian hospital. She called her parents to update them, and she said that they shouldn’t worry. Those were the last words they heard her say. I also know of young people who left Israel to travel and became non-frum as a result. On the other hand, I know of two people from our small community who met their bashert in India.
So I prayed that our son would have a safe trip and come home healthy. We loved hearing from our son by phone, and sometimes there was good enough reception to see him on WhatsApp. He was really having a wonderful time. He would plan his hiking itinerary around the goal of being in a Chabad House for Shabbatot.
Eliyahu Yeshaya is a real leader. For instance, after he finished his hesder yeshiva program, he was asked by the rosh yeshiva to stay on as a counselor for the young men learning there. He is a young man who takes the initiative and is open for various challenges.
Eliyahu Yeshaya chose to be in the northern India town of Ramsala for Rosh Hashanah. He reached the Chabad House there and made a reservation. Almost all of the backpackers who were milling about did not look religious. Our son, with his tzizit with techelet hanging down as well as his kippa, beard and mustache, drew the attention of the Chabad rabbi, Rav Elitzur.
The Chabad rabbi took him aside and asked if he would blow the shofar both days of Rosh Hashanah. Our son replied that he had never done that before, but that he could try. (We have a shofar in our china closet, and over the years the kids have tried it out.)
Eliyahu Yeshaya spent time on erev Rosh Hashanah learning the laws of blowing a shofar as well as practicing. The next day he blew the shofar at the Chabad House and succeeded in this new role. After the Yom Tov meal concluded, the Chabad rabbi approached Eliyahu Yeshaya and asked if he was willing to go with him to places that unaffiliated Israelis were hanging out which included cafes, restaurants and on the streets. Our son replied in the affirmative and off they went to bring Rosh Hashanah to fellow Jews.
Wherever they saw Israelis, the rabbi would ask them if they would like to hear the shofar. No one turned down the offer, and so Eliyahu Yeshaya blew thirty shofar blasts each time. He told me that for better concentration he would keep his eyes closed as he blew. So after successfully blowing the shofar on the streets, the two of them turned their attention to cafes and restaurants.
They identified some Israelis at a restaurant and the rabbi asked if they would like to hear the shofar. They acquiesced, and so Eliyahu Yeshaya closed his eyes and started blowing the shofar. He was about midway through the thirty blasts, when suddenly, he felt that he was not succeeding to get any shofar sounds. He heard air emanate from the shofar, but that was it. He attempted again to blow the holy sounds, but he did not succeed.
Suddenly, he felt a hand on his shoulder. He opened up his eyes and turned around to find an Indian. He was the manager of the restaurant, and he told our son that they were making noise and bothering his customers. He wanted our son and the Chabad rabbi to stop immediately. The two of them did not want to make trouble, so they left that spot. They continued on and blew time after time for the Israeli tourists.
As they walked, they saw a group of Israelis on the street. Rav Elitzur went up to them and asked if they would like to hear the shofar. They were very happy to hear the offer. Eliyahu Yeshaya closed his eyes and started blowing the shofar. Suddenly, again, it seemed like only air was coming out of the shofar. He didn’t understand why this was happening, and he tried a few more times. Finally he succeeded in blowing the thirty blasts.
After that, he and the rabbi started walking back to the Chabad House. Very excitedly, Rabbi Elitzur asked Eliyahu Yeshaya if he realized what had happened. Our son said no. The rabbi explained that both times that Eliyahu Yeshaya wasn’t able to blow the shofar was when Indians were near him. He reminded Eliyahu Yeshaya that he had successfully blown the shofar a number of times, and the first time that he hadn’t succeeded was when the Indian restaurant manager had placed his hand on our son’s shoulder. The rabbi continued and said that the second time that Eliyahu Yeshaya wasn’t able to blow the shofar was when a few Indians walked by them. The moment that the Indians were no longer in the vicinity, our son successfully completed the shofar sounds.
“Suddenly, I realized, yeah, it wasn’t like I opened my eyes and saw them. My eyes were closed, and I didn’t even realize what was around me. And it wasn’t because they passed by me and I felt them, because I had the Israelis near me,” he told me.
Rabbi Elitzur told our son that the shofar is known as a very spiritual instrument, and any change in the surrounding spirituality can cause the shofar to stop emitting its holy sounds. He continued and spoke about how the Indians are full of avodah zarah and other problematic things.
“Suddenly I realized how, wow, the shofar is so pure that anytime there were impure powers around, the shofar didn’t allow any blasts,” Eliyahu Yeshaya concluded.
Our son came home the day after Yom Kippur and told us many a tale of his travels in India. The above tale is certainly the most mind-blowing one!