Photo Credit: Jewish Press

The religious neighborhoods in Eretz Yisrael have a flavor all their own. In Yerushalayim, Bnei Brak, Kiryat Sefer, Elad or any other city, town or neighborhood that has a religious population, you’ll see right away that the residents are different from secular Israelis. In the religious areas, men, women and children are all dressed very modestly, longer skirts and sleeves, high necklines, loose clothing with subdued colors. Their comportment is modest, which means not drawing attention to themselves. Also, you usually won’t see boys and girls, or men and women chatting with each other, unless they are close family. If someone wants to know where a particular street or shop is, they’ll ask someone of the same gender, unless there’s no one else there to ask.

And something else you’ll notice are the many posters which are plastered on the outer walls of the neighborhood. These signs are a very interesting part of the culture in these neighborhoods. Of course there are the large black and white posters informing passersby of the passing away either of someone from the neighborhood, or someone well known to the residents such as a prominent rabbi who passed away. They give the date and place of the funeral and shiva as well as the names of the families who will be sitting shiva, and the shiva location and hours.

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There are also posters which request that visitors or tourists should respect the mores of the area and dress modestly. There are posters denouncing various electronic devices in very clear terms, warning people not to be enticed into using and looking at something that can be so destructive to their souls, their lives and those of their families. There are sometimes also posters announcing an inspiring prayer gathering, or a demonstration that will be taking place, stating the exact purpose of the demonstration as well as when and where it will be. And there are also posters welcoming a visiting tsaddik.

Many of the people who pass by glance at the posters and if there’s nothing of particular interest to them, they just continue on their way. But a poster like the one I am about to tell you that was plastered on many walls in Bnei Brak was definitely one-of-a-kind and thousands of people stopped to read it, to read every single word. Among all the other regular posters was a large poster which pronounced:

A GREAT THANK YOU TO THE TERRORIST JABBER ACHMADI

As you can imagine, whoever saw this announcement stopped in their tracks and read it from beginning to end. The writer of the poster was a rabbi who worked as a kashrut supervisor, in a bakery, in a large shopping mall in Rishon L’Tzion, and he told the following story: One day, on his way to work, the rabbi was brutally stabbed by an Arab terrorist who ran away and left him to die. Within seconds fellow Jews called an ambulance and did all they could to stem the bleeding and save his life as they awaited the ambulance. When it arrived, the rabbi was quickly put into the ambulance where the medics did all they could to keep him alive.

At the hospital he underwent emergency procedures to stop the bleeding and then immediate surgery to save his life. It was the most harrowing experience of his life.

The sudden terrible pain and fear, and then, it quickly became a horribly frightening experience for his whole family and all those who knew him.

Nevertheless, the rabbi wanted to thank the terrorist who tried to kill him. Why??? And this is what he wrote: When the doctors studied the x-rays in order to see the exact details of the injury, they noticed something else in addition to what the knife had done. They noticed unusual sick cells. They examined them and found that they were malignant cells of a terrible illness near one of his vital organs, cells that were beginning to develop and do their horrendous damage – though he had absolutely no pain or other signs of illness at all. Yes, until the stabbing, the rabbi felt totally fine. And yet there was a dreaded disease developing inside him.

When the rabbi woke up after the surgery, the doctors told him that boruch Hashem the operation was successful and he was completely out of danger. And then they told him about the malignant cells they had discovered while preparing for surgery and that considering the specific type of sick cells and where they were located, those particular cells would have proliferated so quickly that by the time he would have any signs of illness, it would have been too late, absolutely impossible for the doctors to save his life. At that point, which would have been quite soon, he would have only a few weeks left before he would succumb to the illness G-d forbid.

And so it was that the rabbi thanked the bestial terrorist for his sick act of atrocity, for it was precisely that act which became the extraordinary link to the doctors’ saving the rabbi’s life. Yes, according to a natural, cause-and-effect explanation, it was the stabbing that led to the disease being inadvertently discovered at an early enough stage to save him. If not, he wouldn’t be here today.

Rabbi Menachem Stein told this story in Eretz Yisrael while speaking about the fact that absolutely everything that happens is good. “No doubt,” he said, “when the rabbi felt the stabbing, he surely felt that it was terrible and as he experienced the pain and fear, maybe he even had a bad thought, such as that it wasn’t fair that it happened to him. But it didn’t take much time, just a couple of hours, till he knew that what had happened was good! It wasn’t pleasant, but it led to absolute goodness. His life was saved!

Rabbi Stein continued: “Sometimes Hashem allows us to see and comprehend in a short period of time, that what seemed very bad was actually absolutely good. We don’t always see that though. But even when we don’t, we must remember that everything that Hashem does is for the good.”

The doctors told the rabbi: “You should send the terrorist a letter of thanks for it was he who led to your life being saved.” But the rabbi knew that this was no coincidence that could be concluded with a joke about thanking the terrorist. He knew absolutely that it was his Father in Heaven who orchestrated this extraordinary chain of events in order to save his life. And so his ‘letter of thanks’ was to Hashem, and it was displayed publicly for all to read to remind us that even the seemingly worst events are l’tova, ‘for the good.’ Sometimes we never see the goodness, but we believe that it’s there because we believe that everything Hashem does is for our benefit. Sometimes we don’t see the goodness, not even long after the event. Not in this lifetime, anyway. But still we believe that everything that Hashem does is good. And this poster was printed to remind us of that.

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Naomi Brudner, M.A., lives in Yerushalayim where she writes, counsels and practices Guided Imagery for health, including for stroke patients.