As if sensing that Rabbi Margalit was thinking of how to get through to him, the man added in a restrained but decisive voice, “I don’t want you to talk me anymore – at all. I’m not interested in talking to you or anyone like you. I’m sure you have all kinds of explanations and ideas to tell me, but I’m not interested in any of them. And I’m sure my dead son isn’t either.”
Rabbi Margalit, wanting somehow to soothe the man’s pain, began to respond but the man wouldn’t let him. “I told you,” he said, cutting Rabbi Margalit off in mid-sentence. “I’m not interested in talking or listening to you.”
They continued their flight in silence. When they arrived at their destination, Rabbi Margalit softly said “Shalom,” but the man ignored him.
Years passed and Rabbi Margalit was spending Yom Kippur in a neighborhood other than his own. At one point in the davening he felt the need to leave the shul for a few minutes to get some fresh air. He did, and when he stepped outside he came upon a shocking sight one rarely encounters on Yom Kippur in any neighborhood in Eretz Yisrael – a man sitting on a bench not far from the shul, smoking a cigarette.
After recuperating from the shock, Rabbi Margalit did what many kindhearted people would do in such a situation. He started walking toward the lone figure – not to reprimand him but to talk with him, to help him, to bring him closer to his Father in Heaven and his people. As Rabbi Margalit got closer he suddenly realized he recognized the man. It took him a moment to place him and then he knew without a doubt – this was the man who had sat next to him on the plane years ago!
Rabbi Margalit hesitated and then, with a prayer in his heart and on his lips on this holiest day of the year, he continued walking toward him. When he got close enough, he gently said: “I understand why you are doing this, but I must tell you something. You are doing this out of anger but your anger is because of your love for your son. You love your son so much. Now you have the opportunity to do something positive for him. Come say Kaddish for his neshamah, for his holy soul. Come…I’ll help you. Come and say Kaddish for your beloved son.”
Rabbi Margalit’s sincerity was so strong it touched something deep inside the man. This time he couldn’t refuse the offer. Slowly he got up, threw away his cigarette, and began to walk with Rabbi Margalit to the shul. They entered together and when the time for Kaddish came, Rabbi Margalit asked the man his Hebrew name and his son’s Hebrew name and went up to the gabbai.
Softly he said, “Please, this man is saying Kaddish for the first time for his son who was murdered in the camps. Please say Kaddish as sincerely as you can, with as much feeling as you can, to give the father some comfort, and some connection.”
And with that he told the gabbai the name of the man’s son: Yonasan Uziel ben Moshe. The gabbai gasped, turned to the man, looked at his face and deeply into his eyes, and then cried out from the depths of his being, “Tattie!” At which point he fainted.
Father and son had been reunited.
Darchei Hashem nistaros, Hashem’s ways are hidden.
* * * * *
I asked Rav Margalit what we should learn from this extraordinary story.