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Journey to Yerushalayim

We — me, my wife, and about 14 pieces of luggage — had just arrived at Ben-Gurion Airport for a yearlong stay in the Holy Land. A taxi driver approached us, introducing himself as Avi. Although the price he quoted wasn’t the best, it wasn’t entirely unreasonable. After deliberating for a moment or two, we decided to accept, and we were on our way.

Avi looked like a classic working-class chiloni (secular Israeli). His taxi was bereft of any religious markings. Although I wanted nothing more than to express my overwhelming delight and gratitude to Hashem for the privilege of being in the Land of the Prophets, I decided to play it safe and asked him if he had ever been to America.

During the next 20 minutes, Avi regaled us with a detailed account of the years he had spent in New York and Alabama after his army service. He told us about the foods he had eaten, the sights he had seen, and, most notably, the large sum of money he had earned as a manager of an Israeli-owned Supercenter, which allowed him to purchase his very own taxi upon his return to Israel over 20 years ago.

Then Avi sighed and fell silent. Perhaps after his return from his exciting stint in America, there wasn’t much else of note in his life. Perhaps Avi’s life had settled into a monotonous cycle of sleeping, eating, and working. Not daring to break the silence for fear that my assumption was correct, I sat back and looked out the window, thankful for the life of meaning and purpose I merit to lead.

Suddenly, Avi spoke again. “You know, some people pray to Hashem all their lives and feel as if they cannot connect with Him. But there are some people who are privileged with feeling Hashem enter their lives and shake them to their core.”

“Nu?” I said, cautiously. “What do you mean?”

It is said that when Rebbe Nachman of Breslov finally stepped upon the shores of Eretz Yisrael after an arduous six-month journey replete with obstacles and difficulties, he took four steps, turned around, and began to walk back to his ship. “I have attained the spiritual levels for which I came,” he said. “I am ready to return home.”

If we had made the trip to Eretz Yisrael only to hear the story Avi proceeded to tell us, dayeinu — it would have been more than enough.

This is the story he told.

“A few years after my daughter was born, my wife wanted to leave me. I was working 14 hours a day on average, seven days a week, and my wife felt she had lost her husband and our child had lost her father. I was simply never home. Though I commiserated with her and agreed that something had to change, I am a workaholic by nature, and the money was very good. I wasn’t sure what to do. While I was supposed to be figuring all this out, my wife moved into a different apartment. I had a fantastic job, but my life was falling apart.

(Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 734)


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