All it took were for these souls to open their eyes and see what Hashem was showing them
“May Hashem raise His face toward you and grant you peace.” (Bamidbar 6:26)
There’s a deep fundamental lesson in this blessing. When Hashem lifts His face to you, when He allows you to see His works, then you’ll be filled with peace. Open your eyes to what Hashem’s showing you, and you’ll find shalom. (Rav Yeruchem Boruch Reich, The Shtieble)
My maternal grandfather ztz”l was a kohein. Though small in stature, Zeidy was larger than life with his booming laugh, his zest for living, and his all-encompassing love for every Yid. He was my kohein gadol indeed.
A true story: At a recent wedding in Israel, the grandfather got up to speak. His face shone with hadras panim, framed by a white beard and classic Yemenite peyos. The patriarch of this large family of bnei Torah, he related how, as a youth in 1949, he’d trekked through the dangerous desert to be airlifted to the new State of Israel, joining Operation Magic Carpet.
These pure souls expected to find Mashiach when they arrived. Instead, they found a militantly socialist bureaucracy bent on secularizing the “primitive” new arrivals. To this goal, many of these youth were sent to secular kibbutzim to isolate them for indoctrination. These victimized souls were transformed and modernized into the “New Jew.” Their treatment, unfortunately, became a dark stain in our history.
Life wasn’t easy for Zeidy. But seeing him, you’d never know that. He’d laugh uproariously at his own jokes, choking with glee as he’d repeat the Yiddish punchlines, although I never understood them. He’d grab his grandchildren in bear hugs, rubbing his scratchy beard against our cheeks and telling us how “ugly” we were. Zeidy didn’t believe in giving ayin hara’s, and the more negative adjectives he heaped on your head, the more you knew how proud he was of you.
Brachos, though, he gave with generosity. He loved every Yid with a fierce protective love, going out of his way to give presents, money, advice, food — whether you wanted it or not, Zeidy was giving it.
A group of 14 teenage boys were sent to a leftist kibbutz for reprogramming. Cut off from their families, disoriented and confused — this was not the Promised Land they’d expected to find.
Meanwhile, word had reached one of the gedolim in Bnei Brak of the whereabouts of that group. He sent two of his talmidim to try to help. They went to the kibbutz, but were blocked at the gate. Stymied, they tried other methods of entry, but were caught again. Finally, they returned home and reported their failure to their rebbi. The gadol tried to comfort them, pointing out that efforts too were invaluable.
Just how valuable, he didn’t even know. For those 14 boys actually saw from afar the two bochurim at the gate. “Look!” they whispered. “Young men, dressed as Jews with peyot! The Torah is alive in Israel!” They resolved to remain firm. Every one of them remained true to the Torah and raised generations of Torah Jews.
Those two boys thought they’d failed in their efforts to help, but they’d succeeded beyond their dreams. All it took were for these souls to open their eyes and see what Hashem was showing them.
“I know all this to be true,” concluded the grandfather emotionally, “because I was one of the 14.”
The last time I saw my Zeidy, I brought my new chassan to meet him. Zeidy was in a wheelchair, but that handicap didn’t dim the energy that exuded from him. He even had made a siyum haShas after suffering a stroke. He grabbed my tall chassan in a joyful one-armed hug that nearly toppled him. When it was time to leave, Zeidy looked around quickly. What to give us? He needed to give.
“Give us a brachah, Zeidy! Just your brachah is enough.”
So he bentshed us with tears of emotion. Yet, as we turned to go, he grabbed two oranges off the table and pressed one into each one of our hands. I held that orange tightly as we left, wondering if I could ever be like Zeidy who saw each moment in life as an opportunity to squeeze out its sweetness.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 743)
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