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Vaera"Therefore, say to the Children of Israel - 'I am Hashem, and I shall take you out from under the burdens of Egypt; I shall rescue you from their service; I shall redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. I shall take you to Me for a people and I shall be a G-d to you; and you shall know that I am Hashem your G-d, Who takes you out from under the burdens of Egypt'"(Shemos 6:6-7).
After the Israelites witnessed the ten plagues which Hashem brought upon Par'o and the Egyptians on their behalf, they left Egypt with a strong belief in Hashem as Ruler and Director of the world. This belief was intensified at the Splitting of the Sea and finalized at Mount Sinai. It was internalized into their inner being and they passed it down to their children who, in turn, relayed it to future generations.
Sometimes, for various reasons, a Jew may, G-d forbid, cease to believe in the fundamentals of Judaism. But Hashem has amazing ways of restoring that belief, if not to him, then to his children.
The following story, which was sent to me, is a good illustration.
Yair Eitan's father ran a produce distribution business in Northern Israel. When Yair was old enough, he began driving the delivery truck. One of his regular deliveries was to Yeshivah Lev V'Nefesh, whose student body was primarily comprised of Baalei Teshuvah (newly returnees to Judaism). Yair's parents had carefully shielded him from his religion; his upbringing had been strictly secular. However, the joy and excitement Yair saw within the Yeshiva walls aroused his curiosity. He allowed himself to be drawn into conversation with a few Yeshiva students. On his third trip there, Yair was already sitting down for a few minutes to sample Torah study, and he enjoyed it immensely.
When Yair finally told his parents what he had discovered in the Yeshiva, his father became enraged. "No son of mine is going to become a backward, bearded Chareidi!" He shouted. "You are no longer to deliver to that route and you are forbidden to visit that Yeshiva, or any other Yeshiva, ever again."
Yair knew that one must obey one's parents, except when they explicitly command a child to disobey the Torah. Consequently, he continued to clandestinely visit the Yeshiva. But his father found out, and he reacted violently. Yair, however, was determined. He inquired as to other available Yeshivas, left a note wishing his parents well, and left without revealing his destination. His father searched for him and when he found him he forced him to return home. Not only that, he blamed the Rosh Yeshivah of Lev V'Nefesh and filed charges against him of brainwashing his 18 year old son and of engineering his flight from home.
The trial aroused great interest and a packed courtroom eagerly waited to observe the proceedings. Yair's testimony did not help the prosecution at all. Yair insisted that he had not been coerced to attend the Yeshiva; it was of his own volition. While Yair was recounting his story, the judge presiding over the case, an elderly man, seemed a bit distracted. He would intermittently take his eyes off the speaker to gaze intently at Yair's father.
When Yair left the witness stand, the judge announced, "I would like Mr. Eitan to step forward." Yair's father was surprised as he stepped up to the witness stand. The judge asked him if he was of Eastern European descent, and if his name back in Europe was perhaps "Shtark" (shtark in Yiddish means strong - the same as Eitan in Hebrew). Mr. Eitan was clearly taken aback, and he stammered that the judge was indeed correct. "And you are originally from Pinsk?" asked the judge. Mr. Eitan nodded meekly. The judge continued, "I remember you very well. You come from one of the finest homes in pre-War Pinsk. Your father was a deeply religious and highly respected man. Your mother was renowned for her kindness. She would cook meals for the poor and the sick regularly. I remember well when, as an 18 year old, you openly departed from your parents' ways. When you publicly desecrated the Shabbos for the first time, your distressed father aged overnight and seemed to be constantly in mourning. Your mother would shed a river of tears every Friday night when she lit the candles. I often wondered what became of all of her tears. I am not the most religious person, but I know that there is a G-d Who runs the world, and I could not understand how the tears of such a righteous a woman could be ignored in Heaven.
"Today my question has been answered and I see clearly that her tears were not shed in vain. Almost 50 years later, her grandson has returned to the ways of his ancestors. Mr. Eitan, I am sure you recall that on many occasions, friends of your parents pleaded with you that, for your parents' sake, you should at least refrain from public transgression. As I recall, your response was, 'I am now eighteen and I make my own decisions. I can live my life any way that I please.' And you dare to file charges because your eighteen year old son has returned to the ways that you abandoned?
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