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Nitzavim"If your dispersed will be at the ends of heaven, from there, Hashem, your G-d, will gather you in and from there He will take you" (Devarim 30:4).
We are standing at the threshold of Rosh Hashanah, the first of the Ten Days of Repentance, and probably every one of us is contemplating teshuvah (repentance). The Talmud teaches us that one may even pray for another person who is dear to him or her that he or she merit to return to Hashem and His Torah. But sometimes we or our loved ones are so far away from the proper path that we may despair over the possibility of return.
Therefore the Torah assures us that although our dispersed may be at the most furthest point from heaven, even from there Hashem will gather him and take him to be close to Him again.
The following, amazing story, recorded in Aleynu Lishabeach by Hagaon, Harav Yitzchak Zilberstein shlita, encourages us never to give up hope and to always pray to Hashem to return us and our loved ones to Him.
Meshulem was the youngest child in a religious family in NY. His parents loved him and were very proud of him. They gave him anything and everything he wanted; with the greatest joy. He excelled in his religious and secular studies in school and his teachers had only good things to say about him. His parents had every reason to expect him to go very far and give them the nachas they hoped for.
Unfortunately, by the time Meshulem was 17, his mother had passed away. No one knew when or why he began to change, but one day he informed his father that the following Sunday he was leaving with his friends for India. His father almost fainted and asked what he could possibly want in India. But Meshulem insisted that all arrangements had already been made and that everything was paid for so any opposition at this point was totally useless. His father thought to himself that were his wife still alive, she would surely know how to dissuade their loving son from such a silly and dangerous move. But, alas, she was not there to help him now and he was at his wits' end.
All of the father's arguments fell on deaf ears and his heart was broken to pieces. At the airport, he finally asked his son frankly, "Could you please just tell me the truth? What can a religious boy find of interest in India?"
The moment of truth had indeed arrived, and with absolutely no compassion, Meshulem laughed and told his loving father straight to his face, "Abba, do you really think that I am still religious? I dropped that completely and now I am going to search for the 'meaning of life' in some other shape and form!"
Meshulem's father could not believe what he had heard and was in total shock. Who would have believed that this wonderful son of his, his and his wife's pride and joy, would choose to leave the fold? As a strange mixture of emotions went through his body and soul, he heard his estranged son, who was as cold as ice, say to him, "Abba, I hope you'll forgive me."
This was too much for his father to bear. His face turned a deep red as his anger burned within him. He totally lost control and blurted out, "Forgive you??? After all I've given you all of your life? After the wonderful education and training your mother, of blessed memory, tried so hard to give you all of your life? This is your 'thank you.' And you expect me to forgive you? Listen, Meshulem, and listen very well. From this second on, I don't want to know you, ever again. If you decided to throw away all that is important and dear to a Jew in life, then you are not my son. I will never forgive you!"
These were the last words Meshulem heard from his beloved father.
Three years passed. Meshulem enjoyed his stay in India very much; doing anything and everything he desired. The only thing that bothered him was the difficult and painful parting from his father. He really hadn't expected him to "totally freak out" like that. Over the years, Meshulem had tried dozens of times to call home but no one ever answered the phone. His letters remained unanswered. Apparently his father had really and truly disowned him.
One day, in the marketplace of India, Meshulem met an old friend of his who had learned with him in Yeshiva when they were children. The two were very happy to meet again after all of those years and they began reviewing old memories they shared together. Suddenly, his friend got very serious and said, "Meshulem, I was so sad when I heard about your father!" "My father," asked Meshulem worriedly, "why, what happened to him?" His friend looked at him in wonderment. "What do you mean, 'what happened?' Don't you know that your father died of a heart attack six months after you left him? They said that his heart was broken because you abandoned him and went off to India. Didn't you know all of this?"
The tragic news struck Meshulem like a bombshell. From that moment on, there was nothing else on his mind or in his heart than his father's passing - which he was responsible for. He cried constantly and searched for something he could possibly do to make amends.
One day Meshulem decided he would travel to Israel - to pray. His friends in India laughed at him but his mind was made up and he ignored their ridicule. He boarded the first available plane to the Holy Land and made his way straight to the Kosel HaMa'aravi (the Western Wall) where he wanted to pray and confess his many, terrible sins. Suddenly, a terrifying thought entered his brain. Am I even worthy of praying here? I, who abandoned everything; I, who caused my father's death. Hesitantly and emotionally, he approached the Holy Wall and began caressing the pure stones which were full of thousands of years of blood, tears and heartache. He rested his heavy head upon them and let his tears join those of so many others before him who had cried at this very spot. He cried for his past; for his present; and for his future which was shrouded in mystery. But he cried mostly for having caused so much pain, anguish and grief to his wonderful, beloved father. Who could forgive him for what he had done? Could he even forgive himself, ever? He cried ceaselessly.
Someone who stood beside Meshulem and understood his anguish and his pain, felt merciful for him. He suggested to the young man that he express his feelings in writing, in a note, and place it in the crevices of the Kosel. Meshulem liked the idea and began to write from the depths of his broken heart.
Abba, I am here in Jerusalem, the Holy City, before the Western Wall. If your holy soul sees me from heaven, I beg of you, my dear Abbaleh, please, forgive me. I never intended to hurt you. My Yetzer Hara (Evil Inclination) got the best of me and caused me to do all of those terrible things. But I promise you that now that I've come to my senses I will repent fully. From this moment on I will go in the path that you and Immaleh trained me to. Can you possibly forgive me Abba? Your son, MeshulemAnother wave of tears drenched Meshulem's face, but he felt much better. Now he searched for a place to insert his "letter" in the Wall. But a very strange thing happened. Every time he put the note into a crack, it fell out and landed on the ground! His anguish was great as he interpreted what was happening as a sign that his sin was unforgivable and his teshuvah was being refused.
He began to panic and almost reached the brink of despair when he decided to try something else; to place the note higher up in the Wall where there were less other such notes. He took a chair and climbed up and placed the note in a deep crack and, thank G-d, this time the note remained where he had placed it and did not fall out. However, from that very same place, another note fell out and landed on the ground. He picked up the fallen note to return it to where it had been and was shocked to see that written on its outside was the name Meshulem. His heart began to beat feverishly as he examined the note and found, to his utter amazement, that he recognized the handwriting. Wondering whether he was dreaming, Meshulem began to read the note which had been written by his father's own hand.
Master of the Universe, please have mercy upon Meshulem ben Rivka, my youngest son, who traveled to India two months ago. Please guard him so that he remain a loyal Jew. Please guard him like the Apple of Your Eye, and forgive him his sins.Now the dam totally broke as Meshulem poured out more tears than he ever believed his body contained. He sat by the Wall and cried like a baby; for hours on end.
If I only could, I would tell you, my dear Meshulem, that I love you very much. I forgive you for all that you have done to me. True, when we separated at the airport I was very angry and I declared that I would never forgive you. But you should know, my dear son, that I have since regretted it. I forgive you and pray for you and beg our Father in Heaven that He too should forgive you and bring you back in full penitence unto Him. And that when the time comes you will marry with a proper, G-d fearing Jewish woman, and that you will merit together to raise holy and pure children to a life of Torah and mitzvahs.
Your father, who loves you very, very much. Ya'akov ben Sarah.
He left the Kosel HaMa'aravi a totally newly born person - a complete ba'al teshuvah. His father's prayer, from a pure, broken heart, was successful. Today Meshulem has four wonderful children who are a pride to him and his wife in this world; and, no doubt, to his parents in heaven above.
Shema Yisrael Torah Network