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A Pesach Caution

The following true story, sent in by a reader to the Ish Lerei'eihu pamphlet, illustrates just how much our proper actions can influence others to better their ways.

Ezra (a fictitious name) had a large family. Most of his children followed in his and his wife's ways and were religious. But one of them was "the black sheep in the family"; and we know that even one irreligious child can ruin the harmony in the home. But as much as they tried, Ezra and his wife could not prevent their son from choosing a different lifestyle from theirs. Eventually he moved out and went to live on his own.

When Purim came, the wayward son decided to spend the day with his parents. He claimed that he did it to make his mother happy but everyone understood that he just wanted to partake in the delicious meal his mother always served on that festive day. But parents always look forward to a visit from a child, even if it makes them sad to see how he is living, so they accepted him with open arms. Besides, they prayed daily for some miracle to bring their son back into the fold.

The previous Purim, Ezra had been visited by a bunch of rowdy yeshiva students, who had drunk more than they could handle and were collecting donations for their place of study. Since they were not the first ones to have approached him that day, nor would they be the last, Ezra gave them a modest contribution. The boys were not satisfied and begged for more. Ezra gave them a little more and asked them to leave. But one particularly vocal boy insisted that his yeshiva deserves more and refused to leave. Frustrated, Ezra threw his wallet at the boy and told him to take as much as he wants. Rather than be put off by the sarcasm, the boy actually opened the wallet and took 250 shekels for his holy institution.

Purim this year was a bit quieter, for some reason; perhaps because in Jerusalem it was spread over three days. The loud group of boys did not return; only one of them did. He was not drunk. He was sober and very serious. He approached Ezra and introduced himself as the intoxicated boy who had upset him last year. He apologized and returned the 250 shekels to Ezra; explaining that since it had really been taken against his will it was tantamount to stealing. He apologized and asked for forgiveness and left; as quietly as he had come.

Neither that boy nor Ezra noticed that a pair of eyes from a bareheaded boy was watching the proceedings. Ezra's son could not believe what he was witnessing. An unknown boy came back of his own free will and returned money his father had lost hope of ever retrieving. He was very impressed and thought to himself: Only the Torah could compel someone to act so nobly. After contemplating for a few moments, he went in to the next room and came back with a kippah on his head.

That was the first step of the complete teshuvah he eventually did.

It is customary to have guests for the seder night. Many of them will be witnessing a religious home for the first time. They will be observing our behavior very carefully and will be taking notes. If we misbehave, they may be turned away from religion. But if they are impressed with how we treat our spouses, our children our parents and our guests, they may see the beauty of religion and decide to become a part of it.

Let's be very careful.

Chag kasher vesameach.

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Jerusalem, Israel