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"…and Aharon and all the elders of Israel came to eat bread with the father in-law of Moshe, before G-d" (Shemos 18:12).
There is an expression, "The way to a man's heart is through his stomach." Our Sages made a similar statement, "How great is a meal; it brings those who are distant closer." This is meant to teach us that we can bring people closer to the Torah by discussing Judaism with them while partaking in some food which we provide them with. I know that many students came to my oneg Shabbat solely to taste my wife's delicious cream puffs. But while they were there, they participated in the zemiros and listened to the words of Torah which were recited, and many of them came closer to Hashem as a result.
The following amazing story was told by Reb Yankeleh Galinsky shlita, and is recorded in Aleynu Lishabeach by Rabbi Yitzchak Zilberstein shlita.
When Reb Yankeleh was a young man, whose only crime was that he was a Jew who studied Torah in a yeshiva, he was sent to Siberia by the Atheist Communist Regime. While there, he was sentenced to a starvation period of 40 days. When this torture was over, he was served a bowl of hot soup, for having survived the ordeal. Although under normal circumstances the meal would not have been at all appetizing, nevertheless, to one who is starving, it was like Manna from Heaven.
While enjoying his "delicacy," Yankeleh noticed another Jew, by the name of Choleb, who was still in the midst of his prolonged "fast period." Young Yankeleh, who needed this food to continue to survive under the terribly oppressive conditions in Siberia, was not sure whether or not he should ignore his uninvited guest or share his treasure with him. After considering his options for a moment, he said to himself, "Yankeleh, Yankeleh, can you possibly eat alone when a starving fellow Jew is standing at your side" Choleb ate from his soup and was extremely grateful.
Many years later, when Rabbi Galinsky was a famous rabbi in Israel who taught Torah and Mussar (Torah ethics) to many students, a large group of religious Oriental immigrants arrived in the Holy Land. The Israeli Government isolated them in settlements where they did everything possible to estrange them, and particularly their children, from Torah observance. This was done for two reasons: 1) ideological - the Zionist regime was fanatically anti-religious; 2) political - to assure their votes for their own, non-religious parties.
Since many of the parents wanted their children to receive a religious education, the Chazon Ish ztvk"l sent Reb Yankeleh and another talmid chacham to visit the settlement and find out exactly how many such parents there were. But when they arrived at their destination, the two discovered that the camp was totally enclosed and guarded and no one was allowed to enter and have any contact with the inhabitants. They returned to the Chazon Ish who instructed them to dig a tunnel under the fence and to penetrate the settlement at all costs.
They followed instructions and succeeded in entering the camp but were quickly apprehended by the children's counselors. Reb Yankeleh heard them say to each other that soon Choleb, one of the heads of the counselors, would arrive and then they would decide what to do with the infiltrators. When Reb Yankeleh heard that name, it aroused something in his brain and he tried very hard to recall the face that would match it. Finally, he remembered the soup he had shared with someone by that name in Siberia and he wondered if Hashem's Divine Providence was about to be revealed.
Sure enough, Choleb arrived on the scene quickly, and he immediately recognized the kindhearted Jew who had shown him lovingkindness when they were together in Hell. He embraced the Rabbi and thanked him profusely and offered to return the favor now by helping him leave the camp. "That, I can do without your help," replied Reb Yankeleh, who had decided that he must take advantage of the situation for the benefit of the children. He took Choleb aside and asked him to find out how many parents really wanted their children to receive a religious education in the Holy Land.
Choleb was startled at the request which was the antithesis of his very being there. However, after a few moments of intense concentration, his gratitude to the one who had given him food when he was starving, overcame him and he agreed to accept the mission. He told them to wait awhile until the other counselors left and then he would do as they had requested of him. A while later, Choleb returned with a list of about 65 parents who wanted religious education. This list was passed on to the proper authorities and a great number of these families were privileged to have their children sent to yeshivas from which they graduated as religious students who later built Torah households in Israel.
And all because of a little hot soup! Amazing, no?
Shema Yisrael Torah Network