Archives

Iyar 5764 – Ahuvah’s Story Part 1 – by Sheina Medwed

15 Iyar 5764

Eadie’s Story: Part 1

FROM THE DESK OF RAV SHMUEL GELLER

It is a few weeks before Shavous – the time of year that brings back memories of a very special woman called Eadie. I would like to share with you a special story of my friendship with Eadie. A story that will hopefully be a spiritual inspiration for all of us.

The story goes back over a decade ago. I live in Zichron Yaakov, a small Israeli town where I teach Torah in an American Yeshiva. One day a friend approached me with the following problem. He had met an older American couple who had moved to town and were in dire need of counseling with an American rabbi – a commodity not easily available in this neck of the woods. Realizing that I could perhaps fit the description I offered my services and agreed to meet the couple. I will never forget my first meeting with Bert and Eadie. Here was a woman in her early 60’s with very serious health problems. I could see the agony and pain in her eyes filling me with a great desire to listen to her story and hopefully bring her some relief.

She told me the following story. She and her husband were children of Russian Communists, having migrated to the States after the Communist Revolution. Her father as a staunch Communist loathed religion, and did his best to give over that legacy to his children. She described to me the following scene-on Shabbos morning she would watch from her Lower East Side, N.Y. apartment Yidden going to Shul. Her father would point his finger at those Jews and tell his daughter “Eadie, do you see those Jews? They are doing the very worst thing that a Jew could do for his people, attending Synagogue!” (What an interesting form of chinuch, training a young child to despise Yiddishkeit.)

And so she continued living a life totally devoid of anything Jewish, not even Yom Kippur or basic Bible stories were part of her life. Miraculously, she met a Jewish man with similar background and married him, raising a family where Yiddishkeit was nonexistent. They were active members of their local Unitarian Church (which incidentally was almost entirely Jewish!) Not surprisingly two of their three children intermarried. One daughter made her way to Israel – the Finger of HaShem was preparing the road of return…

In her late forties, Eadie was diagnosed with cancer and it drastically changed many aspects of her life. She began to think about the purpose of life and to struggle with the meaning of her existence. At some point her daughter in Israel suggested that she should come to Israel for a visit – to see the land of the Jewish People. She told me then that she had no idea why Israel was connected to the Jews, having never read the Bible. But when she stepped out of the plane at Ben Gurion Airport she felt something in her heart that she had never felt before. During her entire stay in Israel she felt deep emotions without understanding where these feelings were coming from. She described her first visit to the Holy Wall – she could not stop crying, although she had no idea what was so special about the Wall to the Jewish People.

She told me that after that first visit she knew that she would never be happy living anywhere else. She did return to the States, basically to deal with her health problems, but she was in a constant state of depression-a yearning to return to the land of the Jews without any understanding of its true meaning. To make a long story short, she and her husband decided to move permanently to Israel and eventually ended up in Zichron Yaakov, my town.

So I asked her “Dear Eadie, what do you need from me? How can I help you?” She answered me with tears in her eyes. “Reb Shmuel, I need to understand why I am compelled to live in this country. Why am I depressed each time I leave? Why did I cry uncontrollably at the Wall? Am I crazy? Can you help me to understand what is happening? Please help me, because these feelings have been with me for over 15 years.”

I looked at her and I said “Eadie, I think I understand and I will try to explain it to you. All your life you have been taught the rules of a healthy body-with all its requirements for healthy existence. Proper nourishment, vitamins, exercise — all necessary elements for healthy living. We Jews, however, believe that the physical body is just half of the story – that each Jew has a spiritual reality greater and deeper than the physical part of his being. The spiritual part is connected to HaShem (to which she exclaimed that the term HaShem was so foreign to her vocabulary, having never heard G-d mentioned during her upbringing. She said it would require a special effort to relate to that term and understand its meaning.) Just as our physical existence requires sustenance, food, vitamins to stay alive, so we believe that our spiritual part requires special nourishment. HaShem gave us a rich life with 613 forms of sustenance covering the gamut of our lives. Each of these unique items—called Mitzvahs, in Hebrew—bring life-sustaining energy to our spiritual being. A life void of these Mitzvahs is totally comparable to a physical life without proper nutrition or exercise—the person inevitably suffers from malnutrition, vitamin deficiency, and all sorts of health problems.

Eadie, your father deprived you of this information. He never told you (perhaps I should judge him favorably that in Communist Russia he never knew himself!!) that we have a spiritual soul with special needs.

“Eadie, you have been starved for half a century with no spiritual sustenance, not even realizing the damage taking place. When you decided to take a trip to Israel, you thought you were visiting a country like any other place-England, Honolulu, the Bahamas. But the truth is that there is no place in the world that compares to Israel—because Israel is the only place that living there is a Mitzvah—that every step on its Hallowed Soil is another vitamin added to our spiritual self. The Land of Israel is the holiest place on Earth, the closest place to the Divine Presence. So, dear Eadie, when you stepped foot into this country, it was like a starving woman coming out of the Sahara Desert to a beautiful shady oasis full of luscious fruits and fresh water. Your soul came to life for the first time and those precious feelings have never left you. Each time you left your soul was pained, feeling the void and desiring to return. Eadie, does this make sense to you?”

She was enraptured in my words-begging me not to stop, to tell her more. I continued-“Eadie, do you know what the Holy Wall is? It is the Holiest spot in Israel, and therefore the Holiest spot on the Globe! All the prayers of Jews world over first are directed to that spot before traveling to the Heavenly Throne of Hashem—it the HOTLINE TO HEAVEN, and any Jew standing there feels an incredible connection to their Spiritual Reality. So you were connecting to your Neshama without realizing the dynamics taking place!

This was my first meeting with Eadie and Bert-I promised to return, and fulfilled my promise. Each time we would discuss another aspect of Yiddishkeit, and each visit I felt inspired watching the delight in her eyes, the joy and pleasure of a carefully guarded secret now revealed.

We started with Shabbos candles. We went from there to Mezuzah-I wanted Bert to make the Bracha and attach the Mezuzah. I’ll never forget the tears of joy in her eyes watching her husband bang the nail in attaching the Mezuzah—the loving touch to the box each time she would enter the house.

I started bringing my children with me on my weekly visits. One time I thought she might enjoy hearing them sing Shabbos Zemiros. Again, there are no words to describe the effect–or shall I say IMPACT–the holy Yiddeshe Negunim made on her starving Neshama. We made a tape and presented it to her as a gift–not realizing just how much that little tape meant to her. (Several weeks later she flew back to the States, for medical attention. I called her one afternoon to hear how she was feeling. She answered in a deeply emotional voice “Reb Shmuel, Bert and I are sitting here in California, listening day and night to the beautiful songs of your zeesa kinderlach–I cannot tell you how much inspiration and spiritual strength it gives us!)

I’ll never forget the first time I brought to her home a Lulov and Esrog. She asked me innocently “What in the world is this ?”I told her “Dear Eadie, this is a very special Mitzvah that comes to us once a year. I want you to hold these four species in the following manner, say after me the Blessing-and then we are going to shake them, and wave them in all the directions–Trust me that this Mitzvah is so healthy for your Spiritual wellbeing–the Talmud says that shaking in all the directions is a catalyst for Divine protection, for healthy winds and life-giving rains, opening the channels of Blessing to ourselves and the World! She held on to that Lulov like her existence depended on it–after making the rounds one time she asked if she could do it again!

(In interesting contrast, as I left her home I noticed her secular Israeli neighbors relaxing in their backyard. Having the Lulov in hand, I felt it would be an insult to walk away without offering them the opportunity to fulfill the Mitzvah of NETILAS LULOV. So I approached them with the following statement, “Dear Friends, I’m not a card carrying Lubavitcher, but I happen to have with me my Lulov, and today is the Holiday of Sukkos. I would be honored to have you all make a Blessing on my Lulov. The father of the family gave me a very strange look, and then said “Thank you for the offer – but we’ve managed quite well without this Mitzvah until now, we’ll continue to manage without it!! – I don’t think a Reform Jew in America would have refused my offer…)

TO BE CONTINUED…