Tuesday, March 22, 2011

“if I knew how to sign my name I would have become the shamash"

An immigrant got off the boat in NY. With no language and no contacts, he went looking for a menial job at the local Lower East Side synagogue. He applied to be the shamash (sexton) of the shul. Following a positive interview, he was given a contract to sign. Instead of signing his name he placed an X on the dotted line. “No, that will not do,” said the employer, “we need you to sign the contract with your full name.” “I can’t,” the greenhorn immigrant blurted out, “I don’t how to write.” “Well, in that case, I am sorry but we cannot hire you. The job requires someone who can write in English.”
Dejected, he left and went off searching for opportunities. Resourceful as he was, with a pinch of desperation, he eked out a job. Over the years, with diligence, ingenuity and persistence he climbed the ladder and ultimately became a very prosperous man. He became known in town for his enormous wealth, and was greatly respected by his peers and above all, by the banks that readily issued him the loans he requested.
One day, a new bank manager was going over this fellow’s latest loan application, and notices that instead of a signature there is an X at the bottom. The manager calls him up and says, “my dear sir, you forgot to sign the application.” “I did sign it with an X,” he replied. She was bewildered. “Why do you sign with an X and not with your name, if I may ask.” “Well,” he sheepishly replied, “I never learned how to sign my name.” The bank manager smiled and remarked: “Now listen here. You made so much money without knowing the language. Just imagine how much more successful you would have become had you received an education and learned to sign your name.”
“Madam,” the gentleman calmly said, “if I knew how to sign my name I would have become the shamash in the local synagogue…”

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Our Grandchild Comes Home

Our Grandchild Comes Home                                                                                                                         
There was a very secular Jews living in Tel Aviv, who had absolutely no interest in anything related to Judaism. He was a self-proclaimed leftist anti-religious type of fellow. One day he was walking passed a shul in Tel Aviv and there was a Jew standing outside the shul yelling "Mincha! Mincha!" We need one man. The fellow continued walking. The Jew ran after him and explained that they needed a tenth man for the minyan. He replied, "I'm not interested." But the Jew was persistent (perhaps he had Yahrtzeit...). He kept begging and begging, until finally against his better judgment, the secular Jew fellow allowed himself to be pulled into the synagogue for the afternoon prayer service.
As hard as it is to believe, unfortunately, there are many Jews in Eretz Yisrael who have never witnessed, let alone, participated, in a minyan, in a prayer service, they never even witnessed other people praying. This Jew was one of them. He grew up in a very secular home. His grandfather was observant, but his parents have become completely secular and they never ever took him to a shul.
The fellow sat in shul watching people say Ashrei, say Kaddish, and then everyone stood up to daven Shmoneh Esrei, the Amidah. Shul goers  have seen this all our lives, and think that it is no big deal to see people standing, "shuckling" (rocking back and forth), quietly reciting the standing prayer. But the first time a person sees this, it can be an amazing sight when suddenly Jews who don’t stop yapping, stand in silence, sway back and forth, and talk to G-d.
This secular Israeli was taken aback by what he saw during those 15 minutes of praying Mincha in the Tel Aviv shul. He left the synagogue immediately after Mincha, but he decided that he would have to look into the matter further. He began studying Judaism seriously and ultimately got very involved in Jewish life and observance.
The story began circulating in town. One friend was scoffing about this to this man’s father. “What happened to your son? He is a clever and educated man. How did he get brainwashed in 15 minutes?”
The father, himself a very secular Jew, responded that there was much more to the story than what meets the eye.
You see, he said, “my own father, the boy's grandfather, was a deeply religious European Jew. He came to Tel Aviv many years ago, and lived his life as an observant Jew in Tel Aviv. I, like many of my generation of young sabras, abandoned Jewish observance completely. We were determined to form a new generations of Jews, good Zionists, but completely secular. Nationalism replaced spirituality.
“But you see, my father davened every single day in a specific shul in Tel Aviv. He davened with devotion and concentration, while we mocked his sincerity and faith which was inconsistent with the modern age. Do you know in which shul he davened? It was the very shul that was lacking one man for a minyan for Mincha the day my son passed by and was pulled in.
“I know that it was the intense prayers of my father which called his grandson back to this very same synagogue… it was not only 15 minutes that he spent in a shul; it was 15 minutes in a shul soaked with my father’s tears, blood, sweat, faith, and self-sacrifice for Judaism. That is what did my son in…”