This true story, written in the first person, happened to a young Jewish man who, at twenty four, knew very little about Yiddishkeit and was finding his way home. This incredible story teaches that there is no detail too small for Hashem’s kindness and Providential Guidance.
It is a hot summer day in Bnei Brak. As a beginning Bal Tashuva struggling to put aside my former carefree ways and accept the mantle of Torah with its obligations and discipline, I experienced many ups and downs. On this day, I was losing the battle. The unrelenting heat made me very uncomfortable. My feet were hurting because my only pair of shoes was worn out and tight . The painful bruise on my heel refused to heal. In my old life, I would have taken off my shoes but decided that that would be inappropriate. In our Holy Books we are told that every new spiritual gain [alia ] is preceded with a challenging test [yoreda ].
Late that afternoon, I decided to take a short walk and found myself on one of the side streets of this holy city whose people are filled with Torah and the fear of Heaven. In the middle of one such block, I heard a faint voice calling out. I turned toward the sound and saw an elderly lady dressed in the clothing of my great grandmother’s day with a high collar, long ruffled sleeves and a black taffeta skirt. I was the only one on street when she called out and motioned in my direction. I did not know why she was calling to me, but approached her thinking perhaps that she needed something and I could help her.
She lived in a small one family home that was centered in the middle of a large piece of property, with a large sagging porch wrapping around the front door. When I reached the porch, I noticed that she a small box in front of her. She said nothing, merely gestured and after a moment or two I realized that she wanted me to take the box. When I told her that I had no money, she said it was a gift. Normally, I would have been suspicious of such an offer, but her sincerity and kindness was apparent so I accepted the gift graciously and went back to the Yeshiva. The whole way back I thought about the mysterious box in my hands. What, I wondered, could be inside the box: perhaps precious stones or money and even maybe a pair of shoes I chuckled to myself.
Back in my room, I closed the door and like a detective cautiously opened this unusual gift. Lo and behold my chuckling thoughts were right on the button- a brand new pair of black, low cut shoes. The ordinariness of the gift became a lot less so as I removed my worn out, uncomfortable shoes and slipped my feet into what was to be the best fitted, most comfortable pair of shoes I have ever owned. The shoe had a latticed front that allowed air to circulate and the back was cut low so it did not rub against my bruise.
My summer job as a shoe salesman- had taught me that getting a pair of shoes that fits just right involves a great deal of effort and “mazel” even in a store filled with shoes to choose from — so as I am telling you this story these many years later, I get goose-pimples just thinking about this inexplicable “miracle”.
Let us ask: Why did she choose to give me the shoes? Although I don’t think the bruise made me limp, even if you want to imagine that she noticed a barely perceptible change in my gait and saw how old my shoes were and decided to do me a kindness and quickly find a me a new pair of shoes somehow in her house; How did she know my exact size and needs? What connection do I have with her in this life time or previous one that would inspire her to give me those shoes? What was I supposed to learn from this miraculous event?
Of the first three questions I have no answer, but many thoughts have filled my mind and heart over the years as to what to learn from this wondrous event.
First allow me to continue to shed some more light that will help us all in closing that gap between seeing events as a chain of accidents or realizing life is an act of Divine providence. Time passed, I married and eventually with my growing family moved to New York. About ten years after this amazing incident, I was in Bnei Brak for a few days and decided to return to the kind elderly women and thank her. Much to my chagrin, the house had been torn down and all that remained was a large empty lot. I assumed that she ascended to the Heavenly realm, so I offered a prayer for her. There was a large sign on the property which indicated what was to be built there. I went on my way not to return to that area for another five years. This time my visit to that spot was filled with elevated emotion as I saw a large three story building filling nearly the entire property. On the front a sign read— Yeshiva of —————- .
I walked inside the Bais Hamidrash and merited to see, hear and feel the “kol Torah” of this generation reverberating in every corner. I was so very elevated to realize that this kind elderly lady merited to a have a living monument to her memory in the same place she lived her life in holiness. The mitzvoth and acts of kindness that no doubt permeated her life would surely be good advocates for her in the World of Truth.
I don’t know why I merited this amazing experience but it surely brings a great uplift in being able to see an example of [Hashkaka Partis] Divine Intervention in one’s life. We should all come to merit not only to be on the receiving end of [chesed] acts of kindness as I was, but to be worthy to be on the giving end of good deeds as was this gentle soul who was truly an emissary of The Creator.
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- EZRAS NASHIM