Avraham, at nineteen years of age, received a draft notice informing him of his candidacy for military service. Since he didn’t relish the idea of becoming a foot soldier in the Vietnamese jungles, Avraham immediately enlisted in the Naval Reserve which obligated him to serve two years of active duty followed by four more years of monthly reserve meetings.
After a short basic training, Avraham was flown to his new duty station, the USS Reeves, a guided missile destroyer, stationed in Japan, that housed to four hundred plus sailors. After leaving port, heading towards their duty station off the coast of North Vietnam, the ship was engulfed in a raging typhoon which caused it and its hapless crew bob up and down like a cork, listing and rocking among the surging thirty foot waves. When the storm reached its peak, the Captain reassured all those on board that the ship was virtually unsinkable because it had a stabilizer mechanism.
After surviving the storm, Avraham, who was raised as a Reform Jew, would often go to the back deck late in the evening and gaze up into the star-filled sky. He was not only awed by its beauty and the sheer magnitude, but more importantly he began to ask himself many penetrating questions such as: What is the purpose of this awesome creation and what is mankind’s role in relationship to it? Since he had until now never received any meaningful answers to these kind of questions, he decided to pursue this spiritual quest upon his discharge from the Navy.
After Avraham had completed one full year in military service, the USS Reeves returned to the United States. By now the unpopular Vietnam war was challenging Congress to find new exit strategies, which included huge cutbacks in military spending. The Navy, in response offered early military discharges to reservists who had served overseas for at least one year and were now back in the United States. Avraham qualified and within a few days walked down the gangplank for the last time, honorable discharge in hand, happily thinking his was forever free from all Naval obligations and as well as typhoons .
Shortly thereafter Avraham began to fulfill his promise to search for the true purpose in life by putting his back pack and travelling to the Far East. There he attended classes in health and nutrition given by a gifted, highly well educated teacher who was very familiar with diverse cultures and traditions. Astoundingly, in more than one class he expressed his profound respect and admiration for the Divine wisdom of the Torah and its sages. These words stunned Avraham who was relatively uneducated about his own tradition.
Alone one day on a mountaintop, Avraham having already realized that the Far Eastern culture was not to be his destiny, he turned humbly to G-d asking for help and direction. Almost instantly Avraham began humming a Jewish melody that he hadn’t thought of for many years, along with contemplating the words of praise he had just heard about his Jewish heritage. With tears in his eyes and a yearning heart, Avraham now understood the need to journey to Eretz Yisrael and eventually into one of its first Baal Teshuvah Yeshivas to learn more about his Jewish roots.
The Gemora tells us: “All beginnings are difficult” and so it was for Avraham as he “set sail” in the “sea” of Torah he encountered a number of “powerful storms” of doubt and “volatile winds” of indecision that pounded fiercely on his small “craft” which was built out of fragile desires to reach the “shores” of truth. A number of times when his Jewish identity seemed ready to “capsize”, Avraham strengthened his resolve by reminding himself of the Captain’s words that “the ship would always re-stabilize”. Fortunately those “storms” subsided and Avraham merited to marry and begin raising a wonderful family whose “voyage” through life has for the last three and one half decades been exclusively in the “waterways” of the Torah.
May all our Jewish brethren merit to safely reach their souls true “port” of destination soon in our days.
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