The Grandfather Helps Grandchild from Heaven

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…”

The Grandfather

All of us have grandfather and grandmothers. Some of us may have never known our grandparents, or might remember them scarcely. Some of us were privileged to have known our grandparents for many years. Some of you are fortunate to still have zeides and bubbes alive. Regardless, we often think that their impact on our lives is not very significant.

The sacrifices of our grandparents have made us who we are, consciously or subconsciously. Their tears and laughter, their passion and convictions, their goodness and innocence, are etched into our own hearts and souls.

Even if you look at yourself as an extremely secular —I can assure you some generations ago you had a grandparent, or great great grandparent, who sacrificed for Judaism. And that is etched deeply into your psyche.

And remember, each of us is, or will become, a grandparent one day. Your acts today, will impact the psyches of your grandchildren in ways beyond your imagination and in years after you move on. When you increase your commitment to Yiddishkeit, to Torah, it is not only for you. It is for your grand children, for your great grandchildren, even if you and they may never realize to whom the credit goes.

Your Grandfather’s Picture

A rabbi once came into a meet store and asked the owner standing at the counter, without a kippa, if it was kosher. The owner got offended: pointing to a large picture on the wall, he said: you see that man with the long white beard, that was my grandfather. And he was a Rabbi in Warsaw. How dare you suspect me, with such a grandfather, in not selling kosher mear?

And the rabbi said: I will be honest with you. If you were hanging on the wall and your grandfather was standing at the counter, I would not have a question. But now that your grandfather is on the wall and you are standing here, I must ask the question.

Giving our Grandchildren Eternity

In the 1940’s there was an esteemed Rosh Yeshiva at one of the famous Yeshivas in Brooklyn, New York, known as “Torah Va’daas,” a yeshiva which produced and still produces great scholars and Rabbis to this very day.

The head of the Rabbinical seminary at the time was Rabbi Shlomo Heiman. He had a most amazing way of teaching his students. Unlike the dry lectures given by many brilliant scholars, he would shout with almost breathless rapture as he explained the Talmud and its commentaries. His eyes would sparkle, and his arms would wave, as he expounded on the brilliant Talmudic insight. After the class, he would almost collapse from the exertion.

One particular day, there was a snow storm in New York. Only four boys showed up to the class. Nevertheless, Rabbi Heiman delivered his two-hour long lecture as if the room was packed with hundreds of students.

Beads of sweet rolled down his face as he passionately argued points of Talmudic law, waving his arms and waving his body back and forth to the incredulous four boys.

As he paused to catch his breath, one of the boys could not contain himself. He mustered his courage and beseeched the Torah sage.

“Rebbe, please, don’t overwork yourself. Relax! There are only four of us in this room, why the excitement? For whom are you shouting and getting all worked up for?”

Rabbi Shlomo Heiman’s eyes widened and he said these words: “You think that I’m giving this lecture to four boys? You got it all wrong. I am giving this class to hundreds of Jewish children…. To your children, and their children, and their children, and their children, and their great grand children!”