Monday, December 20, 2010

A light at the end of the tunnel

I was at a chagiga, and a Rabbi came to speak to us gals. This time, I was really, REALLY hoping the shiur wouldn't be about dating. My mind pleaded "please, PLEASE. I'm finally AWAY from all eligible bachelors. I'm at an all girls party. It's a motzei-Shabbat. PLLLLEEEAAASE don't bring it up."

So, of course, he brought it up.
Except, ironically enough, I'm grateful that he did. It was an INCREDIBLE shiur because it included an amazingly moving story with a wonderful message. I don't think I'll ever forget it. Here goes:

There was a man who was married to his wife for over 10 years. Unfortunately, his wife couldn't have children, and her husband greatly contemplated the issue and decided that although he very much loves his wife, he desperately wants his own children; it would be best to get divorced. He went to the rabbinate to give her a get, and the rabbis urged him to think his decision through. The rabbi told him "although it's a mitzvah for a divorced man to remarry his wife, a cohen is forbidden to do so. You're a cohen. If you divorce your wife, you'll never ever be able to remarry her. Under no circumstances will you be able to marry her or live with her again. Please think about your decision and be SURE that this is what you want to do." He thought about it more and came back the next day, still wanting to get divorced. The rabbi again urged him. "Are you sure?" The man had enough pressure already and urgently responded "yes, yes! I'm sure. Rabbi, I've thought about it many times already. I'm sure that we're getting divorced." And it was done. They got divorced and everything was finalized. The man was now free as a bird and ready to remarry someone and hoped to have children.

A few months passed by, and he received a phone call. It was his ex-wife. All he heard on the other end up the line was sobbing.
"Hello? Chana, hello? Is that you?"
He heard a mumbled yes through her sobs.
"Honey, honey, calm down. What is it? Are you okay, what happened?"
She could barely get out the words: I'm pregnant.

"Aa-a-are you sure?"
"Yes, I went to the doctors for check-ups and everything. And a DNA test. I'm sure. I don't know what to do..."

At that moment, everything turned into a blur for this man. His ex-wife, whom he was in love with, was carrying his child. And they could never ever be married again. The rabbinate made it clear to him. And now this child would barely be raised with a normal frum family. And the main reason he divorced his wife was because she couldn't have children!

The man was extremely distressed. He went to his Rav and asked him what to do. His Rabbi suggested that he go speak to a Gadol Hador in Israel. He flew to Israel and immediately went to this Rabbi. He cried his heart out and told him the story. "Rabbi, what do I do?" The Rabbi told him he feels very bad, but there's nothing he can do. "I suggest you go to Rav Elyashiv."

So, the man went to speak to Rav Elyashiv. After hearing the story, Rav Elyashiv took the man's hands into his own and started crying with him. "A Jew in pain is so difficult to see." He said, and then suggested "go to the Kotel. That's where Jews go when they're in pain -- go there and pray to HaShem."

The man went to the Kotel. He prayed with all of his heart and energy and tears streamed down his face. He prayed to HaShem for help and salvation. He felt helpless; he didn't know what else to do.
Another man was also by the Kotel. He witnessed this poor man, crying, looking so miserable. He slowly approached him and gently said "excuse me, I've noticed that you look very upset. Sometimes it helps, when you have a heavy heart and much on your mind, to share it with another Jew. Would you like to tell me what happened?"

It was true. He had a lot of emotions bottled up, and so, he figured - why not? He told the stranger his story, and the stranger listened but remained silent. After hearing everything, he asked the man "are either of your parents still alive?"
"Well, yes. Just my father."
"Go speak to him. Tell him the story."
"Speak to my father? He's very old and in a nursing home. He's barely functioning...he often doesn't even respond when people speak to him."
"Listen, just go and speak to him. Your heart is heavy. It'll help you to share this with him."

The man wasn't foolish. He realized -- there's a connection. His Rav sent him to the Rav in Israel, who sent him to Rav Elyashiv, who sent him to the Kotel, and now he met this guy who's suggesting that he speak his father. Why not? It's worth a shot.

Eventually, the man flew back to the US. When he was there, he paid his father a visit. His father's eyes were closed, and he was laying down in his hospital bed with machines beeping around him.
The man sighed and decided that regardless whether or not his father could hear him, he's sharing the story. So again, with much turmoil burning inside of him, he relayed the whole story. He poured his heart out. How he regrets his decision, how much his exwife is suffering, how much the child will suffer and miss out on, how he flew to Israel to all these different people and now is back in the US without an answer. Still suffering. Tears flowed down his face, and he buried his face in his hands.

Amidst his sobs, he heard a voice.
"Remarry your wife." His father said.
What did he just say? My father MUST be crazy. This is just further proof that he's not "here" and not functioning, the man thought.
"Father, I can't remarry her. I'm a cohen."
"No, you're not."
Is he senile?
"Father, you are a cohen, and therefore, I am a cohen." The man patiently explained.
"No, son. I am a cohen, but you are not a cohen."
"What do you mean?"
"Your mother and I weren't able to have children together. So, we adopted. You are adopted. We never wanted to tell you, & we were advised to treat you as if you were our biological son. Therefore, you are not really a cohen."

The man was shocked.
And of course, BH, he remarried his wife, and she gave birth to a healthy baby.

What do we learn from this (true) story? No matter how dark your life seems, or how hopeless a situation seem -- it NEVER is hopeless. HaShem always helps us. He's just waiting for us to make an effort and pray to Him!
Let's say the man in the story accepted his exwife's pregnancy as fact; without ever consulting a Rav. Or just consulting one Rav. He probably would've never found out that he's not a cohen, and he would've never been able to remarry his wife. The child would grow up without his father as his mother's husband. It's BECAUSE the man CARED enough to find salvation, and he SOUGHT answers and clarity --- that's why his case was solved!

As Rabbi Frand beautifully puts it:
"All too often, people have terrible problems. They cannot imagine how these terrible problems will ever be resolved. They need to realize that the salvation of G-d comes in the blink of an eye.
There are so many times in life when salvation of G-d comes in the blink of an eye. We can bang our heads against the wall and wail "What's going to be! What's going to be!" But things suddenly turn around. That is why the Torah emphasizes "they RUSHED him [Yosef] out of the pit". Things can turn around on a dime."

We need to seek HaShem. It doesn't matter what the situation is. Whether it's growing closer to Him, or doing well in school and on finals, or restoring our health, or sending us our zivugim -- we need G-d's help! We even need G-d's help, not ONLY for doing positive mitzvot, but also to keep us from doing an avera. For not speaking lashon hara, for not disrespecting our parents, not sleeping late and missing davening/minyan.
Nothing is difficult for G-d. He can give us anything in less than a second.
We need Him for every "little" thing. And we can never, ever give up. a Jew doesn't give up. Why? Because we have HaShem. And NOTHING is impossible for HaShem. He created every single concept in this world...from our families to our emotions to our surroundings.

I was speaking to a friend of mine about dating. This friend has been dating for quite a while already (b"H she should find her zivug b'karov; she really deserves a wonderful husband) and has dated more than 50 different men. At that time, I had recently went through a difficult break-up with someone that I had very strong feelings for, and the guy cha-cha danced all over my heart. I complained to her..."oh, Jessica. I'm so disheartened now. I'm terrified of dating --what if this happens again?"
She told me a story of how a man was once trying to open a radio station. He was rejected by the first 15 labels he tried. But he kept trying. On the 33rd attempt, he finally MADE it, and eventually, produced 50 radio stations.
"Sefardi Gal, I'm telling you this because you can't give up." Maybe guy (or girl) #15 rejects you, and even guy #30, but guy #33 can be THE ONE to change it all for you. And you'll never know unless you keep trying -- and reach that special number!

May we all have the strength to know that HaShem loves ALL of us, and He never gives up on any of us, so we shouldn't give up on Him - either! Especially NOW, during this holy spiritual time period of Shovavim -- keep praying, and b"H we'll all see daily yeshuot v'nechamot in our lives! :)


  1. Amen, Hashem is always showering us with love sometimes its clearer than others but we are always being given brachot after brachot and the hope is that we are zocheh to see them as such!

  2. Very moving story, but your emunah is even more inspirational. You set a good example for us all to follow!

  3. Thank you for this very inspiring post and for typing up that incredible story.

  4. Aminspiration - Yup. Absolutely. Halevai we would all see it clearly...

    Lawyer Dov - I'm happy you liked it! I wish my emunah was so strong. Whenever I write these posts -- I'm speaking to myself! Got a lot of self work and improvement to do :)

    Sun inside Rain - glad you liked the story! I wasn't expecting the twist...I was definitely inspired by it. (It also helped that the Rav who shared the story in his shiur is a phenomenal speaker.)

  5. I concur with Lawyer Dov. Thank you for sharing!

  6. Wow, that is a really chilling story! Thank you for sharing and thanks for the inspiration!!

    The strength you are able to impart when giving over this story is really amazing...thank you!!

  7. Sorry but this story does not work for me. I once spoke to a prominent Rabbi who knew my great-grandfather and that he was a kohen. I have second cousins and third cousins who are kohanim, so there is no way that my identification as a kohen can be a mistake.

    I am tired of silly people who believe that the shidduch problems of kohanim, especially those who are also Baalei Teshuvah, can be solved by going to Rabbi Dovid Feinstein who waves a magic wand and declares that the kehunah of the person standing before him was a mistake, and he is really a Yisrael.

    I suspect that 50 years from now, the percentage of Jews who are kohanim will be lower than it is today because of the many kohanim alive today who will never marry.

  8. Not much left to add after everyone else, but just a little shout out from another reader who was extremely moved by this post. Thank you.

  9. Shades of Grey - thank you!

    Devorah - I'm so happy that my readers found meaning in this story. It really changed around my whole week, and my tefilliot and perspective. B"H! thank you for reading and commenting.

    Mr. Cohen - I was also a bit disturbed by the fact that he lived his life thinking he was a cohen, when he really wasn't. Is it even halachically permissible for an adopted child to assume the role of a Cohen?
    But either way, no need to "throw the baby out with the bathwater." HaShem works miracles for all of His children.

    Corti - welcome to the blog! I'm glad that the meaning was imparted. :)

  10. Sefardi Gal said...

    "Is it even halachically permissible for an adopted child to assume the role of a Cohen?"

    If everyone knows that the biological father of an adopted man was a kohen, and his biological mother was a woman that a kohen is allowed to marry, then there is no reason for the adopted man to stop being a kohen because he was adopted.

  11. I think the question is asking if a child, who is not a cohen can act as a cohen if his adopted father is a cohen.

    I am pretty sure the answer is that the child cannot. In fact there is a family in my community that a man, who is a levi married a convert who had a son who also converted. Even though all of the children of their marriage are leviim this son is not, and therefore will not get the second aliyah, and will not wash the hands of the kohanim, etc.

  12. Azriel Tzvi - "I think the question is asking if a child, who is not a cohen can act as a cohen if his adopted father is a cohen."

    Right. That was my question.

    Logically, since the cohen status goes through the bloodline, I would think that an adopted child can't inherit such a status.
    But IDK. It's something that I'd be interested in knowing the answer to.

  13. A Yisrael was adopted by a Kohen.

    When the Kohen dies, the Yisrael inherits the money of the Kohen, but the Yisrael always remains a Yisrael; he NEVER becomes a Kohen because he was adopted by one.

    Additionally, a Gentile child adopted by Jewish parents is ** NOT ** Jewish unless he converts according to Halachah.


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  14. Mr. Cohen - thank you for explaining!