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The visitor and the cast

11/21/2019 09:46:40 AM


Shalom Lewis, Rabbi Emeritus

She wished to meet with a rabbi to discuss the book of Prophets in the Bible. She was teaching a class in her church and wanted insight. We made an appointment. She showed up right on time. I welcomed her. She sat down with pad and pen and we began the Q and A.


Her questions were reasonable and well thought out. It was a pleasant chat and as our time wound down our discussion took an unexpected turn. I noticed a cast wrapped around her left arm. It was covered with signatures and good wishes from friends and students. I asked if I might add my name to the well-wishers. ‘Certainly, that would be very nice of you’ she said. ‘May I write ‘speedy recovery’ on your cast in Hebrew?’ I asked. A simple, innocent request. Her demeanor suddenly shifted. She looked at me, grabbed the arms of the chair and began to quiver. She stammered in response, “In the holy language of Hebrew? In God’s sacred tongue? I would be deeply honored.’ Still shaking she held up her injured arm and with a Sharpie I scribbled ‘refuah shleimah’. Speedy recovery.


From her reaction you’d have thought I was Moses giving her a signed copy of the Ten Commandments. She stared at the Hebrew characters. Transfixed by my message. After a few seconds she stood up. In a soft voice she thanked me for my time. Turned and walked out of my office caressing her inscribed cast. I was stunned but sadly understood. We birth Jews are jaded by our rituals, our traditions, our customs, but for outsiders we are the authentic, magical faith living the words of the Bible. An eternal people bonded to God. All too often we yawn at our treasures. Dismissing our magnificent legacy that literally changed the course of Western Civilization. Too often I have seen that it is the stranger who values and applauds the wonder of Judaism while many of us cast off the ‘ol malchut’ the precious, holy yoke of Sinai not grasping the miracle and the glory of who we are.


Thank God for non-Jews.

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Thu, February 20 2020 25 Shevat 5780