Rabbi Paysach Krohn, in his book, “Echoes of the Maggid,” p. 135, tells a beautiful inspirational story from Rabbi Shabsi Yudelevitz, z.t.l. (1924-96), one of the famous magiddim of Jerusalem. It’s entitled “Broken to a Point.”
It’s about a poor Rabbi who, a 100 years ago, had to go to Milan Italy to collect money for his family. When he got off the boat he met a wealthy man. The man was Jewish and invited the Rabbi to spend Shabbos with him.
At the meal that night in the wealthy man’s mansion, the Rabbi saw a beautiful closet filled with exquisite silverware, crystal bowls, flasks, and cups. Then he spotted what seemed to be way out of place in such a display-a broken glass flask, with sharp points of jagged glass jutting out. The wealthy man noticed the Rabbi’s look and asked him if everything was all right. When the Rabbi excused his curiosity and asked about the broken flask, the wealthy man was more than happy to tell him the story.
The man was born in Amsterdam and came to Italy at the age of eighteen to help his sick grandfather run his business. Eventually, his grandfather died and his parents wanted him to liquidate the business and return to Amsterdam. The man however was very successful in the business and decided to remain in Italy. He was doing so well that he even opened up a branch. However, he was so engrossed in the business that one-day he forgot to daven Mincha. The next day even Shacharis slipped away and one by one he stopped doing Mitzvos. Eventually he married and had children but he was leading a secular life. Although he remembered that he was Jewish, his practice of Mitzvos was almost nil.
One afternoon ,he was walking in the street and saw some children playing. They all seemed to be very happy, but then he heard one of them screaming and crying bitterly. He kept repeating, “What will I tell my father? What will I tell my father? No one could console him. The wealthy man went to see what the problem was. He found out that the boy came from a poor family and that his father had saved a few precious coins throughout the winter to buy a flask of oil for Chanukah. His father warned him to come straight home with it and not to stop and play with his friends, as the flask may break. The boy didn’t listen and sure enough, while he was playing, the flask broke and the oil spilled out.
The man consoled the boy and bought him a bigger flask of oil than he had and he sent the now happy boy straight home with the precious oil.
As the wealthy man was walking home that evening, the little boy’s words rang in his ears. “What will I tell my father? What will I tell my father?” And then he thought to himself, indeed, what will I tell my Father? My Father in Heaven- after 120 years? He had drifted so far from Judaism that he forgotten that is was almost Chanukah. What excuse would he have when he stood before his Father in Heaven on that final Judgement Day?
The man walked back to where the children were playing and picked up the broken pieces of glass from the flask and took it home with him. That night, to the surprise of his wife and children, he lit a Chanukah candle.
The next night, he lit two, and with each passing night, he increased the amount of candles. He stared at the candles as they flickered and sparkled, remembering his parents’ home back in Amsterdam. He had gone far away-maybe too far.
The wealthy man concluded his story, “That Chanukah was the beginning of my return to the observance of mitzvos. Eventually, with the understanding of my wife, we began training our children the way we were brought up. Our road back had started with that broken flask and the words of that boy, ‘What will I tell my father?’ That is why I keep that flask as a treasured memento of what changed my life.”
Latkes are tasty, as are sufganiyot…
…this is food for thought!
“Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.” – Oscar Wilde
ואמר ר”ל קשט עצמך ואחר כך קשט אחרים – סנהדרין יט
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