Not for Nothing
Written by Chana Klein
The Three Weeks, a time of mourning for our Temple, and praying for it to be rebuilt, is once again upon us.
Are our prayers heard by the Almighty? Will He respond? Does He really respond to our individual requests, as well? I mean, really? Can it be that you, or I, or we, have prayed for something and it was for nothing? Can it ever be that our prayers are for naught? Can it ever be that our efforts are in vain?
A long time ago, on Tisha B’av, the day that we mourn the loss of the temples, Napoleon Bonaparte walked past a local synagogue in Paris. He heard the sounds of great wailing. He saw from the outside that the Jews were inside, sitting on the floor, crying.
Napoleon asked a man outside “Why such tears?” The man told him, “The Jews lost their temple. They cry for the destruction and to get it rebuilt.” “Oh, how terrible.” Napoleon sympathized. “How could I not have heard about this? When did this
happen?” he asked.
“It happened about 2000 years ago.” The man answered.
“And they are still crying? In that case, there is no doubt that their Temple will be rebuilt. A people that can cry so sincerely for so many years and continue to believe, for sure, will have their temple back.”
We mourn and we pray. Does the Master of the Universe hear us? Does He respond?
My grandparents came to the US from Minsk, Russia, a hub of Jewish learning and Jewish activity. Their children, my parents, chose not to bring those values and teachings to their children. I had never heard my parents speak of anything that one can learn from a pasuk (passage). The holidays were mentioned more in terms of the restrictions, the spirit of each lost.
My life journey, as early as when I was a child, led me far, far away from anything Jewish, and closer to the teachings of other religions like Jehovah Witnesses while I was in the hospital for a year, then to being placed in a Home For Girls where Roman Catholicism was practiced and required, Then as I grew older, in my search for how God works. I came to be in touch with Zen Buddhism, with Born Again Christianity, with Church of Religious Science, with Course in Miracles and so many others. How far away I had strayed from my real roots, from my observant grandparents. In my search for God, I steered clear of anything Jewish because of my past experiences with people.
I know my Zaydie loved me. I cannot imagine that he did not pray for me, his grandchild, to come to observing the commandments of the Almighty. It must have looked to him like all was lost, as if my Zaydie’s prayers were for nought.
But God works in unusual ways. How can a young girl searching for God in so many places, other than the one where she began, ever find her way home again? How could she get back to where she was not wanted in the first place? How my grandparents must have been crying as they watched me from their resting places.
When God wants something to happen, He works out the events so that we don’t really have a choice, even when we think we are choosing.
So, He put my oldest son, Adam, before me, asking over and over, when he is going to begin his barmitzva lessons. I really did not know what was involved in a barmitzva or that one even needed lessons.
“How did Adam know?” I wondered to this day.
From our home in Los Angles, we found lessons with a rabbi on the other side of the country, in New Milford, NJ, who was willing to learn with him. And we found a teacher who rented a room in a nearby church who taught Hebrew. Adam wanted his barmitzva so voraciously that he gave up all after school activities in order to attend the equivalent of four years of Hebrew in one year, I wanted to know what my child was learning. So, I had him teach me whatever he could remember from each lesson.
And that is how, for me, the journey to this awesome Torah began. My study of Torah became endless, often 10 hours/day. I entered observance very slowly, taking on one commandment at a time and sitting with it for months, before trying on the next.
And so it was that I became observant of the Sabbath (Shabbos). And so it was that I came to walking 5 miles to synagogue each Shabbos because I wanted to pray with the people in Beth Aaron synagogue.
Excerpt from, my not yet published, book Zaydie
I am under two years old. Zaydie loves me. He plays with me and even though he scares me with his play, like when he dresses as a ghost, he is the attention that I get.
Then, no more Zaydie…
No one ever explains where he is. Not a word is said.
I find out when I am an adult, that that Mommy and Daddy moved out of the apartment on Shabbos morning, while Zaydie was praying in the synagogue. He returned to the apartment expecting Shabbos lunch. The apartment was locked, and the furniture moved out.
No one mentioned his name to me ever again. No one explained to me that I will never again see my Zaydie. But I always remember him.
Years later, when I was 48 years old, my brother, Michael, passed to the next world.
At his funeral my tears drowned my ability to look at the graves next to my brother’s. Shortly after, I visited my brother’s resting place and had the composure to look at the graves near his… and there it was.
I saw Zaydie's grave right next to Michael’s. The stone read: "Aron Gordon – Died October 19, 1955 - Age 82 Years - Avinu HaYikar ((our beloved father)." That was Zaydie.
Apparently, he lived until I was ten years old. He was alive all that time.
I threw myself on the ground near the grave and cried bitter tears because he was there all that time and I did not know.
Oh how I missed out. Oh how we both lost out. That I could have had one person tell me what to do, and tell me what a Torah is, and all about God.
I cried and cried by his grave at the loss we both had.
But in the 1980's, when I took on the commandment of not driving on the Sabbath, I walked five miles to shul each Sabbath. Zaydie was with me, watching from his resting place, during the whole 2 1/2 hour walk. I felt his smile and satisfaction at my Shabbos observance.
For one whole year, it never rained or snowed on my walk.
And so it was that I am sure that my Zaydie must have laughed with me with joy each time I walked to shul and with every commandment that I made my own.
Zaydie’s prayers, no matter how hopeless the situation appeared, were heard and answered by the Master of the Universe. Despite his granddaughter’s journey to and from other religions, through her own path, guided by the Almighty, his granddaughter returned, just as Zaydie prayed to happen. His prayers were heard and answered.
We will once again have our Temple.
God hears all of our prayers. Not a one is wasted.
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“My Child is Not Like the Child Next Door – Coaching Parents on the Spectrum”
by Chana Klein
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