Too Late

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15 Aug 2007
Education

A Lesson For the Children – The rabbi found it hard to conceal his surprise. The man at the door of his room was none other than Mr. Levy. Under normal circumstances, Mr. Levy did not set foot in the synagogue. Just the opposite – Mr. Levy was known to be a strong opponent of the rabbi, and an opponent of anything that seemed at all related to religion.

But now things were different. Mr. Levy’s embarrassed appearance made it clear that he had not come to criticize. He hesitated slightly, and then he poured out his heart, interrupting his words with deep sighs from time to time. He told the rabbi about his very successful only daughter, who had recently met a Christian young man and had decided to marry him. “Rabbi, you know that I am not stringent in observing all the mitzvot, but how could this be happening to me? How can my daughter abandon Judaism and take a path of devastation? How can she assimilate? I will never agree to this! What can I do? Where should I turn? You are a rabbi, perhaps you can get my daughter to change her mind.”

The rabbi was shocked to hear this. He promised to do his utmost and talk to the daughter. It was not easy to convince her to come and talk to him. When they did meet, she did not really want to listen, and she greeted his words with ridicule.

A few days later, Mr. Levy came to see the rabbi again. But this time he was very angry. “What impertinence! How can she show such disrespect? How can she be so alien to our faith? She does not care at all that she is Jewish – that is what she says! All our efforts to teach our children some pride in being Jewish was a complete waste! What good was our great investment in education, when in the end it was all wasted?” The rabbi tried to give Mr. Levy some encouragement, but without much success.

Some time later, the rabbi told his students about these events (being careful not to give any hints about the specific people involved). And he added the following story:

In a far away land there was once an epidemic which took the lives of many victims. There was only one doctor who was able to make a special medicine which could cure the terrible sickness. The doctor began to make the rounds of the villages and the cities with his medicine, and wherever he came he was greeted by a long line of suffering and sick people. He distributed his medicine, and many people were indeed cured.

One day the doctor was on his way from one village to another, as usual. Suddenly, he was attacked by a band of robbers. He begged for his life and told them that he was a doctor involved in saving lives. The bandits laughed at him and grabbed his precious bag of medicines. They searched the bag, looking for money and jewels. The doctor’s cries were of no avail, and they would not listen to his explanation that the bag held a precious cure for the epidemic that was killing so many of the people in the land. When the bandits saw that the bag did not have anything that interested them, one of them grabbed it and threw it into the river. And then they let the doctor continue on his way.

The next day the doctor arrived in the village. A long line of wretched sick people waited for him, but he was forced to tell them that his bag had been destroyed and that he could not help them. And who was at the head of the long line? It was none other than the leader of the bandits from the day before, holding his sick son’s hand.

Could the doctor help the bandit chief? Was there any way for the bandit to undo the damage that he himself had done? By now it was too late.

And the rabbi ended his story by saying: “Now, is there any way that I can help this poor man, who so persistently excluded himself from Torah and the mitzvot? This man, who made fun of the rabbis? He is trying to choose for himself what to accept and what to ridicule. Now he understands the damage that he caused, but by now it is too late… His daughter is very far away, she does not even have any respect for a rabbi. As far as she is concerned, Judaism is strange and meaningless. Of course, we know that the path of repentance is always open, but now the work needed to solve this problem is much greater than it would have been…”


Source: “Touched by a Story”. Reprinted with permission from Zomet Institute (www.zomet.org.il). Translated from the Hebrew by Moshe Goldberg. To subscribe to receive the complete version of Shabbat BeShabbato please write to dan@zomet.org.

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.