I had a friend that went to Ireland with a group to see what the state of Yiddishkeit was there. There are a number of interesting stories from that trip, but there is one that stands out in my mind.
I may have some of the details wrong, but the story goes basically like this:
In an Irish village, the group found a Jewish sounding name in the phonebook, and on a lark they looked him up. This Jewish fellow had an office somewhere and they got an appointment to meet with him for 10 minutes the next day.
At their meeting they spoke about Judaism and Ireland, and the Jewish man told them that there is a Jewish graveyard nearby with 9 Jews buried there - and he will be the tenth. Ireland once had a nice Jewish community, but over time they assimilated and intermarried into the general population. Although this Jewish man had no Jewish background, his parents always told him that he was a Jew and that as Jews they believe and pray to G-d who is all-knowing and all-powerful.
The Jewish man then he told the group that he wanted his story told. He spent over an hour with them and told this story:
As he grew up, he was married and started a family. He had a job and was basically successful; all was well. Unfortunately, he developed a drug addiction, and in time he lost it all - his job, his family, everything. The Jewish man went to a clinic, got help, and worked hard to clean up his act, and eventually he started to try to put his life back together.
It was easier said than done, and things were not working out. He was penniless, and nobody would give him a job. No one would trust him or give him a chance, and he was desperate.
As a Jew he finally turned to G-d for help, and prayed. But no help came.
After a while he said to G-d, "Please help me, I'm doing the best I can, and if you help me I will give 10% of my money to charity."
No help came - no job.
After a while he offered G-d 20%, then 30%, then 40%, then 50%.
No dice. He was flat out of luck. A couple months had gone by, and his situation was terribly bleak. He didn't know what to do, or what would become of him.
It was a rainy day in June, the Jewish man woke up in the morning and sat down at his table. Then it hit him. He said, "What am I doing? Who am I fooling? What is this, a game? G-d! I have nothing to negotiate. I'm yours. Whatever your plan is for me, I'll take it. If this is what you want for me, then I am happy to live with your plan. I have been terribly presumptuous in my dealings with you - I am completely subservient to your will."
Suddenly, the phone rang - it was someone who wanted to hire him, based on a business deal he had worked on many years before.
The rest is history. Today the Jewish man is a wealthy and successful man. His life is rebuilt. He speaks to G-d daily, but now without demands.
I try to think about this story every year in the month of Elul.
-Chabakuk Elisha's last guest posting can be read here.