Guest Posting By Rabbi Dovid Sears - Returning A Favor
This amazing story involves a close friend of mine and his family -- and I even had the zekhus of playing a small part in the unfolding drama.
When one of my friend's sons was seventeen or eighteen, he started to rebel, eventually leaving yeshiva to work briefly in Manhattan. His father had always been especially close with this son and had taken great pride in watching him grow into a ben Torah. However, after enrolling in a new yeshivah, the young man fell under the influence of some of the "cool guys" there and eventually fell into a yeridah, a spiritual tailspin.
One day, the father told me, he was sitting on a bench in Rav Moshe Bick's mikveh on 55th St. Almost everyone had left, and the only other man in the changing area was a Chassid a little younger than himself, whom he didn't know. My friend began to brood as he sat there, soon loosing touch with his surroundings. Suddenly the other man spoke up, disturbing his dark reverie.
"You don't know me," he began, "but I know you. I remember when you first came to this neighborhood, and I saw you in shul and wondered, 'Who is this choshuveh yungerman who davens and learns so sincerely?' Then a couple of years went by and I saw you change to the way you are today -- so sad and broken. 'What happened?' I asked -- and they told me 'tzaar gidul banim,' he is having trouble raising his children. So I want to tell you something that you may not know. Some of the most ehrlicher Chassidisher people in this community had bad years when they were teenagers. They did whatever they did -- but you should see them now. There are no better Jews! And their wives, who were the same thing, today light the Shabbos candles like their heiligeh babbas, with such yiras Shomayim! So don't be broken-hearted. Your bochur will turn out all right, just wait and see…"
My friend thanked the stranger, ashamed to look him in the face. "My goodness," he thought, "am I in such bad shape that total strangers are talking about me?" Then he quickly finished dressing and left the mikveh.
Thank G-d, the stranger's words were prophetic. This young man eventually got married, and he and his wife turned into the most ehrlich couple of all their peers. Today their parents couldn't have more nachas from them and their children. However, my friend often wondered as to the identity of that Chassid who had given him chizuk when he needed it so badly. There was one fellow who davenned in the same shtibel with him on Friday nights whom he suspected, but he was diffident and could not bring himself to approach him. So he asked me to approach him. I was reluctant, too.
One day I wound up conversing with this man about something, and saw my chance. I asked him if he had been the one who had spoken to my friend in Rav Bick's mikveh several years previously, and he admitted that he was.
"My chaver would like to thank you," I told him. "You don't know how much you helped him -- and that everything came true, just as you predicted!"
The man's eyes widened.
"I don't believe this," he stammered. "You are thanking me for giving chizuk to another Jew -- and right now I am going through the same thing with my teenage bochur, who is the apple of my eye! He quit yeshiva and went to Eretz Yisrael, and now he is running around with some other bochurim like him, doing who knows what. But today HaShem is sending my chizuk back to me. This can't be an accident. With G-d's help, he will turn out all right, too!"
With great emotion, the man thanked me profusely, and I conveyed his words to my friend (who no longer lived in the neighborhood). When I saw the Chassid some time later, he confirmed that his troubled bochur had had major spiritual breakthrough not long after our conversation and was now back "on track." "Cast your bread upon the water, and soon you will find it!" (Koheles 11:1).