Rabbi Zilbershtein shares an amazing story he was part of:
“In one of my flights out of Israel I sat next to a Mr. Weinstein who was obviously Jewish. I was curious about him. He had a non-kosher meal with his name Mr. Weinstein on it and I was wondering why he would want to eat a non-kosher meal. So when he finished eating I turned to him.”
“Excuse me sir I’m not trying to be brazen or hurt you or anything like that but can I ask you a question?” “Sure!” The man answered. I asked: “Are you aware that you can order a kosher meal on flights like these?” he looked at me and said tersely: “I don’t eat Kosher!” So I asked back “what do you mean? That you eat kosher at home but not out of the house or that you don’t consider eating kosher something important?” “No I don’t eat kosher for that is my free choice!” He said with vehemence. “I don’t do any mitzvoth; do you want to know why?” he asked.
“I felt he was about to unburden something in his heart so I said yes. He started in a broken voice: “It was my son… the last thing that broke me. I held on the whole time in the concentration camp until one day when I couldn’t anymore. In the camp I had one sole ambition; that my son Katriel Menachem should survive. His mother and all his brothers and sisters were all taken away but my son and I were going to live. I was certain of this”.
“One day we were in a roll call in a place that had secret doors to an area used for mass hangings. My son squeezed my hand so hard from fear he cut off blood circulation to it. We started to flee from the line of fire and his hand slipped out of mine and he disappeared. Later someone told me he saw a soldier take him and shoot him.”
Mr. Weinstein wiped away his tears as his voice rose in anger: “G-d took away all of my children. Now whatever G-d says, I do the opposite! I want nothing to do with his mitzvoth!”
Rabbi Zilbershtein continues: “I was so shocked by his story I had nothing to say and for six hours I sat totally silent next to Mr. Weinstein till we got to Houston and we each went our own way.”
“I never dreamed I’d see Mr. Weinstein again but four years later on Yom Kippur I was a guest in the Meah Shearim neighborhood. I walked out of the synagogue to refresh myself and breathe some fresh air into my lungs when I saw a strange sight. A man sitting on a Meah Shearim bench of all places was smoking a cigarette on Yom Kippur of all days!”
“But then I did a double take… it was Mr. Weinstein! I went over to him and said: “Here we are meeting again. Isn’t it funny how life brings people together and you wonder why they were put together? What message is hiding behind this? I’m sure you know today is Yom Kippur and in a few minutes they will be saying Yizkor to remember the loved ones no longer with us. Come with me and during Yizkor mention your son’s name to remember him and pray for his soul. This might be your only opportunity to mention his name. Don’t you want his name to be heard in the Heavenly Courts?”
“His eyes filled with tears, I hugged him and we locked arms and went into the synagogue near the cantor. We asked him to make a special memorial prayer for Mr. Weinstein’s son. Mr. Weinstein leaned on the cantors stand and whispered his son’s name to the cantor: “Katriel Menachem ben Yecheskel Shraga” he said.
“The cantor turned white and he broke out in a sweat, his eyes were bulging as if they’d pop out! He turned to us and in a choked voice cried, “Abba” (father) and fell down in a faint.”
Rabbi Zilbershtein concludes: “This is a wondrous story of how G-d guides the world above the natural and “one who comes to purify (himself) gets divine assistance'. Mr. Weinstein made but a small gesture to come to synagogue on Yom Kippur (after having a cigarette!) and merited something unbelievable. G-d always watches over us and He is waiting for the smallest gesture on our part for Him. Look at the good you get in return!”