Dreaming of Moshiach

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Spiritual Recovery

Boaz was an embodiment of the Israeli dream. He was young, handsome, intelligent, athletic, uninhibited [+/-] show/hide text
and a successful small businessman in Hollywood. By 1990 he had 'made it' in L.A.! Money! Fun! Action! Excitement! The world was his for the taking, and he took as much as he could.

But most of all he loved riding his powerful motorcycle, a Yamaha-FZR. Speeding down a desert highway over 100 mph was what made him really happy. That's where he wanted to be forever - on the cutting edge of life.

Of course in true Israeli tradition he kept as far from G-d, and certainly from Judaism, as possible. "If" he often quipped, "I thought that religion was like Marx said, the opiate of the masses, I might have tried some." But it was even more meaningless to him than that.

Until his accident.

One beautiful summer day on a lonely highway somewhere in Nevada he hit about 130 when, suddenly, from nowhere, a huge semi-trailer truck appeared in front of him. It took him a second to realize that it wasn't a mirage but then it was too late. He smashed into the front of it and flew into oblivion. When the police arrived they had to search for a while till they found his broken body several hundred feet from the scene of the accident. He was still alive, but they had seen a lot of accidents and they were sure he wasn't going to last.

"This one is for sure a goner" was the last thing he heard as they pushed him into the ambulance and closed the doors. He thought to himself, "I don't want to die; I'll do what You want. Please, G-d, Save me!" And everything went black.

When he woke up it was dark. He couldn't move. Was he dead? No, he was alive. Why couldn't he see or move? Then suddenly he realized what happened; "My G-d - I'm buried alive! They buried me!"

He was sweating; it was getting hard to breathe. He tried to get up but he couldn't, he couldn't move. He started to scream, "Please G-d, help me! I'm sorry! G-d, help me!"

Suddenly he was blinded; it was so bright! The florescent light flickered on. He was in a hospital.

"Doctor! Doctor! Come fast! He's conscious!"

He had been in a coma for over a month. He couldn't move because he was in a body cast from head to toe; almost all his bones had been broken. Even the policemen that were at the accident had never had seen anything like it, it was clearly a miracle that he was still alive. But the miracles didn't stop.

It took a lot of physical therapy and a lot of prayer but in one year he was actually back on his feet, completely recovered! He went back to work, to a new business, and bought a new bike. And completely forgot his vow! In less than a year, he was back on his feet and back to his old lifestyle as if nothing had happened.

As his new business became more successful, he was finally able to buy a house. The day he moved in he went out to his new backyard and discovered, to his surprise, a trampoline on the adjoining property.

Boaz loved trampolines. He couldn't resist. He dropped what he was doing, hopped over a bush, climbed on the trampoline and began to bounce. He jumped and jumped and then tried a few flips.

"Pretty good!" a voice called out from his rear, startling him.

He turned around. A tall well-built man, apparently his next-door neighbor and the owner of the trampoline, was smiling at him. "Do you have the nerve to try it on a trapeze?" he asked, a tight smile playing across his face.

Of course, no young brash Israeli ever backed away from a challenge. He tried it, succeeded, and went on to the next stage. It turned out his new neighbor was a former leading stuntman and was still influential in the business as the manager of the union. He secured a position for Boaz as a stuntman on the famous television series, "American Gladiator."

Time passed. With the manager's help, Boaz landed many stuntman gigs in commercial television. He told Boaz that he had the potential to be promoted to some really big-time jobs with opportunities to do serious acting. If it worked out he could be earning more than a million dollars a year! Things were looking up.

There was only one drawback; the manager was a missionary.

In truth, Boaz could have cared less. Religion meant nothing to him. When has new patron asked him if he was Jewish, his answer was, "No, I'm Israeli."

He read the books the manager kept giving him because he wanted to keep on good terms. He even went to a couple of meetings with him. Everyone there was friendly, the lectures were nice, but he was interested in having a good time.

And it would have remained that way if his manager would have left him alone, but he didn't. He kept shaking up Boaz's indifference with strange interpretations of biblical verses and ideas about sin and salvation that he had never thought about.

He didn't know what to do. On one hand he wanted the big bucks and really couldn't find anything wrong with the manager's line of thought. But on the other hand - maybe it was just his Israeli egotism or innate Jewish stiffneckedness - for the first time in his life Boaz felt that he was a Jew and someone was trying to take it away from him.

The problem was that he didn't know enough about the Torah to argue back.

This continued for several months. As his twenty-fifth birthday approached, a friend asked what he could buy for him as a present. Perhaps a gaudy new motorcycle helmet, or a fancy set of tools?

Boaz told him that the only present he desired was a Tanach.

His friend, also a secular Israeli, thought he was crazy and tried to dissuade him. But when he finally accepted that Boaz was serious and understood the reason why he needed to know more about the Torah, he provided him with the name of a "primitive" Sephardic Rabbi with whom he was acquainted. He begrudgingly admitted that the man was pleasant to talk to.

It wasn't long before Boaz was sitting in the Rabbi's house pouring his heart out about his missionary friend. It was the first of many long discussions.

Now he was ready. The next time the manager brought up the subject, Boaz wrote down all the quotations, thinking he would defeat them. But the more he read from the Torah and the Prophets in order to prepare his rebuttals, the more he realized that he himself knew nothing about Judaism.

He started thinking about buying a pair of tefilin and putting them on regularly instead of just whenever he ran into an outgoing Chabadnik, but somehow he never followed through.

One of Boaz's new acquaintances advised him to write to the Lubavitcher Rebbe (zs'l) for advice and a blessing.

"A blessing?" asked Boaz incredulously, but he wrote anyway. In two weeks he received a reply. The Rebbe told him to concentrate only on strengthening his own Judaism through learning the Torah and doing the commandments, and to forget the debates.

Boaz decided to return to Israel, and was able to accomplish this in 1991. Finding no spiritual balm in the suburbs of Haifa where his parents lived, he was influenced by the local Chabad rabbi to visit the yeshiva in Safed "for a few days." Today Boaz lives in Safed with his wife and seven children, and is a religious community member.

[Adapted by Yrachmiel Tilles from the rendition of Rabbi Tuvia Bolton in his weekly email for Yeshiva Ohr Tmimim: http://www.ohrtmimim.org/torah; yeshiva@ohrtmimim.org, and supplemented with corrections and additions as heard from his neighbor, 'Boaz' himself.]




והיה השם למלך על כל הארץ, ביום ההוא יהיה השם אחד - ושמו אחד ישתבח שמו לעד לנצח נצחים בכל העולמות Blessed is His name for eternity in all worlds אין עוד מלבדו