Money in the Garbage – Moshav Yishai

Money in the Garbage

Moshav Yishai

Pesach was coming. Rabbi Glasner, who delivered Belev Echad youth classes at Moshav Yishai, had just started teaching his eager students about the laws of chametz.

Moshe, an athletic young body-builder who spent lots of spare time at the gym, approached him after class one day holding a flashily colored bottle.

“Rabbi,” he said, “I just ordered a case of this super-high-level energy drink from America. It cost me $100. There’s no reason I have to worry it has chametz in it, right?”

Rabbi Glasner’s stomach clenched a bit as he took the expensive beverage from Moshe and started reading the ingredients list. Please let me not have to tell him it’s forbidden…

But indeed it was. Rabbi Glasner quickly noticed a few ingredients that made the drink “chametz gamor,” real leaven.

“Well,” he said gently, “It actually looks very much like chametz, Moshe.”

A stormcloud gathered on Moshe’s face. “Alright.” He stuck out his chin. “I’ll leave the case in my backyard over Pesach. I’ll cover it up. If anyone tries to touch it…” he shook his head threateningly.

Rabbi Glasner smiled. “Moshe… it doesn’t work that way. Hiding chametz doesn’t make it okay to keep.” He didn’t press his point any further. He knew his hot-tempered, fiercely independent student well. Moshe was far from ready to hear more, even about doing the work of selling his precious chametz.

When Rabbi Glasner returned to the moshav for his first pre-Pesach class, Moshe accosted him somewhere near the Moshav entrance.

“Rabbi!” he yelled. “I lost $100, and it’s all your fault!”

“What did I do?” Rabbi Glasner blinked.

“My energy drinks!” Moshe shouted. “Right before Pesach, I took the whole case and chucked it into the dumpster!”

Rabbi Glasner’s breath caught. Then he smiled broadly. “Moshe! That’s incredible!”

Mi k’amcha Yisrael, he thought. How great is Your nation Israel! Down to her hotheaded teenage bodybuilders.

The Littlest Protestors – Moshav Zecharya

Named for the nearby ancient town of Beit Zecharya, Moshav Zecharya has an interesting history. The current community was founded by Kurdish Jewish immigrants. Its early years were punctuated by bloody strife between the area’s Jewish residents and neighboring Arabs in the area. Since then, the moshav has grown into a peaceful, successful agricultural village. Belev Echad has been drawing its residents closer to their Creator since for 17 years.

The Littlest Protestors

Kids! Rabbi Elchanan shook his head. He loved his learning group of preteen boys on Moshav Zecharya. But he also had a problem.

The boys were – boys. Rowdy. Rambunctious. Mischievous. Though they seemed to enjoy the learning sessions Rabbi Elchanan organized for them in the moshav’s shul, they also seemed unable to hold themselves back from highly un-shul-like behavior.

Rabbi Elchanan wasn’t sure what to do. His normal class-control methods weren’t working. He couldn’t fathom putting an end to the group, but he also couldn’t allow its young members to keep disrespecting the beit knesset.

I won’t end the class, he thought. I’ll just tell them that because of their behavior, we need to take a break. Perhaps they’ll see I’m serious, and we’ll try again in a month or so.

Rabbi Elchanan sent his message to the boys through a different Belev Echad madrich.

He was completely unprepared for the boys’ reaction.

The next day, as he drove up to the beit knesset to deliver a mens’ class, he noticed a crowd of what looked like political protestors. They were brandishing handwritten picket signs and yelling hoarsely.

When he got a little closer, he gasped – and burst out laughing. The protestors were his little students! Their signs held slogans like “NO CLOSING THE SHIUR!” and “WE NEED TORAH!”

Rabbi Elchanan laughed harder as more signs came into view: “WE LOVE YOU RABBI Elchanan!” “THE SHIUR MUST GO ON!” “HOW WILL WE BECOME BAR MITZVAH??”

Suddenly, one of the boys spotted Rabbi Elchanan’s car. He motioned wildly to the others, who let out a collective whoop and rushed to surround the car.

Inside, Rabbi Elchanan wiped his eyes. Kids! Wonderful kids! Still chuckling, he pushed the door open and stepped into the small-but-mighty swarm.

“Okay, okay, boys, you win!” He put his hands up in the air. “I’ll make you a deal. You agree to behave as best you can – and we can have another learning session in an hour.”

The boys let out a cheer. When their time slot came, they tumbled into the beit knesset excitedly, looking comical as they tried to balance their enthusiasm with their promise to act respectfully.

Rabbi Elchanan watched them, heart swelling with gratitude. Belev Echad and its Torah classes were well beloved – and making a deep, genuine impact.

The Sign – Moshav Zlaffon

Moshav Zlaffon was founded by Yemenite refugees in 1950. Later joined by Moroccan immigrants, the ensuing decade saw a major decline in the community’s religious connection. Belev Echad has been working to bring the residents closer to their Creator for many years.

The Sign

Golden-hour sunlight slanted through the woods bordering Moshav Zlaffon. It played on the faces of Gavriel, a moshav teenager, and Ofir, his Belev Echad madrich, as they picked their way along the forest path.

It was time for Gavriel to apply for high school. Ofir, who’d been helping his younger friend rediscover his Judaism, wanted Gavriel to give the local religious school a try. They’d been strolling and talking about it for an hour, however, and Gavriel still didn’t seem ready.

“I don’t know, Ofir.” Gavriel stopped walking and turned back towards the woods’ entrance. “If G-d Himself sends me a sign, I’ll try the Dati school. Otherwise, I don’t think it’s for me.”

Ofir lowered his head. A shame. But there was nothing he could do if the boy simply wasn’t ready.

Less than 60 seconds later, as they trekked toward the woods’ opening, a middle-aged man appeared from between the trees.

“Hello,” he introduced himself. He was wearing the uniform of a forester employed by Keren Kayemet L’Yisrael (JNF). “You lost? Need any help?”

“We’re fine,” Ofir assured him with a smile, putting a hand on Gavriel’s shoulder. “We just needed somewhere quiet to talk about some important things.”

“Hm,” the forester nodded. His gaze moved over Ofir’s kippah and tiztzit, and Gavriel’s bare-head and shorts. “Well, young man, I have some advice for you.”

Gavriel raised his eyebrows. “Me?”

“Yep. Here it is.” He stepped up to Ofir and jabbed him in the shoulder. “Listen to these Dati’im. They know what they’re talking about.”

Now both Ofir and Gavriel were curious. “What makes you say that?”

The forester leaned back on a tree trunk. “Twenty-three years ago, I served in the army with two good friends. When we were discharged, they both headed to America to pick up the gold in the streets.

“Early on, one of them befriended a religious fellow, who told him: ‘When hard times come, stick with Hashem. Turn to Him. Listen to Him. And you’ll win.’

“My friend followed his advice – and his business boomed. The other friend, who went into the exact same business, failed. Why, I don’t know. But I do know this second friend ran away from involvement in his Judaism.”

“Nice story,” Ofir said. Gavriel couldn’t say anything. He just stared, speechless.

“I’m telling you, listen to this Dati fellow,” the forester repeated. “You won’t be sorry.”

And he strolled off.

Gavriel sank down onto the ground, head in his hands.

“Gavriel?” Ofir said gently.

It was a minute before the boy looked up. When he did, Ofir saw wetness on his cheeks.

“What do you know,” he said hoarsely, clearing his throat. “G-d sent me a sign.”

Gavriel sent off his application to the religious high school that evening. When he called Ofir to tell him he’d been officially registered, the madrich smiled.

Not that he needed a sign to know how pleased G-d was with Belev Echad’s work. But this story, and the hundreds of similar ones Ofir had seen and heard, were the clearest sign of all.

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