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Seize the Opportunity!

Friday, 7 January, 2011 - 4:00 pm

This past Wednesday, I received a frantic phone call from a lady on the East Coast, begging me to rush to the hospital in Meridian to visit her father. His health was quickly deteriorating and doctors gave him only a few hours. She would try to get on the next flight out, but asked me to plead with her father – who insisted that he was ready to die – to take whatever measures were available to keep him alive, at least until she arrived.

When I got to the hospital, the doctors were meeting to discuss what could be done.  Not much, they concluded. They suggested I rush into his room in the critical care unit, as he was becoming agitated. Frankly, I had never met this man before and was unsure what to expect. But I was certain that I was there for a reason.

His first words to me were, “Rabbi I needed you here so desperately. Please say the Shema with me.” We recited the Shema and some other prayers. By the time we finished, tears were streaming down his face. He began to talk about his upbringing in a Jewish family, Hebrew School, Bar Mitzvah and more.

By the time an hour had gone by he was looking better than he had in weeks.  And he promised that he will fight to live.

The doctor called me the next day saying, “Rabbi, I don’t know what you did in there, but his recovery is nothing short of a miracle. It’s absolutely marvelous.”

And as I pen this article, he is being transferred to a short-term rehab facility.

The point of my sharing this story is not to promote the greatness of the Shema, prayer, or the Rabbinate. Some might say that those go without saying.

Rather, the fact that a man wished so desperately to connect with G-d is what stirred my soul. Here was a person who had not recited the Shema in many years, but felt that his last moments were coming and all he wanted was to daven.

***

As I read the Torah portion of Bo this week, the message of that encounter sunk in.

The Torah states, “And it came to pass on that very day, that G-d took the Children of Israel out of Egypt” (Shemot/Exodus 12:51). In the Passover Haggadah we say: "If G-d had not taken our forefathers out of Egypt, we, our children, and our children's children, would still be enslaved to Pharaoh in Egypt..."

Why would we still be enslaved to Pharaoh in Egypt if G-d had not taken us out at that very moment? Certainly, some change of world events would eventually present the opportunity for Jewish liberation.

Our sages explain that the Children of Israel had become so entrenched in the paganism and depravity of Egypt, that the Exodus came at the very last possible moment, as they approached the very brink of total indistinguishability from the Egyptians. Had they remained slaves in Egypt a moment longer, there would have been no "Children of Israel" to redeem.

***

I do not know what would have happened to my newfound friend, had I not visited him at that crucial moment. But I do know that he seized the opportunity. And sometimes that’s all it takes to defy the odds.

At times we find ourselves in situations that require a pivotal change. When a window of opportunity arrives, it’s our duty to seize it immediately. We may not get another chance.

Comments on: Seize the Opportunity!
1/18/2011

Cherry Hill Friend wrote...

Beautiful!
May you have strength to continue the amazing work you and your wife do.