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I Contributed and Merited Salvation – Stories of Salvation

How Much, More So

Spain is a beautiful country. It boasts huge orchards filled with oranges, well preserved ancient homes, a flourishing
economy and countless tourists.
Spain’s past and present mingle in incomparable harmony. This is not the case, however, with regard to the country’s Jews. The Spain where saintly Gedolim once disseminated Torah and our nation’s greatest poets walked through the streets is no more.
Ever since the country turned its back on us and banished us in disgrace from its borders, Judaism in Spain has not recovered. You can still find colonies of the descendants of Marranos as well as Jewish immigrants from various countries, but most are
thoroughly assimilated in Spanish society.

Recently, however, there has been a Jewish awakening in Spain. Buds of religious observance can be observed and there are a few battei knesses where the trickle of attendees is slowly growing stronger. A number of devoted Yidden have devoted their lives to instigating a teshuvah revolution in Spain.

Yitzchak was one such Yid. Yitzchak really hailed from faraway Mexico, but the common language and ethnic background attracted him to Spain. He, too, joined the activism that had set for itself the goal of rescuing Yidden from assimilation.
One of the young people who showed an interest in drawing close to Yiddishkeit was Juan. His Jewish name was Chaim, but everyone knew him as Juan.
Juan himself had no idea if he’d been given a Jewish name at birth or if his parents had just decided on the name Chaim when he’d asked them what his Jewish name was. In any case, Juan was making huge strides in mitzvah observance, mainly thanks to Yitzchak.

Yitzchak and Juan made up to study Torah together. They decided to meet every day at five-thirty in the old beis knesses in the area. The modest collection of sefarim was sufficient for them as Juan was definitely a beginner. Juan’s workday was over at
five o’clock and the beis knesses was a fifteen-minute drive away from his office. He wanted to be home with his family by seven. Five-thirty to six-thirty suited him just fine.
They made up to begin on a Sunday. Yitzchak arrived at the beis knesses a few minutes early, found an available table and brought the necessary sefarim from the bookshelf. He glanced at his watch: five-thirty. There was no sign of Juan. He began to
review the material, humming softly to himself and checking his watch and the doorway every few minutes.
At six-fifteen, he rose and left, disappointed.
At eight o’clock, Juan called him, sounding embarrassed and apologetic. “My son fell and hurt his leg,” he related. “My wife took him to the hospital and she asked me to meet her there. We were just discharged.”
Yitzchak responded pleasantly and waved away the apology. Such things can happen to anyone.

On Monday, Juan arrived on time. Yitzchak began reading and explaining but Juan’s attention kept wandering. “I had a very unpleasant day today at work,” he related quietly. “A serious error was discovered and my boss thought I was to blame. It
was a miracle I was able to prove my innocence. But some of my colleagues said some nasty things about me.”

Yitzchak was sympathetic. Such an incident was hard to put behind you. At six-thirty, he closed the sefer with a sigh, aware that they hadn’t yet really begun to learn.

On Tuesday, Juan called Yitzchak at four-thirty. “I can’t make it today. I’m suffering from a terrible migraine headache. I even left work early.” Yitzchak thanked him for calling to spare him the effort of leaving his house for nothing, but a sour taste filled his mouth.
On Wednesday, Juan was on pins and needles, expecting an important phone cal at any minute. The phone call didn’t come through, but he hadn’t been able to learn a thing during that hour.
On Thursday, the lesson appeared to go smoothly, but Juan kept yawning and even nodded off once. He told Yitzchak that he’d had a sleepless night.
Once again, Yitzchak felt hey hadn’t really gotten off the ground. “It’s the yetzer hara,” the Rav told him. “He wants to make you give up. Try another week. It sounds like Juan is brimming with goodwill.”
On Sunday, Juan got stuck in traffic and arrived at the beis knesses at six-fifteen. Yitzchak had arranged for someone to pick him up at six-thirty, so the lesson was cut off before it began.
On Monday they were both there on time, but a simchah held in the other half of the beis knesses made concentration difficult. And so day after day went by, each one with a deterrent more vexing than the next.

After two weeks during which they had studied together only once, and another twice with disturbances, Juan was ready to give up.
“You taught me that Hashem helps someone who wants to do teshuvah, right?” he said to Yitzchak. “I’m not receiving that heavenly assistance; in fact, it seems as if Hashem is placing obstacle after obstacle in my way! It’s obvious I’m not worthy; I must be one of those whom Hashem doesn’t allow to do teshuvah. These incidents are so unexpected, so illogical, so…” He tried to hide the pain he felt but it bubbled to the surface as he spoke.
Yitzchak empathized completely. He feared that pessimistic thoughts like these were liable to lead to the opposite of the desired result: Juan might decide to abandon the whole thing. He had to find a way to continue the lessons. He had to!

Yitzchak went to consult with his Rav. “I’m afraid I’m losing Juan,” he explained. “He can’t grow without studying Torah. And if he thinks he’s unwanted by Hashem, he’s just a short step away from going back to where he came from. What can I do?”
“A Yid knows that whenever he’s encountering trouble, the first thing to do is contribute to Kupat Ha’ir,” the Rav said after a moment’s thought. “If contributing to Kupat Ha’ir helps with regard to materialistic affairs, why shouldn’t it be effective with regard to spiritual matters as well? If it’s effective with regard to business meetings, how much more so it should be with regard to a chavrusan for Torah study!”

Yitzchak returned to Juan with new hope in his voice. He found him sitting in a corner of the beis medrash, dejected and
withdrawn. “Cheer up, Juan,” he said, clapping him on the shoulder. “The Rav gave me excellent advice. Let me tell you a little bit about Kupat Ha’ir so you’ll know what I’m talking about.” For the next hour or so, Juan sat openmouthed as Yitzchak regaled him with stories of people who had merited miracles in many different areas just by contributing to Kupat Ha’ir.
“So what is the Rav’s suggestion?” he asked when Yitzchak was done.
“I thought it was self understood,” Yitzchak said with a smile. “Just accept upon yourself bli neder to contribute to Kupat Ha’ir every day before our shiur.”

On Sunday, Juan intended to leave early, as soon as his workday was over, in order to make sure to get to the shiur on time. He made a generous contribution to Kupat Ha’ir and left the office. When he got downstairs, he found that his car door was dented
and scraped. It was obvious that a careless driver had banged into his car.
The problem was that he couldn’t enter the car with the door so badly dented.
But I contributed, he thought to himself in despair. I contributed to Kupat Ha’ir. Is that of no help, either?
“What’s the matter?” someone behind him asked, tapping him on the shoulder. Juan turned around, terribly dejected. It was a colleague, someone who usually left the office an hour after Juan.
“The door doesn’t open. I have to be somewhere that’s a fifteen-minute drive from here by five-thirty,” Juan explained. “What do I do?”
“I’ll drive you,” the friend suggested generously. “Where do you need to go?”
Juan gave his friend the address. The friend grimaced. “I need the opposite direction completely…
it won’t work. Come, let’s try together.” They carefully jiggled the door back and forth and all of a sudden – it opened. Juan jumped inside and thanked his colleague warmly.
“How come you left the office early today?” he asked. “Early?” His colleague looked at his watch and smacked his forehead in surprise. “I… I got mixed up!” he exclaimed. “I thought it was already six o’clock. I’m going back.”
Juan drove quickly to the beis knesses, a smile of delight on his face. Today he would make it to the shiur on time!
The following day, Juan found himself tied up in traffic again. I contributed to Kupat Ha’ir,” he reminded himself, trying to quash the despair beginning to overtake him. Traffic crawled forward a bit.
A terrible accident had occurred on the road and all lanes except one had been closed.
If traffic doesn’t clear within three minutes, I’m going to be late, Juan thought to himself grimly, glancing at his watch.
A minute ticked by, then another and another. Then, all of a sudden, the tow truck that had been summoned to clear the road of the damaged vehicle pulled away and the other lanes were opened. Trafficsurged forward and Juan stepped on the gas pedal…
he would make it on time!
“Come straight home today,” his wife said hysterically the following afternoon. “The baby is wheezing. I’m afraid she’s going to have another attack. I can’t stand the pressure. Come home quick, please.”
She knows about the shiur but the plea in her voice makes it obvious she thinks there is no alternative in this case but to cancel it. Juan knows what it’s like when his daughter suffers an attack: the whole family was under terrible tension every time it happened until it passed. He couldn’t leave his wife to handle the situation on her own.
Should I tell Yitzchak? he wondered in disappointment.
Not yet, he decided. We’ ll see what happens. I contributed…

At six minutes past five, he was on his way home when his wife called again. “Juan? Where are you?”
“On my way home, like you asked,” he said, trying to keep the disappointment out of his voice. He didn’t want her to oppose his efforts to study Torah.

“Can you still make the shiur?”
“Of course!” A note of hope crept into his voice. “How’s the baby?”
“I can’t explain what happened. She was nearly choking before. I had to hold her the whole time. I was hysterical. At one point, Fred fell and started crying loudly, too, and I was at a complete loss. I went to get some ice to put on his bump. The baby was in my arms and the cold air from the freezer did wonders for her.
She suddenly started breathing easier. I gave Fred the ice and went back to the freezer. After standing there with the baby for a few minutes, her breathing quieted down completely! I think you can go to the shiur. We’ll go to the doctor later.” Juan made a U-turn,
joy spreading through his limbs. Hashem was paving the way for him!

The following day there were no obstacles. He reached the beis knesses in time, after contributing to Kupat Ha’ir, of course. But Yitzchak’s place was empty.

Uh-oh. Trouble again?
he thought grimly. He had just opened a sefer to try and do the best he could on his own when he heard running footsteps and Yitzchak came dashing into the beis knesses.
“You won’t believe this! I’m telling you you won’t believe me now,” he called from the doorway. “I was sure I wouldn’t make it to the shiur today! It’s am miracle! A real miracle! You won’t believe it!”
Juan forced himself to wait until after the shiur to listen to Yitzchak’s amazing story, thinking to himself that however fantastic it was, he did believe it. Even Yitzchak wouldn’t believe how deeply he believed it.

A number of weeks have passed since then. The shiurim take place every day without fail… they haven’t had to cancel a single one! They recently celebrated a siyum together, an event that was filled with gratitude to Hashem and joy at having made great spiritual strides. Juan was so emotional that he could barely say the hadran he had practiced saying for such a long time.
He had merited to taste the sweetness of Torah and to feel the hand of hashgachah opening and closing, holding him back and then pushing him forward, testing him and raising him high!
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