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Wednesday, February 28, 2024 - 19 Adar I 5784
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Close but not Seen

When Avraham Feinman of Jerusalem was a young man, his aunt suggested a match for him with a young woman in New York. Avraham traveled to New York to meet the girl, they hit it off and were engaged. Shortly thereafter, though, his fiancée broke the engagement.

Avraham was heartbroken and confused. He was virtually alone in the U.S.A. With a lot of free time on his hands, it wasn’t long before he met other young men in the same situation. One of them convinced him to go with him to Cleveland where they could find work.

In Cleveland, he concluded that, as the Talmud teaches, “When one goes to a city one should do according to their customs.” The first thing to go was the Chassidic dress. Soon he found himself skipping the prayers, then neglecting to put on Tefillin and little by little, he dropped all the commandments.

Over a year later, he went back to Brooklyn to visit his aunt and uncle for Purim. The next afternoon, after finishing the sumptuous Purim meal, he went for a walk. His family lived in the Crown Heights area of Brooklyn and he saw a few Lubavitcher Chassidim running in the street. He stopped one of them, said "Happy Purim! Where are you headed?" "The Lubavitcher Rebbe is speaking." They answered, "Why don't you come?"

A few minutes later Avraham found himself in a large hall together with some two hundred religious Jews all in good spirits. The Rebbe
entered, seated himself and began speaking.

"It states in the Talmud that when Moshiach arrives the revelation of G-d will be so great that it will outshine the holiness of all of the Jewish holidays ...except for Purim. The Zohar says that Purim is even higher than Yom HaKipurim; KiPurim is only LIKE (Ki) Purim."

"But can this be?" The Rebbe continued. "How can a jolly festival like Purim be higher than the holiest and solemn Day of Atonement?"

Avraham's curiosity had been aroused. The question was a good one. The Rebbe paused and continued.

"The reason is, because on Purim the Jews were willing to sacrifice their lives rather than deny their Judaism!

"The decree of Haman and Achashverosh was 'To kill, destroy and annihilate all JEWS'. Anyone that declared that he wasn't a Jew would escape. Although the decree hung over their heads for a full year, not one Jew even THOUGHT to deny his Jewishness

"That's why Purim can erase sins and arouse sinners to repentance that even Yom Kippur cannot; just as G-d forgave the Jews then for eating at the meal of Achashverosh and bowing to Haman."

"That was a nice answer!" Avraham thought to himself.

But the Rebbe didn't stop.

"For instance, an observant G-d fearing young man can fool himself by saying, 'Torah without work brings to sin' and 'When one goes to a city one should do according to their customs' and 'Time is money' until he falls so low that he stops acting like a Jew. But Purim has the power to stir the essence of his Jewish soul and bring him back to his senses."

Avraham began to blush. "Could he be talking about me?" He thought to himself... "Nahhh, no way!" He concluded. "It's just a coincidence."

The Rebbe continued, "It could be that he even came all the way from Jerusalem where there is a complicated law about places that are 'close but not seen', or 'seen but not close' (Orach Chaim 688:2). In other words; he is close but he thinks he is not seen, he might even see but he is still far away."

Avraham realized that the Rebbe meant him! He must have some sort of X-ray vision! But he comforted himself by saying that at least no one in the room knows what the Rebbe is talking about, and turned to go.

But everyone was staring at him and smiling! "The Rebbe is looking at you!" someone said.

He turned back and the Rebbe was motioning for him to make a l'chaim. The Rebbe indicated that he should drink a large cup of vodka, and then another. Avraham complied and didn't remember what happened afterward.

The next morning he woke up on a bench in the synagogue. He staggered back to his aunt and uncle's house, took a shower and asked if he could borrow his uncle's Tefillin to pray with.

That morning he prayed Shachris (morning prayer) as never before. A few weeks later he returned back to Israel with a completely different heart; Judaism was dear to him once more.



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