Rabbi Jonathan Gewirtz – Sweet Surprises


Operation Inspiration


Sometimes we see things unfolding before our eyes, as if we were reading a book or watching a story being played out. We take note of the main characters before they become so, and we see details and events from the outside, as spectators. I like to imagine that those are times when Hashem is telling us the story, much as a Mommy or Daddy or Bubby or Zaidy might tuck a child in and read them a wondrous bedtime story they can dream about.

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The following is one of those stories that I witnessed – no, experienced – and the lessons, to me, are so numerous. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

I was visiting a city away from home, and as I waited for my wife to finish her lunch date with a friend, I explored the area a bit. I davened in a local Yeshiva, browsed a few stores, and ended up at a pizza shop (a different place than where my wife was.) I ordered a couple of items for the trip and sat down to wait. And so, our story begins…

At another table sat two young girls. They were chatting happily about whatever it is that pre-teen girls chat about, and then one of them got up and approached the counter. Though I wasn’t that close by, I was close enough to hear her ask the man behind the register how much ice cream cost. He told her the price and she thanked him.

When she returned to the table, I heard her say to her friend, “Oh well, I can’t afford it.” It was only then that I noticed that while the other girl had food in front of her, this one didn’t. She accepted the situation with grace, knowing that if you can’t afford something there’s no point in getting upset. The smile she gave her friend was so sweet and charming that it touched my heart. I was impressed with the parenting of this girl and perhaps even a bit envious.

Chazal tell us that “Mezonosav shel adam ketzuvim lo m’Rosh Hashana ad Rosh HaShana, a person’s parnasa (literally, their food) is set from one year to the next.” If you want something but you don’t get it, that means it was decided that way on Rosh Hashana. And, if it was decided that you WOULD have it, you’ll get it even if you don’t know how. And so, our story continues…

My name was called, indicating that my order was ready, so I approached the counter. At that moment, an old man who had overheard the same conversation I did, leaned in to the man behind the counter. “How much is the ice cream?” he asked in a low whisper. The fellow told him how much it cost for a small cup, and then added that they were running a special. If you bought a regular size, you got another one free.

The man counted out the money and said, “When I leave, please go tell those two girls that today Hashem wants them to have ice cream.” He turned and left without a word.

The counterman approached the girls and said they were to get ice cream. Knowing they hadn’t ordered any, the fellow explained that someone had surprised them with the treat. They looked around and couldn’t see the fellow as he’d already left, then gleefully approached the counter and got their ice cream.

I walked out, but as I sat down in my car, I was able to see the girls happily exit the store and begin walking away, enjoying their ice creams with the glee that only innocent children can exhibit. Indeed, it had been decreed on Rosh HaShana that they would eat ice cream, and Hashem did not disappoint.

He sent that man to hear the conversation and be His messenger. He sent me to be the messenger to retell this story, and remind us all that any one of us could have been the person in the story who heard something and did something.

I’d like to end with another story I’ve shared before, which I heard from R’ Eli Mansour, and it took my breath away. It highlights how we can be part of the mechanism of Hashem’s beneficence when we open our eyes, ears, and hearts.

A woman saw two young children standing outside a department store, gazing longingly into the window. Thinking they might be lost, she asked if they needed help.

“My sister and I are orphans,” said the little boy. “Our parents passed away and we have no one to buy us clothes. We like to look through the window and imagine that we had them.”

Shaken to the core, the woman took them inside and, department by department, bought them an entire new wardrobe. As they left the store with bulging bags, the girl innocently asked the woman, “Are you G-d?”

Stunned, the woman didn’t know what to respond. Finally, with a lump in her throat she muttered, “I’m not G-d; I’m just one of His children.”

“Ah,” said the little girl with a smile. “I KNEW you had to be related.”

Think about that the next time Hashem reads YOU a story. You just might be surprised by how sweet you can be.


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