SAN DIEGO—During the Three Weeks, we commemorate the tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people in order to achieve the goal elucidated in Eichah, "Hashiveinu Hashem alecha
vinashuvah" "Bring us back, Oh G-d, and we will return to You."
Teshuva, the path of return, can happen in many different ways, even unexpected ways, as the following true story illustrates:
In the 1960s, Sylvia Mankowitz (name changed) was trying to make ends meet. She applied for a new higher paying job and to her delight, she got the job. With the new opportunity
came a new problem. Her son Meir (name changed) got out of school at 2:30pm. She would not be able to pick him up from school or be there for him at home if she took this job.
A relative suggested that she enroll Meir in Rabbi David Leibowitz Elementary School in East Flatbush, Brooklyn. The school was near their home and had longer hours, so she
would be off work in time for dismissal. None of the parties involved here had any interest in Torah observance or becoming more religious. It was simply a pragmatic solution to a practical problem.
Meir settled in to his new school and everything worked out fine. In fact he liked it immediately. Although he was not Shomer Shabbos, a seed was planted. The lessons he was
learning were apparently fast acting and long lasting, for as the years went by, Meir began to appreciate more and more, the Torah way of life. By the time he was a senior in high
school he had complex feelings. He still was not Shomer Shabbos, yet he wanted more. Meanwhile, the clock was ticking - he would graduate soon - then what?
He decided to spend a year studying in a yeshiva in Israel. His family was not crazy about this idea, but spending a year in Israel was a 'zionistic' thing to do and it was a life experience. Meir himself yearned for more but he wasn't sure if he was ready
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to commit his life to this. In 1977, he went to Beis Midrash L'Torah, under the leadership of Rav Moshe
Horowitz in Jerusalem.
That year changed Meir's life. Everything he had learned in the past became concretized. All the feelings he had felt became galvanized. He felt like he was truly alive for the first
time. Meir decided then and there that he was going to be a 100% Shomer Shabbos Kosher Jew.
Meir now lives in Kew Gardens Hills, New York. He loves learning Torah and never stopped learning even after leaving yeshiva. He and his wife have a Torah observant family of
their own. Meir is filled with awe as he realizes that all of this happened because his dear devoted mother needed a built-in babysitter.
[Author's Note: I have known Meir for many years but never knew his amazing inspiring story till I met him recently while I was in New York for the 5769/2009 Annual Chofetz Chaim
Alumni Conference. - RBL]
Dedicated by Michael & Lea Bernstein in honor of their new granddaughter Shayna Hirmes.