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Meeting An Old Friend For The First Time

Meeting An Old Friend For The First Time

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I live in Baltimore, Maryland. Wendy lives in southern California. I was "introduced" to Wendy through a service that arranges study partners for Torah learning over the phone. So even though we've been studying together for almost five years, and have become good friends, I really didn't think we'd ever get to meet. But it was Wendy who kept the faith. As she often reminded me, G‑d can make anything happen.

When my oldest son and his family moved to Phoenix recently, we went to visit them.

Suddenly there she was - materialized It was the day before Rosh Hashanah, and everybody was busy getting ready for the holiday when I went off into a quiet room and gave Wendy a call. Upon hearing that I was in Phoenix, she decided, on the spot, to book a flight from S Diego for the next morning and come join our family for Rosh Hashanah! We picked Wendy up when her flight arrived, two hours before Rosh Hashanah.

Suddenly there she was - materialized - and we were no longer just two voices reaching across the continent. My first reaction? Just amazed at her calmness - and her courage.

I've got to admit, I was more than just a little nervous about how things would turn out. I mean, Wendy wasn't observing Shabbat, and here she was about to immerse herself in two full days of a holiday in an Orthodox home. So while we were still driving back from the Sky Harbor International Airport, I told her that I had escaped from my first real Shabbat, and she could feel free to go on a long walk to get away from the scene if at any point she felt like the experience was becoming too much for her.

But that never happened. Wendy loved every minute of it - she really didn't even want to leave when it was over. And she immersed herself alright - Wendy loved helping my daughter-in-law chop up vegetables, rocking my new granddaughter to sleep, and reading books to my grandsons. She enjoyed the many interesting guests my children had for the meals, she loved the Torah discussions, and she even loved the prayer services.

We attended a service for beginners that my son was helping to lead. It was such a clear and wonderful prayer service. On the second day, a lady standing near us started sobbing after one particularly moving part. I turned to offer the woman an understanding smile, and I saw that Wendy had already gone over to the woman, and she was hugging her. For a minute, they just stood there like that, strangers no longer, and tears were already streaming down Wendy's face as well.

And the questions Wendy kept asking! Oh boy, did she have us all scrambling for good answers!

Sometimes the answers we knew weren't satisfying to us or to her, which helped us to see where our clarity about our beliefs, and our knowledge about why we do things the way we do, were a little fuzzy.

And that helped each of us to probe deeper, to seek the truth more sincerely.

Over the years, Wendy and I have learned, over the phone, a couple of works on the Torah portion of the week as well as several other books, and we have shared many hours of the best kind of joy. We have also each gone through our own personal tragedies during this time period, and, repeatedly, it was Wendy who helped me see G‑d through the tears.

Days after Wendy left Phoenix, my two-year-old grandson was still asking, "Where'd Wendy go?" She had left an indelible impression on all of us.

Bracha Goetz is the Harvard-educated author of several children’s books, including Remarkable Park, What Do You See in Your Neighborhood? and The Invisible Book. You can contact Bracha for presentations or questions here.
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Discussion (1)
June 4, 2009
thank you
Beautiful! I love this kind of story.
Malka Stern
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