A rabbi told this story to me. It will touch you heart: I promise.
Samuel was a Survivor of the Holocaust and a man who did not believe in G-d. He sat on a plane bound for Israel waiting for the door to close. The seat next to him remained vacant and he was hopeful it would remain that way.
The very last person to enter the airplane walked slowly down the isle, looking for his seat number. He had a full beard and was obviously a religious man. The religious man settled into the seat beside Samuel and introduced himself. He was a rabbi.
The flight would be thirteen hours and while our Survivor had no intention of carrying on a conversation, he knew it was inevitable.
“Are you going to Israel for the holidays?” The rabbi asked. The High Holiday of Yom Kippur was only a few days away.”
“Actually, I am not,” Samuel replied. “I am going on business.”
“But surely you will be attending services.”
“No. I won’t. I lost everyone I ever loved in the Holocaust: My mother, father, my wife, my two young daughters and my son. I do not believe in G-d. So please, do not try to convince me otherwise.”
The rabbi did not bring the subject up again until they were getting off the airplane.
“Perhaps you will reconsider and just go to Yizkor, (the memorial service where Jews remember family that have died).
“I am not interested,” Samuel said trying to keep the angry edge from his voice.
Days later, on Yom Kippur, the rabbi took a break from services and walked to a nearby park. As he turned to head back toward the synagogue he noticed Samuel from the airplane sitting on a bench eating his lunch.
“It is nice to see you again,” the rabbi said, scowling at the food. Jews were supposed to fast on Yom Kippur. “Yizcor will be taking place in a short while. Why not come with me to shul?”
Samuel shook his head.
“It is a mitzvah to pray for the souls of the departed. Do this for your family.”
Samuel could find no way out so he accompanied the rabbi.
As was the custom of this particular synagogue, the Gabbai, a man who assists in the services had the congregants call out the names of their dead. When it was Samuel’s turn he called out each name, tears streaming down his face. The last name he called out was the name of his five-year-old son: Tzvi Hirsh ben El Yokim.
When the services ended Samuel was rushing for the doors when he felt a tap on his shoulder.
Excuse me the Gabbai said, “but you called out the name Tzvi Hirsh ben El Yokim.
“Yes,” Samuel replied.
“That is my name!” the Gabbai said.
Samuel had found his son. The son he thought had died in the Holocaust.
This is a true story.
The Wondering Jew, My Journey into Judaism
Available in Audio version on Audible.com, iTunes and Amazon: goo.gl/VsYAr8