Jeff’s Story

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My future wife and I arrived from India at Athens Airport in the middle of the night, after 5 months of backpacking in Asia. Since the first bus did not leave the airport till morning, we randomly sat down in seats which happened to be in front of the EL Al terminal to get a couple of hours of sleep. We were excited to start our European swing of our planned 1 year journey. We had a TWA World Ticket that allowed you to fly anywhere they flew for the year. We made a spur of the   moment decision to pay extra and fly on the next flight to Israel which was leaving before the first bus would be going into Athens.   I had convinced my friend to spend a month on a Kibbutz, by telling her that we could get Pizza and Bagels in Israel. After 5 months of Asian food she could not refuse this offer.

Two hours after  arriving in Israel we met Reb Meir and this encounter would change our lives forever. At the Kotel an American Yeshiva Bochur asked me to put on Tefillin  for my first time. I explained it did not interest me. After a few more requests on his part I said if its painless and it will make your day go ahead and show me how to put them on.  Two minutes later Reb Meir strolled over and asked where we were from etc, and closed by asking if we would want to hear a Holy man give a lecture tomorrow morning  on the 48 Ways to Gain Wisdom. We half heartedly agreed to go thinking we would never see this strange man again. Sure enough the next morning there he was honking his car in front of the youth hostel that we were staying at in Mea Shearim.  He arrived even 10 minutes earlier than he said he would come to pick us up at. He drove us to Aish Hatorah to hear Rav Noach Weinberg OBM. After the class we had an engaging talk with another Rabbi  who offered us the opportunity to explore our tradition in a non threatening environment rather than go brain dead picking peaches on a Kibbutz. Reb Meir waited patiently on the side and then offered to drive us to a womans Yeshiva, Neve Yerushalyem so my friend could hear a lecture from Rebbitzen Heller. Next thing I am sitting with a group of  women listening to this class with Reb Meir waiting outside to drive us back to our hostel.  Being  a man of a few words Reb Meir asked if he should pick us up tomorrow to take us to the respective Yeshivas. My friend being a Fullbright  nominee in Philosophy and Humanities found the class extremely stimulating therefore we agreed stay for a short time to learn some Jewish concepts.

That night at the Youth Hostel the yeshiva boy who had put tefillin on me stopped by to visit and was excited to hear we would be going to Yeshivas. Right after he left our room, a secular Israeli who worked at the Hostel came in to tell us to be very carefull of Reb Meir because he would try to get us to go into a weird cult that would get us to be like the people who surounded the hostel living in Meir Shearim. He was very persistant and kept warning us not to go with the Rabbi tommorow morning. Obviously Reb Meir was well known in many circles. The following morning Reb Meir drove us to the two Yeshivas. He would stop by almost daily to check on my progress. He would frequently make arrangements for us to sleep at different families for Shabbos in the same neighborhoods so we could eat our meals together. He even drove us on our first Shabbos ever, to Mattesdorf to allow me to Doven in Rabbi Scheinbergs apartment  for Kabbalat Shabbat as I’m sure he wanted it to have an impact on us. At one point he took our Airline tickets to hold for safe keeping.  A few months later I told Rav Meir we were ready to go and  I wanted my tickets back because their was only a short time left on them and they could not be extended . Reb Meir said that if we wanted to stay and continue learning he had a connection with the airlines and he would be able to extend our stay. I actually got upset and told him it was impossible as it was written all over the ticket that it would expire on a specific date. Reb Meir never ceased to amaze us and he showed up after the expiration date with new tickets insisting I should believe him in the future when he says he has connections. Embarrassingly, it wasn’t until several years later that I realized he did not have aconnection with the airlines when my neighbor ,an Aish Rabbi living in Monsey, laughed and said Reb Meir purchased new tickets for us. The next time I saw Reb Meir in Monsey and  told him he had actually fooled us into thinking he had a connection with theTWA airlines he just gave us one of his sligh smiles.      One of the greatest joys we had was when many years later we spent a month in the old city with our 6 children and got to host Shabbos guests that Reb Meir would bring to our apartment.  We knew this gave him Naches. I got to see his strength that summer watching him at the Kotel.  His davening was other wordly, and I saw him almost physically remove some non Jews at the Kotel who were vebally insulting Israel and making pro Arab statements. Reb Meir is a true hero of our generation, and I personally know if it was not for his incredible love for Hashem and the Jewish nation I would not be where I am today. He truly walked with Hashem as his partner.