Saturday, September 26, 2009
A Gentile's Yom Kippur Redemption
My husband, Stew, is the kind of a guy that attracts incidents - good or bad. Sometimes, the guy in front of him at the dollar store will take a swing at him for no reason. When he stands by the bus stop, mentally disturbed people will single him out for conversation.
This morning he was walking home from synagogue when someone called out to him from a nearby house. Most people would just keep on walking - not my husband. He went over and met an African-American man in a wheelchair and his caretaker. They wanted to give him a check to give to a Jewish charity. He explained that because it was the sabbath, he could not take a check, even if it was for charity. They kept urging him to take the check, and he promised he would return after the sabbath.
Tonight he stopped at the house on the way home, and to Stew's shock, the man, let's call him Jim, wrote out a check for $300. Stew requested that it be made out to our local day school, which had just launched an appeal for funds.
Here is the story Jim's wife told him:
Fifteen years ago, Jim was in Florida and wanted to get out. He didn't have any money, and he had no hope of earning any. So he and a friend jumped into a car driven by an elderly woman that was stopped at a traffic light. He pulled out a 19-inch switchblade and told the woman he would kill her if she didn't give him the car.
The woman replied that she would not give him the car, but said that he must be desperate to attempt such an insane act. He agreed that he was desperate and needed $300 to get out of Florida. She told him they would drive to the bank, and she would give him the money. She asked him to promise that someday he would do something to help the Jewish people. They never saw each other again.
Now, 15 years later, on the day before Yom Kippur, Jim was eager to keep his promise. After leaving Florida, he had turned his life around, married and made a decent living. "I would be dead if it wasn't for her," he told Stew. Jim knew that Yom Kippur was a day of redemption for the Jewish people, and he felt compelled to redeem himself as well.
On the memo line of the check he wrote: For restitution.