Thursday, August 21, 2014

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What Does It Mean to be a Jew?

What Does It Mean to be a Jew?

 by Reb Gutman Locks

     Jews are an interesting people, to say the least. We always hear about the famous Jews because they do the most amazing things. But what about the "regular," average Jew whom you never hear about?

     Late last Shabbos afternoon, I was sitting at the Kotel waiting for maariv (evening prayers) when a young, not so Jewish-looking man came over and sat next to me. He was wearing a brand new pair of tzitzis (Torah fringes) over his shirt. He is from Barcelona, but spoke fluent English, albeit with a Spanish accent.

     He told me that his grandmother is an 86-year old holocaust survivor from Poland. After she was rescued, she fled Poland and settled in Spain. She married a non-Jewish man, and for the most part hid the fact that she is a Jew. They had a daughter, who grew up, and like her mother, she also married a non-Jewish man, but he was a religious Catholic.

     This young man from Barcelona is their son. He told me that his father tried to train him to be a religious Catholic. He said that he learned it, but it did not seem right to him. Then he found out that since his mother is a Jew, he is a Jew, so he started studying Torah and he discarded all of his Catholic training.

     He is now in Law school in Barcelona and came to Israel for the summer as a volunteer on a Kibbutz. I asked him why he found Torah to be right, but not Catholicism. He put his hand on his chest and said, "I don't know, but it's something inside of me."

     I told him that he would get a lot more out of going to the yeshiva for the summer then he would by washing dishes in a kibbutz. He agreed and we are making arrangements for him to study in a beginners' program for the next month or so.

     What did he feel inside his heart?

     He left, and an elderly, America Jewish man who has been living in the Rova (Quarter) for many years sat down.

     He told me that he was on vacation in Holland when the Gaza war broke out. He said, "It didn't feel right for me to be in Holland with a war going on here, and even though I'm not in the army I wasn't going to sit in a hotel when everyone here's in danger."

     He canceled his vacation and came back two weeks early. He said, "It wasn't a problem getting a flight back to Israel because everyone was canceling their tickets."

     What does it mean to be a Jew? Well, beside the fact that you have a Jewish mother, there's a feeling inside.




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