Someone I have met along my journey is an incredible man named Hershy Kahon. A few months ago, two of my friends and I went to a host family for Shabbat dinner. This is a common thing occurrence for anyone living in Israel without their family (those on gap years, lone soldiers, etc.). So, my friends and I spent our Shabbat with a nice family– husband and wife, their three young children, and the kids’ grandpa Hershy, whom they called “Zayde”. Shimi, the father, told traditional Jewish stories about that weeks Torah portion during dinner. Both of my friends who came with me had attended private Jewish day-school all their lives, so between them and the three kids we were with, I found myself the only one without knowledge of the stories Shimi was telling. I awkwardly explained that I went to public school and that my religious school education was very limited. I felt slightly out of place, but the family assured me it was nothing to be embarrassed about and I assured them of my eagerness to listen and learn.
This Shabbat experience was about three months ago. We were grateful to the host family and had a very enjoyable evening, don’t get me wrong, but I rarely thought back to this night. It came and went without feeling that significant to me… until last week.
Last week, my floor counselor told me he had a package for me. I wasn’t expecting anything, so I was immediately excited. I opened the package and found myself holding a brand new Chumash– a printed version of the Torah with translations and comments from various scholars. Confused, I thought it had to be a mistake. But before I went to return it to my counselor and tell him he had the wrong person, I found a letter inside. The letter revealed that it was for me, and that it was from Hershy Kahon. He wrote that after that one Shabbat dinner he was moved to buy me a readable Chumash so that I could learn the stories of my religion that were unfamiliar to me. What seemed like an insignificant event in my life was suddenly relevant again.
To be completely honest, I don’t know if I will read the whole thing (though I will try), but I was just so touched by his gesture. This small act of kindness from Hershy meant so much to me and is enabling me to fulfill my potential within my religion. I am so grateful to him, and grateful that there are kindhearted people like him in this world. What had felt to me like something to be embarrassed of was now proving itself to be an opportunity for learning and growth, and all because of a simple gesture by one man who I only met a few months ago and for just a few hours.