Monday, March 6, 2017

When The Rabbi Kissed The Reverend

Image result for ‫יצחק דוד גרוסמן‬‎
Rav Grossman

In 2004 Rabbi Yitzchak-Dovid Grossman received the Israel Prize for 'lifetime achievement and special contribution to society and the State.'

The week after, he was scheduled to fly to the USA for yet another fundraising expedition in support of his Migdal Ohr institutions. When he reached Ben Gurion international airport, he wasn't feeling well. El Al, the Israel airline, offered to upgrade his ticket to first class, assuring him that he had enough Frequent Flyer points that it wouldn't cost him a single shekel. 

Rabbi Grossman struggled with the idea. In all his many dozens of flights abroad he had never flown first class--what would his benefactors think if the money they gave him for his worthy causes was used to purchase such expensive tickets? But because of his health and the fact that it was "free," he decided to do it this one time.

The row of first class contains only six seats --- 2-2-2 instead of 3-5-3 --- wide and plush. The Rabbi was seated in the first set, with an empty seat next to him. In the middle pair was sitting an elderly American couple, clearly not Jewish. Suddenly Rabbi Grossman was seized with an impulse to do something he had never done on an airplane. He stood up, walked over to them and introduced himself.

"Shalom. I am Rabbi Grossman, a rabbi in the Galilee," he said to them in English, "I have a number of schools and homes for orphans, teenagers at-risk, and children from broken families and violent homes. Perhaps you would like to see a video of them?"

Surprised, they agreed. How could they refuse the holy-looking rabbi.

Rabbi Grossman had noticed immediately that the man was quite enormous; he fit in his wide first-class seat only with difficulty. So he reached across the man to lower the tray of the woman's seat instead, placing upon it his DVD player and giving each of them one of the ear buds. The video ran for about 7 minutes. They seemed interested. When it finished he again reached across to take back his machine. In doing so he inadvertently leaned upon the arm of the man's seat.

What he didn't realize was that in the arm of a first class seat is a button that slides the seat down to be 180* flat, for a bed, and he had accidently pressed it. BOOM!

Aided by the man's weight, the seat accelerated into horizontal position, slamming the man flat on his back. Rabbi Grossman didn't know what to do. He was so embarrassed he couldn't think clearly. He just wanted to crawl into a hole and pull the lid over himself.

He mumbled one apology after another-"Excuse me, excuse me! Forgive me, forgive me!"--but it felt silly and ineffective. In his confusion, for some reason that he can't understand even till this day, he ceased speaking, bent down, and planted a kiss on the prone man's forehead. Then he quickly pressed the button to restore the astonished man to sitting position and darted back to his seat.

For several minutes he sat there unmoving, berating himself for his clumsiness. "How could I have done such a thing?" He didn't dare even to turn his head in the direction of the couple; instead he just kept his eyes closed. So he was startled when five minutes later he felt a tap on his shoulder. It was the heavy man whom he had toppled.

[At this point in his recital, Rabbi Grossman paused and his face turned serious. "I am a Rabbi in Israel. I know it is forbidden to lie and I don't lie. What I am about to tell you may sound unbelievable or even absurd, but I assure you it is absolutely true, without any exaggeration."]

"Rabbi, I am Reverend John Hagee from San Antonio, Texas," the man addressed me and offered his hand for a shake.

He continued. "I am a good friend of Israel. In fact, I am the founder and head of 'Christians United for Israel.' I have made many trips there and have met personally with every prime minister since Begin. 

"This time I came prepared to give a very large donation in the name of my organization, designated for a program that provides a warm environment for Jewish children in need. 'Bibi' is my good friend and so are many other people in the highest echelon of the government, but I was not happy with any of the existing venues they offered me, so I held back the money.

"Then I made a vow. I prayed to G-d that He send me a sign for who to give the money to. What was the sign? I will tell you. And my wife will confirm this; you can ask her. 

"I said, 'the first person that presents me with a program for such children and kisses me on the forehead, he is the one to whom we will give this contribution!"

And he did. Right there on the airplane. Very generous and, for the rabbi, perfectly timed. Rabbi Grossman was struggling to build a large housing complex for teenaged girls. He had signed a contract and paid the initial installments, but hadn't the slightest idea how he would be able to finish paying for it. The six-figure check that Mr. Hagee wrote enabled him to complete the project.

Rabbi Grossman was stunned. What were the chances that he would find himself in a situation that he, a chasidic Jew and a rabbi, would feel compelled to kiss a Christian evangelist pastor whose television broadcasts are watched by millions? Add in the first-time first-class ticket, being seated next to the couple, the inexplicable urge to show them the video, accidently knocking down a multi-millionaire-the odds must be many trillions to one. 

He smiled. When G-d wants something good to happen, it will certainly happen.