Leave a comment

The Visitor

God is all around us generously giving clues that he is involved with our lives.

By: Joan Gross

We never have unannounced visitors. Today was a day for two.

My office in Israel is our living room couch. Inevitably a glass of tea sits on the floor next to my feet, and a laptop is perched on my lap, I am working on a logo for a new family business. After a three hour walk in the 95 degree heat , 80% humdity, I have little energy for anything else. We had been seeking out a stone cutter that two Anglo residents of our Naharyia town had recommended to us. Not finding him, we asked a worker in a nearby business if he knew of the stone cutter. In his broken English, and in our extremely (to the nth degree) limited Hebrew vocabulary, we departed with the understanding that the stone cutter had money problems and went to the U.S. six to eight months ago—or maybe he is coming back in six to eight months.

There was a knock on the door and I summoned up my strength to answer it. A tall, thin young man in a white dress shirt and thin red tie stood there. Across the hallway, my neighbor was framed in her doorway. She probably just had an encounter with this same young man. She summoned my attention, and let me tell you, this woman has the face of an angel but the voice of a drill sergeant and when she addresses me I snap too immediately, especially when she beams me a cherubic smile. We exchange greetings. She asks me how I am in Hebrew and I put my hand on my stomach and answer, “Lo tov” (not good). “My husband is at the doctor now. His stomach is also ‘Lo tov’.” What she understood, who knows, as her English is equal to my Hebrew.

The neighbor wishes me well and closes her door. Now I am ready for the young man. “Do you speak English?” I ask. He does. He then queries, “Do you have a TV?”  I answer “no” and the young man leaves, no longer having any interest in me or my other possessions.

Several hours later my husband returns home. The doctor was Russian. My husband was only able to report that the doctor gave him a popular antibiotic, that he reported to him that his wife was also sick, but he still received enough pills for one.

My husband settled in to his computer across the room when there was a second knock on the door. “Mick, please answer the door.” After all, I thought to myself, we never have unannounced visitors and since this is the second in one day, it is his turn to answer the door. My husband expressed surprise. “You think that knock is for us.” “Absolutely,” I answered.

Outlined in the dark hallway was a young Chassidic man with a long black coat, a tall, velvet, black hat and a scraggly beard. His multi-layers of clothing over an obviously underfed body, made me hotter and more tired.  “Come in, come in.” my husband urged. “Do you speak English? Can we help you?”

The man walked in and said “Tzdaka.” “Tzdaka,” Mick explained, “We all know the meaning of that word.” I quickly got up and told my husband that I would take care of it. I reached for my purse and assembled a donation which I handed to Mick and went back to the couch. I asked the visitor what Chassidic group he belongs to and he answered, “Belz.”

The man said he wanted to give us a bracha* and motioned that I should come over. He put his hands over my head and asked what I wanted a bracha for. First I answered, “Parnassa” (livelihood) but on second thought I said, in a mishmash of English and Hebrew, that my children and grandchildren should learn Torah. Mick had requested a blessing for livelihood but then also wanted a bracha for his children to learn Torah. Now the man seemed puzzled. Settled once again on the couch I explained that we were married only two years and we each have our own children. He then asked if we had a “get” (Jewish legal divorce). We answered him yes without going into the details that one of my ex-husbands had refused to give me a “get” from our halachly non-kosher union, but had conveniently died several days before I married Mick.

Then the man summoned us over again. I was puzzled. He had his tzdaka. We had our blessings. What more could he want? Mick had given him a chair and he sat down. I asked him in Hebrew if he would like something to drink. He answered “Mayim” (water). Mick quickly fetched him a glass of water in a paper cup. The man said the blessing over the water, drank the entire cup, and then said the after blessing.

He handed the empty cup back to Mick and pointed to our stomachs. “Open.” And then he covered his eyes. Mick obligingly, lifted his shirt. I held my two shirts out, away from my body, without lifting them. “Open?” he asked. “Yes,” we told him. He then gave us a blessing for our stomachs, wished us well and departed.

As Mick closed the door, I asked him, “Is your hair standing up? How can you explain that he knew we have stomach problems?” Mick echoed reflected my bewilderment, but we were surprisingly calm. After all, this is Israel. Here, in this land of miracles, we have learned to expect the unexpected.