Do you know how sometimes you just know something? It’s not because of the compelling proof you have, because you don’t need proof. You just know it, more clearly than any other knowledge you possess.
This knowledge is the soul’s knowledge.
Sometimes, a person may be screaming and yelling this knowledge is a lie. Or he or she might sarcastically mock those who are primitive enough to believe it. But it’s all a sham. Underneath it all, it is clear as day to them that it is indeed the truth.
Let me tell you a story:
Rabbi Brodie* is a personality. Hard to get by him. Much of his life he has spent educating countless people about the glory of their Jewish heritage, and bringing them closer to it.
One day, he gets a call from a student of his. He has an unusual challenge for someone of the likes of Rabbi Brodie: The student is looking for his teacher’s help in exacting revenge.
Now, usually when you need help with a matter of this sort, you don’t call Rabbi Brodie. Perhaps your local mob boss, or some other underworld figure. But here, he’s looking for Rabbi Brodie. Why?
“Let me explain,” his student began. “This is a different sort of ‘revenge’ which I have in mind. Ever since I embraced a lifestyle in line with the timeless values of our Torah tradition, a certain colleague of mine has been making me miserable. He literally does not miss an opportunity to lace in to me with vicious mockery. He often makes me feel like two cents in front of everyone around. His disdain for Judaism is so intense; I was quite shocked when I discovered he is actually Jewish.
“I know you have a special touch with people. If you could bring this tough cookie around, get him to open his mind a bit to appreciate our point of view; that would be for me the sweetest revenge.”
Ever got that feeling? Someone’s throwing a challenge at you; essentially saying “Let’s see what you’ve got.” Something sort of moves inside you, and you are compelled to take it on.
Rabbi Brodie lost no time, and reached out to the man, who graciously agreed to meet him. But, true to form, he was tough as nails. It seemed as though he had no soul. Rabbi Brodie threw everything he had at him, but he was talking to a wall.
But there was of course no turning back at this point. It was time to go nuclear.
“Listen Robert,” Brodie says to him one day. “I will show you that you are actually lying through your teeth. You claim you don’t believe in God’s existence. Well, I can prove to you that you know he does in fact exist. This knowledge may be buried beneath layers and layers of debris and rubble, but it is there, and will never go away.”
Robert* looked at him with his usual mixture of scorn and disbelief, thinly masked by a veil of politeness. “Really?“ he replied. “You’ll prove it? How so?”
“Come with me,” Rabbi Brodie replied, not explaining what he was up to. He quickly led him to a synagogue. Robert followed him inside, feeling a little awkward in the unfamiliar building.
They entered the main chamber, an imposing yet beautiful room. Rabbi Brodie waited a few moments to for their surroundings to sink in, then began.
“Ok, here’s what we’re going to do,” he said, as he turned around to face Robert. He spoke in a hush, so the few strangers sitting nearby would not overhear the loaded conversation. It also added a dramatic effect to his words.
He pointed at the Holy Ark located in front of the room, towering over them at a full two stories in height. “This is the Holy Ark,” he explained. “It’s the holiest part of the synagogue. Many Jews when praying to God in an especially intense situation will open the curtain covering the ark, and thus speak to Him from the depths of their heart.
“And now, here’s what you will do.”
Robert was feeling a little insecure. He wasn’t sure what was coming next. “Are you sure we can do whatever it is you want to do here? We may be disturbing these people,” he interrupted, gesturing toward the others in the room.
But Brodie was not fazed. He seemed almost to enjoy Robert’s discomfort. “I’m the rabbi in this synagogue,” he reassured him. “I have the authority to do this.”
“Oh, all right.” Robert tried to save face. He wasn’t nervous. Why on earth would he be nervous? What could this old-school throwback have on him anyway?
“So here goes,” the rabbi continued from where he had left off. “You will walk over to that Ark, and move away the curtains. You will open the ark itself as well, until the holy scrolls inside are revealed.”
“You will then begin to speak directly to God Himself. The same God you claim not to believe exists.
“’God,’ you will say, ‘If you indeed exist, as Rabbi Brodie insists, I challenge you.
“‘Let’s see if you are capable of taking away everything that is near and dear to me. Can you afflict my wife Jeanette with terminal cancer, kill my son Jonathan in a car accident, and cause my business to fold? My respected status in the professional world should also be damaged.’
“Of course, if God doesn’t exist, as you so confidently declare,” Rabbi Brodie clarified, “your words by definition will have absolutely no effect, and there is no reason why you should hesitate to utter them.”
Robert did not reply, but began to walk toward the Ark. Without a backward glance, he walked right over to the curtain, pulled it back, and opened the ark, as Rabbi Brodie had instructed.
Sitting about twenty feet behind him, Rabbi Brodie’s heart was pounding. He knew it was now or never. Would Robert’s coldness and brazenness prove truly impenetrable? He couldn’t bring himself to look up, and simply remained there; head down, staring at the table.
So he sat for a minute. And another minute. Then, five minutes.
Had Robert simply done what he had told him to do, and then walked out? He looked up. Robert was still standing there. His back was to him, so he couldn’t see what he was doing. Twenty minutes passed, and then a half hour.
Robert walked up to the ark. He was hesitant, but he wouldn’t show it to the rabbi. But as he opened the ark and beheld the holy scrolls inside, something turned inside him. He realized that he was in fact afraid to utter the words the rabbi had dared him to say. Once he acknowledged this truth, his mind suddenly opened with a ferocity so intense, it was as if someone had walked over to him and slammed him in the head. He realized that he did believe in God’s existence. No, actually, he didn’t believe. He knew. Just as he knew he himself existed, and didn’t require academic proof of that, he also knew that he had a Source. He had a Creator.
Thirty-five years of denial, cover-up, and lying to himself and others, were simply pulled out from under his feet in one searing instant.
Finally, his soul had made radio contact, and he perceived its instinctive knowledge of God with perfect clarity. And he also realized that deep deep inside, at his core, he had in fact known it all along.
He stood there, glued in place, completely unaware of his surroundings. He wasn’t even sure what universe he was in at this point. And then came the tears. It was probably the first time he had cried since his childhood.
Tears for so many wasted years. Tears of regret. Tears of shame. And, tears of longing. Now that he had discovered God, how he longed to connect with Him!
Robert walked down the aisle from his wedding canopy, along with his new Jewish bride. His face was glowing. He had really come a long way from his previous life, and his heart was full of happiness. As he stopped to greet the crowd of well-wishers, he came upon Rabbi Brodie’s brother. His face broke into a full smile, as he expressed his feelings.
“Your brother is a true wild card,” he shared. “I definitely underestimated him at the time we first met.
“But if not for his daring and unconventional antics, I would never have made it to where I am today.”
*Name has been changed
By Rabbi Pinchos Fried