By Rabbi Bentzion Elisha
Based on a true story
Laying in bed, fast asleep late Friday night, I hear a man’s voice in our Brooklyn apartment.
Drifting between sleep and consciousness, I think I’m dreaming.
I hope I’m dreaming.
It’s just my wife, our kids and me, in our apartment, or so I thought.
But the voice grows stronger, waking me up.
I get up and quietly and walk towards the noise.
Suddenly I hear him again.
“Mr. Klineman, Mr. Klineman…” Surprisingly, as he called my name, the unexpected voice doesn’t sound threatening at all. Whatever fear I might have had disperses.
“Mr. Klineman, your son…” Hearing my son being mentioned, I hasten my walk to the front door, which is wide open.
“Mr. Klineman, your son was outside by the street,” the man informs me. He is standing there with my landlord who is in his pajamas.
“What do you mean?” I ask him dumbfounded, “Our 2 year old son is sleeping.”
“Mr. Klineman, your son was outside on the street. He must’ve opened the doors and gotten out.”
I’m completely stunned. “Is he o. k.? Where is he?” I ask, timid of an answer.
“Your son is fine, he is in your apartment already.” The nice man reassures me.
I look for my son and see him walking with a bottle, as if nothing happened, in the hallway.
Our baby is fine! Thank you Hashem.
‘How did you find him? What time is it?” I ask, shocked, shaken and physically shaking.
“I’m from Shomrim (Shomrim, guards, are organizations of volunteer civilian patrols which have been set up in many Jewish neighborhoods around the world to combat anti-Semitism and quality-of-life nuisance crimes. They work closely with local Police). I was on my patrol and I saw your son by the street on the sidewalk at approximately 4 in the morning. It’s after 4am now,” He tells me with an expressive face.
My glance drops to the walkie-talkie hanging off his belt.
I had no idea anybody was protecting the neighborhood at such late hours in general, and on Shabbos night in particular. I’m taken aback.
“You might want to double lock your doors from now on.” He warns me.
“Your two year old opened all the doors to the outside. Be very careful.”
“Good Shabbos,” He tells me, as he goes back outside to continue his patrol.
“Thank you so much. Good Shabbos,” I tell both the Shomer and my landlord who kindly opened our apartment door to the man from Shomrim who insisted upon waking me up, alerting me to the event that had just transpired. Apparently he wasn’t successful in waking us up by just knocking on the door at this late hour.
After they left, both my wife and I just cannot stop kissing our beloved little baby boy, afraid to entertain any thought whatsoever as to what could’ve been, G-d forbid, in the dark street.
We place him on the bed and hug him nonstop.
“We love you,” We tell him again and again.
We are utterly unnerved.
My heart is pounding.
As he falls asleep safe in his bed, we talk about this bizarre circumstance.
“How could this have happened? How could he open all three doors to the outside,” I wonder.
“He was looking for me,” my wife states simply. “Around this time of night he always wakes up and comes to my bed. Tonight I fell asleep in the girls’ room and since he didn’t see me in my bed, he went searching for me.”
“That doesn’t make sense. Why would he open the doors and go outside?” I asked.
“Well, it kind of happened before. One time I left him in front of the computer to watch a DVD while I went downstairs to get the girls from the school bus. I left the door open just a crack in case he wanted to come down. I guess he got bored of the video and he walked down and saw us just as the girls came from the bus. I opened the door for him downstairs so that he could be outside with us. He probably thought we were downstairs just like last time, however, I had no idea he was capable of opening heavy doors like these. If I learned one lesson from this it’s to never underestimate what a child can do, even a toddler!”
As I was contemplating my wife’s theory she continued incredulously.
“It’s so bizarre, just a couple of days ago a friend of mine was telling me that she made a certain mistake with her kids’ supervision and now she looks at her kids with a whole new level of appreciation and sees Hashem’s Hashgacha, G-d’s watchfulness, in a revealed way like never before. That friend told me that a toddler of a friend of hers crossed a busy parkway by themselves by mistake, and I immediately judged the mother thinking, how could a mother let such a thing happen, and here something similar just happened to me!”
“I had no idea that someone is patrolling our neighborhood at 4am. Isn’t that completely incredible?!” I ask my wife. “What an amazing Hashgacha Pratis, Divine providence!” I declare. “From the entire area of the neighborhood, which is pretty big, for this Shomrim member to just happen to walk by our son and literally save him is extremely extraordinary!”
We are infinitely grateful for the incredible protection that Hashem sent us in the form of an angel from Shomrim, who selflessly was strolling in the wee hours of a Shabbos night while the majority of people in our Brooklyn neighborhood were fast asleep (except for our two year old son!).
Thank you Hashem. Thank you Shomrim. Thank you, the angel that saved our son.
We can’t stop kissing our son this whole Shabbos and are very appreciative of this special miracle that has just happened to us.
In this raw unarmed state of mind, I can’t help thinking of how interesting it is that instead of happening on any other Shabbos, or night for that matter, it occurred specifically this very Shabbos.
This Shabbos is the twelfth anniversary of my first day in Yeshiva.
Growing up, my family kept many Jewish traditions including going to Shul on Shabbos and Yomim Tovim but we weren‘t ‘religious‘. My grandparents were religious, but for whatever reason, it didn‘t stretch into the next generation. During my teenage years, we used to go to the Chabad house, which spiritually catapulted us to a higher spiritual place, however not until I went to Yeshiva did I actually learn what it really means to be Jewish, something that nobody taught me before.
I came into Hadar Hatorah, which was the world’s first Baal Teshuvah Yeshiva (a Lubavitch Yeshiva for Jewish men with little or no formal background in Jewish knowledge or practice) when they were in the Catskill mountains for the summer months.
I was excited about this trip to the country. It was a much needed break from the material madness of New York City’s concrete jungle. It just seemed so rejuvenating, so intriguing, learning mysticism in the mountains. It was.
I arrived just as Shabbos was coming in, by a bus and taxi.
I placed my bags in the room I was to stay in with the help of a Bochur – a Yeshiva student – and off we went to Shul. When we got to Shul I was impressed by the sheer amount of young people in the large room.
They were singing ‘Lecha Dodi’ welcoming the Shabbos queen.
My planned two week stay ended up being close to nine years in Yeshivahs and Collels combined.
Now I have a family with children, Baruch Hashem, which all started 12 years ago, that first Shabbos in the Catskill Mountains in Hadar Hatorah.
All those Rabbis along the way, from the Shluchim we met, to the Yeshivah staff, were all my Shomrim, the guards that brought me back home when I was ‘on the street, in the night.’ They were there, outside on patrol, looking for Jewish Neshamas like mine to remind us that we are outside on the street, and offer a helping hand to bring us back home, ourselves, to ‘reunite’ with our Jewish identity and Jewish living.
Of course my parents’ desire was the catalyst for all this, their wanting to give their kids a Jewish environment, Jewish experiences and Jewish friends so we would eventually also marry a Jew and live like a Jew, are my special personal Shomrim who really do get the most credit, for their never-ending support, pushing and encouragement.
After Shabbos I called the member of Shomrim that brought our son back home.
I asked him more detailed questions as to what happened.
“Was he crying when you saw him?” I asked.
“No. He was having a blast.” He surprised me with his answer.
‘What do you mean?’
“He was playing. He was walking back and forth from the sidewalk to the path by your apartment building.”
“Where was he when you saw him?”
“He was by street, on the sidewalk.”
I shudder. Oh, my son!
Naturally. the infinite gratefulness I feel towards the Shomer that helped my son, extends to the Shomrim that helped me.
Just like my son who was playing outside, on the street in the night unaware of lurking dangers, G-d forbid, I too was playing ‘outside, on the street in the night’ before my Yeshivah experience.
I was ‘playing and having a blast’ under the strong influence of ‘the world’ and popular cultures (with its various guises) in which I was immersed in, which demands assimilation, to its ideals and common behavior. Only my Shomrim, the guards of my Jewish soul, my Neshama, offered another alternative, and suggested quite bluntly, that there’s more to life than this…
Much, much more.
Standing there shaking as the Shomer pulled the rug from under me telling me that my toddler was outside at 4am, I understood like never before what the Rebbe meant.
I understood it on my shivering flesh.
The Rebbe stated again and again via various channels that we cannot just be concerned with our own advancements, be it spiritual or material, while thousands of our brothers and sisters, fellow Jews, are threatened with assimilation and Jewish ignorance, facing spiritual death, G-d forbid.
This time in Jewish history beckons us to save Jews, so they should remain Jewish in the plain sense of the word.
Now, in this day and age, it’s actually a matter of Pikuach Nefesh, saving a life, which takes precedence over everything else.
We must reach out to the Jewish people around us, that Jewish child of whatever age, who is playing outside in the dark unaware of any danger to their Jewish identity, and bring them back to their true home, to the Torah and Mitzvahs (commandments).
Even though some Shomrim are official, card carrying ones, this call of the Rebbe is directed to all of us to become Shomrim, Jewish guards. Guarding all that is Jewish in every Jew, including ourselves, wherever they (we) might be both in location and level of observance, always reaching higher and higher.
No Neshama can afford, or deserves to be, underestimated of its potential or denied its spiritual inheritance.
Without my Shomrim, what would have been with me?
After all is said and done, all of us, in a way, regardless of our knowledge, observance levels and experiences, are still just children, outside in the night, this bitter exile, waiting for our ultimate Shomer, G-d, to come and take us home, to the third temple, in the newly built Jerusalem in the expanded Israel, in the complete and final redemption through his emissary, Mashiach.
May it happen now.
Rabbi Bentzion Elisha is an award winning photographer (ElishaArt.Com) and writer. He resides with his family in NYC.