The Strange Visitor


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Long long ago, a few Jews used to live in the old city of Hebron. Such low was the population that there was not even
a regular minyan (prayer quorum) for the Jews for Shabbat. At least ten males over thirteen years of age are required by Jewish law to be present for public worship. Such an assemblage was only possible if a Jew or a group of Jews came to visit the renowned historic spot Cave of Machpelah nearby and prayed with them. The Jews at Hebron used to be very happy at such times, because all of them were eager to serve G-d as best as they could.

But one year they were greatly disturbed. Yom Kippur was approaching but there seemed to be no sign of any one who could give them company in the minyan. Soon the Yom Kippur eve came, and there was one man less for the holy congregation.

The Jews of Hebron became very anxious. Out of their desperation, they scattered and went in different directions and searched for a tenth Jew on all the main roads with little success. They hoped against hope that a miracle would happen at the final hour and someone would come to complete their minyan.

The sun was rapidly sinking, and it seemed to take along the hearts of the Hebron Jews. The poor men decided to return to their small shul to pray, with or without a minyan.

Back at their shul, the man who was acting as chazan (cantor) was just about to begin the prayer when there went up a gasp of amazement from all present. They could not believe their eyes as they saw an old Jew walking in, dressed in old, plain clothes, his back bent, with a sack slung over his shoulder.

The relieved Jews felt like embracing the man, but the hour of prayer was passing by. So all the men began to pray, concentrating on the holy verses chanted by the cantor.

The Service over, the shamash (beadle) wanted to have a conversation with the stranger. But the mysterious visitor seemed to be so lost in his thoughts and prayers, that the shamash decided against disturbing him. Like most of the other worshippers, the old man spent the night in shul.

The other Jews sincerely thanked the Almighty for sending a tenth Jew at the last hour and making their Yom Kippur minyan a success.

As soon as Yom Kippur was over, all of them rushed for the strange absinthe who had appeared like an angel from heaven. Everyone wanted to have the honor of taking him home with them to break the fast. A quarrel would have broken out had not the shamash very wisely suggested that the most reasonable solution would be to "cast lots." This was agreed upon and performed. The Shamash, who was a great Torah scholar, was pleasantly surprised to find himself to be the lucky one to have the honor of being host to their strange visitor.

The shamash went to meet with the old man. Fearing that his curiosity might displease his guest, he did not disturb the man with his questions. All that he was able to know from the man was his name, Abraham. The Yom Kippur services were over and the two walked out of shul together. The shamash was carrying on a more or less one-sided conversation with his guest replying in as few words as possible. At last the shamash offered his guest to stay at his house for a day so that they could break the fast together. The visitor made no reply and the shamash looked up to his face to find that the man was gone. The astonished shamash found himself to be staring at the darkness of the night. His guest had as if melted into thin air!

"Abraham! Abraham!" the shamash called out. He anxiously ran here and there, looking for the mysterious visitor. But there was no sign of Abraham.

The nervous shamash quickly went back to the other Jews who were on their way home from shul. He told them of all that had happened. The pious and good Jews became as much concerned for their visitor's well being as their shamash and they immediately set out with lighted torches in search of Abraham. They called out his name but gave up after an hour. Every nook and corner of the town was searched but Abraham was not to be found. They feared that the old man might have fallen into a well in the darkness or met with an accident of similar nature. All of them decided to end the search for the night and resume their hunt for Abraham when day breaks. Everyone returned home with a heavy heart, including the shamash.

The poor man could not sleep all night, and only as dawn was breaking, did he finally fall into a troubled sleep, out of sheer exhaustion.

Suddenly the shamash found Abraham standing before him. He rubbed his eyes in disbelief. but it was no mistake. Abraham was indeed standing before him, but how grand and glorious he looked in his beautiful white dress. It seemed to the shamash that a halo of light was being emitted from his body. Abraham was looking divine.

"Do not worry, my friend," he said gently to the shamash. "See. I am perfectly alright."

"Who are you? You cannot be an ordinary mortal" murmured the shamash.

"You are right". replied the divine being "I am the Patriarch Abraham. Your prayers reached me in the Cave of Machpelah. So I personally came to you to complete your minyan and give all of you the spiritual satisfaction you intended to have on Yom Kippur. My mission over, I returned to my resting place Machpelah. Go back and inform your friends about our conversation and tell them not to worry. No harm has befallen me. I am at peace. Peace be with you."

With these words, Abraham disappeared and the shamash awoke to find himself on his bed. He rushed to shul and told his fellow-Jews of the strange dream he had just had. The other Jews could hardly believe him, but they were men of faith and knowing the shamash to be a pious man they trusted his words. Their hearts were filled with great happiness and they thanked the G-d that he sent the Patriarch Abraham to complete their minyan as the tenth man.

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