We belong to a modern-Orthodox Sephardic shul. While we are Askenazi (European-derived) Jews, a majority of our shul's members are Sephardic, Jews whose heritage is from Spain, North Africa, Israel, Iran, and other Near East regions and nations. The synagogue building's architecture is Moorish. Our young rabbi is a gem, kind, and really pretty brilliant. I have studied Torah with him briefly and hope to again.
He told these two brief stories in his Yom Kippur talk. I hope you'll enjoy them (and that I can do them, and him, a measure of justice here). You'll tell me, please, what you make of them.
. There was, hundreds of years ago, a devout young man who traveled a long, long way to study at a renowned Yeshiva (a rabbinical academy). The Rosh Yeshiva (the headmaster) asked him why he had come such a distance when there were numbers of fine academies well closer to the young man's town.
The young man said, "Rabbi. Everyone knows how excellent this Yeshiva is; I have come here to find Gd."
To his shock, the Rabbi said to him, "Well, and I regret that you've cone so far, but I'm afraid, then, that this isn't the place for you."
Dejected, the youth asked, "Rabbi, why?"
The older man said, "You shouldn't have come all the way here to find Gd; for that you could have gone anywhere. Indeed, you never needed to leave home. Gd sees you, can speak to you, can teach you, anywhere; He is not limited by time and place. You must already know that."
The young man looked down. "And yet, Rabbi..." the young man began.
The Rabbi saw how thoroughly disappointed the boy seemed. He said, "Gd can, yes, teach you, see you, anywhere. However, if you're willing to study Torah and Talmud here and understand truly that it will be you whom He will reveal to you, you whom you eventually may come to know better, to know deeply, as you come to understand Gd better as you study, then we will be delighted to welcome you."
. It was just about the time of the Yomim (the holiest days of the calendar, Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur). A famous and very pious Rabbi who lived long ago and who had taught generations of young rabbis, a teacher well-known for his wisdom and devotion to the Law and to the traditions, motioned to his students to gather up at his lectern.
"I have something to tell you, something about me."
This surprised his students for this was highly unusual; the rabbi was not wont to share his personal life with them. They came forward and stood in a circle by their rabbi's lectern.
Their rabbi said, "I have never fasted on Yom Kippur."
The young men could not believe what their ears had heard. They hardly knew what to think let alone what to say. After a few stunned moments, one ventured, "Rabbi? You?! You don't fast on Yom Kippur?!"
The rabbi smiled. "Once Yom Kippur begins at sundown, I so deeply concentrate on my prayers, on hoping to discern what Gd wants of me in the year to come, on where I know I have come up short, on how better I might live my life and honor Him, that, quite frankly, I forget to eat! So: I needn't fast at all! My hope for each of you is that, with Gd's help, you will all come to a time within you when you never again need to fast on the Day of Atonement!"