A person involved in kiruv told me the following
I once chanced upon the booklet "Back to the Source" and
found it to be an astounding piece of work. This is a
collection of essays written by top- notch, internationally
renowned experts in all areas of science: astronomy, biology,
physics, chemistry, psychology, zoology, archaeology, and
genetics. Each article comes to the decisive conclusion
affirming the truth of the Tanach, the existence of G-
d, and the fact that the world is directed by a Supreme
Intelligence above and beyond man's understanding.
"That's just what I need for Opher," I thought to myself with
satisfaction. Opher is a secular young man who I am trying to
help back to Yiddishkeit.
"Instead of endless debates, all I have to do is show him
this pamphlet. The evidence brought forward in these essays
proves the truth beyond the shadow of a doubt. The names and
credentials of these professionals alone should be sufficient
to make an impression on him. How could Opher possibly refute
the assertion of these prestigious scientists who logically
arrived at the conclusion that there is One G-d, based on
their extensive knowledge?!"
And so, at the very first opportunity, I handed the
publication to Opher and waited for (what I thought was) the
inevitable. I couldn't have been more naive.
A week later I received a letter from Opher. While opening
the envelope my thoughts were focused on one thing: how to
get a hold of a pair of kosher tefillin for the Jewish
nation's latest returnee to the fold. The bitter reality hit
me, however, as the words on the page registered in my mind.
Opher totally dismissed everything that was written in the
booklet. "It's all nonsense," he claimed. "As a thinking
individual," he went on, "I had no problem exposing all the
errors. For example, the professor, who lectures at the
science faculty, wrote that there are approximately 100
elements. That's ridiculous since it is known today that
there are 116 elements!"
He mocked the article, which discussed the wonders of the
human body. "If this is so," Opher retorted, "then why is
there sickness and death?"
He argued that it is dishonest to print a publication whose
sole purpose is to promote the idea that there is a G-d.
"This is an advertisement and it should be stated as such
explicitly on the jacket!"
I felt my anger swelling inside of me. What arrogance, what
chutzpah! I couldn't remember ever having met such a
die-hard atheist who insisted on enslaving his brain to this
dubious "ideal." Incredible! I could finally comprehend the
great heretics of history such as Nimrod, Pharaoh and their
cohorts. No amount of facts or logic could make a dent in
their (anti-)belief. Their brains went into neutral; locked
the doors and pulled down the blinds; disconnected the phone;
went into hibernation! From this point on you could talk
yourself blue in the face with words of wisdom and insight
but it would be as if you had said nothing.
Without extremely strong faith in the tenacity of the Jewish
soul, and in zechus ovos -- the merit that one has by
virtue of his righteous forefathers -- one would be tempted
to sink into the pessimistic assumption that this was a lost
cause and any effort toward opening Opher's eyes would be
nothing but a waste of time.
I won't bother telling you about my last-resort attempts with
him that failed and consequently led to our parting of ways.
Let's skip forward to the day I happened to meet Opher at a
Torah lecture. I did not recognize him since even his facial
features and expressions had undergone a transformation, not
to mention the fact that that was the last place I would ever
expect to find him. After the lecture a young bearded man
with a large kippa, tzitzis hanging from underneath
his shirt, and a gemora sticking out from under his
arm, approached me. To my utter surprise he introduced
himself to me as none other than Opher.
"Who brought you here?" I asked in wonder. I wanted to hear
who had succeeded where I had failed and how exactly the
His answer was totally unexpected: "Hashem spoke to me!"
"Oy vey," I thought to myself sadly. "The guy's
gone mad. Opher has joined the ranks of those who delude
themselves into believing that they have received a Divine
Opher quickly caught on that I was shocked by his answer and
hurried to continue: "Please allow me to explain myself.
Today I realize that what prevented me from hearing you out,
in spite of all your proofs and logical arguments, was my
egotism. Ever since I was a little kid I have enjoyed reading
magazines and books on popular science, and in high school I
took physics and chemistry. I felt like I knew it all and
behaved like a know-it-all, looking down on others who, in my
opinion, were steeped in primitive notions based on
imagination and ignorance. I considered myself an
intellectual, superior to others in knowledge and
"Now, I am ashamed every time I recall how I jeered at the
scientist who wrote that all the modern technological
developments point to One Source, the One and Only who holds
the key to all creation, who hides behind the utter
complexity and perfect harmony of nature from the
animal/vegetable kingdom all the way to the cosmic system. I
couldn't relate to that professor because he learned Torah. I
saw science and Torah as direct opposites.
"At that point I began to receive hints from above. They were
small at first; I began to feel a general weakness for no
apparent reason. I tried to take it easy, ate more
nutritiously, and swallowed vitamins -- but nothing helped.
After a while I began to suffer from headaches and rheumatic
and muscular pain. My digestive system stopped functioning
properly and other disorders caused me to lose weight
drastically until I was a shadow of my former self.
"This, of course, did not happen all at once. At the first
sign of weakness I immediately ran to my doctor who ordered a
series of tests. I was startled to hear over and over that
the test results did not point to anything conclusive. They
did not know the reason for my illness, and could not
diagnose it since it did not even have a name!
"From then on it was downhill all the way. I stopped all
activities outside of the house and found even reading to be
difficult. I had a lot of free time to think. I was aware of
the fact that I was slowly losing my grip on life but I had
nothing to hold onto.
"And then the miracle happened. Like a flash of lightening in
the middle of the night, I felt the realization illuminate my
consciousness: I was being sent a message, nonverbal but
extremely potent nevertheless! The message was hidden in all
that I was going through and it was up to me to recognize it
for what it was. It took me quite a while but eventually I
deciphered it: `Who do you think you are, you overblown,
egotistical fool? What makes you so self-satisfied?! What do
you have to say for yourself when your every breath, thought,
movement and morsel of food originate from the One Above
whose very existence you deny with arguments based on faulty
logic and contradiction?! You refuse to believe that there is
Someone in charge? Fine, so please take matters in your own
hands and we'll see how far you get!'
"Whoever does not believe in miracles is welcome to come and
talk to me. From the moment that I understood the message I
began to get better. All my thoughts and actions took a 180
degree turn. I began to reevaluate everything that I had
previously denied. What a shame though, that I was unable to
appreciate the beauty of the Torah in the first place and had
to learn the hard way!
"In light of my experience, is it really pretentious of me to
say that Hashem spoke to me? Suffering is the Divine language
that needs no translation and that cannot be ignored. It is
the means of communication used with those who plug their
ears to reproof and mussar. However, this too requires
a certain merit. Just as a father disciplines his child out
of love, so too our Heavenly Father, Hashem, only rebukes
those whom he loves. I must have had zchus ovos that
caused me to take the course I did and arrive at where I am