“Rabbi Schochet, I must speak with you.”
The man, wearing blue jeans and a faded gray tee-shirt, unexpectedly stomped into my father’s office, just as he was leaving for a meeting.
It was the first time that my father had seen this man, and he came without a prior appointment. He looked agitated and rushed, his brows creased in tension. He was holding a green apple in one hand and a magazine in the other. He sat himself down on the nearest chair and, without giving my father a chance to greet him, spoke again.
“Rabbi, I want proof that G-d exists,” he demanded, to my father’s astonishment.
“Let me explain. I have been dating a non-Jewish woman for a while. I love her deeply and we are perfect for each other. The only problem is my family. They keep insisting to me that G-d is displeased with this relationship. I’ve decided to ignore their repeated pleas, and I plan to move on with my life and marry her.” He paused to catch his breath.
“This morning, though, I had a gnawing doubt and decided to speak with a rabbi first. If you can prove to me that G-d exists, without a shadow of a doubt, I will not marry her. If not,” his voice sounded hard and almost threatening, “I will proceed with the marriage plans.”
That was a tall order for anyone and in particular, with a scheduled meeting pressing and a man who looked too distressed to calmly discuss things thoroughly.
“And if I do prove this to you, you will no longer have anything to do with this woman?” my father questioned firmly.
“Yes, I promise that I will drop her.” He answered emphatically.
“Look at what you are holding,” my father continued without pause. “The apple in your hand reveals the existence of G-d.”
Ignoring the man’s puzzled expression, my father took out a pocketknife from his drawer and reached across his desk for the green apple. He sliced it lengthwise in half, juice dripping over the papers on his desk. “Do you see the five stars and ten dots shaped on the inside of the apple? Every single apple was fashioned in this way. Each one has this element of five and ten. Do you know why? Every apple reveals to us and reminds us of the saying of our Sages ‘with Y--ah, G-d created the world.’” (Y-ah is one of G-d’s Names, which contains a yud and a hei; yud signifying the tenth letter of the Hebrew alphabet and hei, the fifth letter.)
The man had been listening intently. He smiled momentarily, and the tension on his face decreased somewhat. “That is very interesting, Rabbi. Yes, that is an interesting proof.”
He paused for a moment, in quiet reflection, but then the crease of tension returned to his features. “Scientifically it is definitely a curious phenomenon. And how coincidental that I was carrying just such a fruit. But, nevertheless, I am not entirely convinced that this is conclusive proof for the existence of G-d.”
He was considering making a monumental change in his life and was searching for something stronger.
“Let me see the other thing you are holding—your magazine. It, too, proves G-d’s existence.”
My father requested the Reader’s Digest in the man’s other hand. My father opened it up arbitrarily, and his own face paled as he quietly scanned the contents of the page.
The words that he read aloud to the man sitting opposite him searching for G-d’s existence and for newfound faith were the words that Jews have said daily for the last thousands of years, in its original Hebrew, transliterated into English.
In a clear and loud voice, from the pages of the Reader’s Digest, my father read, “Shema Yisroel Ad-nai Elokeinu Ad-noi Echad—Listen, dear Jews, G-d is our G-d, G-d is one.”
My father had coincidentally opened up to an essay describing different children’s prayers throughout the world, written by a Jewish woman. On this particular page in the Digest, she was describing a childhood memory, when her aged grandmother taught her the Shema prayer, prayed by Jews throughout the millennia declaring their faith in the Oneness of G-d. She had written the prayers in English transliteration based on the original Hebrew that her grandmother had painstakingly taught her.
The man was dumbstruck, and with a tear rolling down his cheek he whispered, “Yes, Rabbi Schochet, if G-d has made this encounter happen this morning, I, too, now, have conclusive proof that G-d is our L-rd.”
• • •
When my father recounted this story, the cynical part of my personality asserted itself. I asked him how he was able to perform such “miraculous tricks” and what made him even think of attempting it?
“What if it wouldn’t have worked, and you wouldn’t have opened up to that page, what then? I mean, Daddy, Reader’s Digest isn’t exactly the first place that I would look to conclusively prove G-d’s existence. Weren’t you taking a tremendous risk?”
“Chana,” he responded, “look at the circumstances. By divine providence the man found his way into my office. I had never met him before, and, had he arrived even a moment later, I would no longer have been there.
“So I thought to myself, There is a plan and a role that G-d is orchestrating here. Whenever an individual has a problem, question, or issue, the solution has already been determined and is right there before him. He merely needs to open up his understanding to discover it.
“Like the man, we, too, carry the very solution that we seek. It is within our grasp; in fact, we are holding it right in our own hands.
“Furthermore, our sages teach, ‘Shlucho shel odom kemoso—Someone’s messenger has the power of the initial sender.’ We are players enacting G-d’s Grand Plan. It is not our own powers or abilities that cause our success or achievements, but that of the One who sends us.
“We must never shy away from playing our part, though. Never fear, my child, to use your abilities to their utmost. Never worry about taking the plunge in fear of the outcome. Because, in truth, you are not falling back on your own strengths or resources; you are being granted infinite powers, far beyond your own.”
My father never did make his meeting that afternoon. But a lost soul started on his journey back to his people.
Chana Weisberg is the author of four books, the latest, "Divine Whispers," published by Targum/Feldheim. She is the dean of the JRCC Institute of Jewish Studies in Toronto and is also a columnist for the Jewish Press Newspaper. Weisberg lectures regularly on issues relating to women, relationships and the Jewish soul.