On my journey through the Catskill mountains I stopped off in a little one horse town where I had lunch in Betty’s Café. As I sat down I was greeted by my waitress, a young woman of about college age. I noticed on my right was about three tables grouped together and there were four woman sitting at this table with their Bible opens.
A few minutes later another man came in, he appeared to be in his thirties, having Semitic features and wearing casual type clothes, typical for the area. I took him for just one of the locals. He looked in my direction and smiled, but he did not say anything.
Right after he walked in another man who was likely in his seventies and a woman of similar age, I assumed was his wife, came in and sat down at the table to my left. This man was apparently quite comfortable in this little café and called out to the waitress, “Well, Jenny, no hug for you old grandpa. After my little granddaughter goes off to the big city of New York I won’t be seeing much of her anymore.” “Oh, gramps, you know I will be back as often as possible.” as she gave her grandfather a big hug.
Right about this time a middle aged woman with a Bible followed by another middle aged man also with a Bible walked into the café and took a seat with the other women who had Bibles.
The elderly man turned his attention away from his granddaughter and called out to the gentleman who just walked in, “Hey preacher, nice sermon last Sunday.” The preacher said, “Thank you, you remember what it was about?” The old man’s wife said, “Hush, Ben, you know you were not in church last Sunday.” The preacher, trying to bail old Ben out of a tough spot that he just put him into launched into a story about President Calvin Coolidge who went to church one Sunday while his wife stayed at home. When President Coolidge’s wife asked what the preacher preached on President Coolidge replied, “He preached on sin.” “Well,” his wife responded, “What did he have to say about sin?” “He’s against it.” replied President Coolidge.
This little story seemed to break the ice and draw us all into the conversation with everyone’s attention directed to the old man who drew his granddaughter around the waste and started to brag. Turning to me and the other quiet gentleman who came in after I did the old man boasted. “My little granddaughter here is off to the New York City where she will take a job with a TV news station and become a foreign correspondent to Israel. The young girl slapped her grandfather on the shoulder and said, “Oh gramps, it is just an internship and this correspondence stuff is just a dream.”
I figured it was time I joined in on the conversation since this seemed to be a community affair and said, “Well, internships usually turn into full time jobs.” This is when old grandpa noticed my baseball cap which said, Chaim Bentorah Hebrew Teacher. “Well, lookie here, Jen, we have a Hebrew teacher maybe he can give you a few lessons, say something in Hebrew Cheeim.” I sort of chocked and looked at the young Middle Eastern man in front of me who suddenly said, “How about baruch hashem?” The man spoke those words in flawless Hebrew, I was surprised, so wasOld Ben whose eyes lit up and he turned to the preacher and said, “Hey preacher, lookie here, we have two of God’s special people in Betty’s Café. I know you preached about them, the wife told me about your sermon and the Jews going back to Israel and all that.” “The pastor corrected Ben and said, “They are God’s chosen people not special people.” The young Middle Eastern stranger then added, “Your pastor is right we are all special in God’s eyes, the Jewish people have just been chosen to lead others to an understanding of God. Jesus Himself was Jewish you know.”
Then old Ben asked, “So who is this barrack shem fellow.” I jump in and said, “Baruch hasehm, it means Blessed be the Name. By the way I am not Jewish, I am just a retired Hebrew professor, but our friend here must be Jewish because his Hebrew is flawless, like a rabbi.” Old Ben then asked, “You a rabbi?” The man only smiled and nodded.
The pastor then said, “We are just about to start our weekly Bible study, you are welcomed to join us.” I responded that I needed to continue my journey and our rabbi friend said that he also had to go but thanked the pastor for his invitation.
The pastor then asked if he would say a blessing for the young waitress before she went off to her new job and to offer a blessing over their Bible study before he left. The rabbi closed his eyes and said, “Baruch ata Adonai Eloheinu, melech ha’olam, hagomel lahayavim tovot” Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who bestows good things upon the unworthy.”
As we paid our bills the old man asked the rabbi, “Well, my wife here says that because Israel is a nation again that is fulfilling some sort of prophecy. That’s what you preached about wasn’t it preacher, wife told me the whole sermon, she said Jesus was going to returned very soon, yep that is what you said alright. How about you rabbi, think Jesus is going to return soon?”
We all looked at the rabbi who broke out into a big smile, his face began to shine so bright that you could almost measure it with a light meter as he said, “It is much sooner than you think. Perhaps you will want to join your pastor and these women in the study of the Holy Scriptures and lean more.” He then walked out. The old man stood up and said, “Come on babe, lets see what the preacher has to say.”
I quickly paid my bill and ran out after the rabbi as I had a lot of questions to ask him. But I was too late, he was no where to be found, I asked a local standing nearby if he saw a young man walk out of the café and happened to notice the direction he was headed. He said I was the only one to walk out of the café in the last half hour. Such is my luck, but boy he looked familiar, I just can not place where I saw him before.
Anyways I got back into my car and God was waiting for me to continue our journey. I said, “Lord you should have been there.” He repled, “I was.”
(p.s. Interestingly this happened on Rosh Hashanah, Laura)