A Spiritual Ripple by Steve Hyatt

When I was a young boy I could sit for hours on the shores of Morgan's Pond in my hometown of Waterford, Connecticut. Every once in awhile I'd pick up a pebble and toss it into the pond and watch as the ripples cascaded across the surface.

It has been many years since I threw those pebbles into Morgan's Pond. But recently an event occurred that reminded me of the pond and the ripples that caused such fascination.

One Tuesday I arrived at work to find an official looking letter on my desk; a Federal agency had decided to audit one of my Human Resources programs. Despite the fact that I run a tight ship I was horrified that the "Feds" were coming into my shop. Although I had never dealt with this branch of government before, I immediately felt guilty. I had absolutely no reason to feel that way, but these were the "Feds"!

Unfortunately for me, the visit would not be for another 30 days; that's a very long time when you are dealing with the unknown. As the days passed I became more and more despondent. The people I worked with, the people I lived with, and the people I davened (prayed) with, all began to notice my unexplained plunge into despair.

I became depressed. I had never, ever been to such a dark place. About a week before the "visit" my Chabad rabbi Mendel Cunin sat me down and demanded to know what was wrong. I was so distraught that I could hardly get the words out to explain the situation. And in truth, I must have sounded like a raving lunatic because unless you were in my shoes, my concerns just didn't make sense. Rabbi Cunin gave me many words of encouragement but I didn't want to hear them.

The Shabbat before the "visit" I was davening in shul hardly listening to the rabbi and barely reading the words in my prayerbook. Negative thoughts about what would happen on Monday and the possible loss of my job bombarded me. I slid into a deeper, darker depression.

When the davening was over, I robotically took my regular seat at the Kiddush. The herring was passed around, the cups were filled and my buddies all engaged in a discussion about the week's Torah portion. After a few minutes of spirited discussion, Rabbi Cunin pulled out a copy of the N'shei Chabad Newsletter and asked me to read out load a story he'd marked. I had no desire whatsoever to participate in this ridiculous exercise. I attempted to pass the magazine to my friend sitting next to me. But the rabbi, in a very authoritative voice, insisted that I read it.

Quietly, I began to read the three page article. It was a story written by gentleman living in Australia who was becoming more observant. He was sharing his personal spiritual journey.

I completed the first page and again tried to pass the magazine to my friend. The rabbi insisted I continue to read. Not wanting to make a scene I continued. I finished the second page and thought to myself, "What am I doing here. These people just don't understand what I'm going through and the rabbi has me reading this rah-rah story. Does he really think this is going to cheer me up?"

About half way down the third page I read something that made me feel like my entire body had suddenly been hit with an electric shock. It was as if my heart had stopped and the doctor used a defibrillator to restart it. I finished the sentence and started to cry. I tried to continue but I couldn't utter a word. I passed the magazine to my friend, Marc, and this time the rabbi didn't say a word. Marc finished reading the article as I sobbed silently. When he was done, everyone was silent as they waited for me to say something. Overcome with emotion all I could do was mumble a "thank you" to the rabbi for sharing the story with me.

As the moments ticked by I started to feel better. At the conclusion of the Kiddush I walked outside with my buddies and started my walk home. About 100 yards up the mountain I started to cry; no matter how much I tried I could not stop. By the time I arrived at my front door and kissed the mezuza I was all cried out. As I walked through the door I felt "different." I was no longer in that deep, dark place. I was no longer afraid.

On Monday morning I got up and davened with renewed vigor. I wasn't over-confident but I wasn't afraid either. When I walked through the front door of my office building the gentleman conducting the audit was waiting for me in the lobby. We sat down in my office. He explained what he wanted to see and the process began. Four days later he met with my boss and me and shared that he had found only one small violation and with a small adjustment we could rectify the situation and all would be well.

I assured him the correction would be made and walked him to the door. Over the next few days we corrected the problem, sent the official notification to the auditor and put the issue behind us. The next Shabbat I was ready to "party" with my boys! I shared the results of the audit, everyone applauded and we noshed on a little herring and said "l'chaim."

As I walked home, my mind drifted back to the pebbles I used to throw into Morgan's Pond and the resulting ripples. I couldn't help but wonder at what I'd read the week before that guided me out of the darkness and back to the light. The author of the article wrote that his spiritual journey started after he read a story in L'Chaim about a fellow Jew, living in Wilmington, Delaware. The story, "Grandpa Charlie Would Be Proud," was written by me 10 years earlier, after I'd said Kiddush for my first time ever at Rabbi Chuni Vogel's Shabbat table.

The mystical pebble G‑d helped me toss into the spiritual waters after that first Kiddush generated a holy spark that rippled through the universe for 10 years before finding its way back to the "shores" of Rabbi Mendel Cunin's Shabbat table, in Reno Nevada, on the exact day Shlomo Yakov ben Moshe Pinchus needed it most. Coincidence...I think not!


If you've missed Mr. Hyatt's other articles in L'Chaim you can find them all at Kugelhead.blogspot.com