Many Israelis travel to India after they complete their military service. In the army, these young men and women have to undergo intense training and abide by strict codes of discipline. India provides a mellow antithesis to such a regimen and beckons to travelers in many ways. Liora and her brother Ayal were two such tourists who took off for India. They traveled together from one tourist attraction to the next, then split up to follow separate trails. Ayal stumbled upon Arachim’s Bayit HaYehudi hostel in India where he enjoyed the hospitality and listened to some fascinating lectures. Drawn to the extensive library, he discovered new concepts that changed his life completely. He eventually opted for a life of Torah and mitzvos.
In contrast to Ayal, Liora wandered around India until she reached the city of Varanasi, where she came across a cult headed by a charismatic guru. He spoke eloquently of the brotherhood of all mankind, the spirit of the cosmos, and efficient exploitation of the earth’s resources. His captivating words entranced Liora, and she immediately joined the cult.
When Ayal learned of his sister’s new affiliation, he tried to extricate her from the cult, but her attraction to her new mentors was too strong. He begged and pleaded to no avail. As a last resort, Ayal suggested that they both return home for a visit with their parents. He suggested that Liora attend an Arachim lecture together with him while they were in Israel. Liora readily agreed, fully confident that nothing could sever her from her new source of inspiration.
After a considerable delay, an Arachim staffer mounted the podium and announced that the lecturer was sick and unable to attend. However, in order not to leave the audience entirely empty-handed, he read to them a short summary of the Jewish law concerning lost property. He explained that the Torah requires someone who finds a lost object to assume responsibility for it and to make a reasonable effort to locate the owner. He also described how a finder must ascertain that the claimant is truly the owner by asking for identifying marks or characteristics to prove that the item really belongs to him. Liora sat there and yawned, totally unimpressed. The lecture had practically put her to sleep. Ayal was devastated. How would he ever pry his sister away from the cult now? After the lecture, they trudged out of the hall and headed for home.
The next day, Liora flew back to her cult in India and Ayal enrolled in a yeshivah for ba’alei teshuvah in Jerusalem.
It was only a short while later that Ayal was suddenly called out of the beis midrash with an urgent message that someone was outside waiting to see him. He was speechless to find his sister Liora greeting him with a wide smile.
Ayal was devastated.
How would he ever pry his sister away from the cult now?
“What are you doing here?” he asked incredulously. “I want to enroll in a school for ba’alos teshuvah,” she replied.
“You?” asked Ayal. “What happened? What made you change your mind about your ‘wonderful’ cult and its guru?”
Liora told him the full story: “One day, soon after I returned to India, the guru asked me to accompany him somewhere. As we were walking along the alleyways of Varanasi, the guru bent down and picked up a fat wallet that someone had obviously just dropped. He opened it and found it full of bills and documents. With a smile of satisfaction, he tucked it into his pocket.
“I was speechless. Some tourist had just lost a considerable sum of money, a driver’s license, and other valuable documents. His name, address, and other personal details were all there, and it would be a simple matter to find him by contacting the police or local embassy of his country. Why did the guru just take it for himself? Wasn’t that like stealing?
“When I suggested to the guru that perhaps we should try to find the owner, he embarked on a long lecture about the unity of the universe, the brotherhood of all men, and the dynamics by which the energy of the cosmos had transferred resources from the former owner of the wallet to himself. He explained that the two of them were actually one soul, divided between two bodies, and the wallet had been lost so that the money would reach its rightful destination.
“I then recalled the Arachim speaker and his presentation of the Torah laws that apply in such a case. The sharp contrast between philosophy perverted by greed and loyalty to the truth brought me back to my senses. I immediately made up my mind to choose the Torah way of life and booked a ticket back home.”
Rabbi Dovid Hoffman is the author of the popular “Torah Tavlin” book series, filled with stories, wit and hundreds of divrei Torah, including the brand new “Torah Tavlin Yamim Noraim” in stores everywhere. You’ll love this popular series. Also look for his book, “Heroes of Spirit,” containing one hundred fascinating stories on the Holocaust. They are fantastic gifts, available in all Judaica bookstores and online at http://israelbookshoppublications.com . To receive Rabbi Hoffman’s weekly “Torah Tavlin” sheet on the parsha, e-mail Torahtavlin@yahoo.com