It was a beautiful sunny Thursday morning in Northern Cyprus. We had just completed a successful summer season at the Malpas Hotel. Running a kosher section in a 5-star hotel for three months straight had drained me both physically and emotionally.
I was looking forward to flying back to my family for the holidays and reuniting with my wife and children. The last group of guests was packing up their sandwiches from the breakfast buffet. The guests who strictly kept kosher would make sure they would have kosher food available until they arrived back home.
I was out on the terrace that overlooked the Mediterranean ocean trying to breathe in as much of the breathtaking scenery as possible when I felt someone tapping me on my shoulder.
I turn around to find a shortish middle-aged Sephardic Jew dressed in jeans and a tee-shirt with a thick gold chain around his neck and a cigarette in his hand ready to be lit.
In Hebrew, he tells me that his name is Shuki and he wants to purchase a kosher meal for this Friday night. Before I can say anything he starts telling me how happy he was to hear that there was a kosher dining room since it’s very important for him to have a Friday night meal with kiddush.
Even though it’s too difficult for him to keep shabbos especially when he is here playing the card tables in the casino he can’t imagine a Friday night meal without kiddush and good kosher food. I try to say something but he keeps control of the conversation.
I don’t mind the price whatever you charge is fair as long as I have Hot spicey Moracon Fish good dry wine and good meats! Oh yeah, and I hope you have a lot of salads like good fresh hummus and tahini, not too much just make me feel like I am right in my mother’s kitchen in Rishon L`zion.
When he finally paused to light his cigarette assuming that I don’t mind I was able to get a word in. I explained to Shuki that I am very impressed with his dedication to our Jewish tradition but my last group is flying back today and I had no plans of keeping the dining room open for this weekend. I can however prepare a take-out meal for you to eat in your room if you want.
Shuki looked at me in disappointment then looked inside the dining room with the huge fancy chandeliers glittering. Then he looked at the delicious buffet table overflowing with mouth-watering delicacies.
Turning back to me with a forceful Shuki inquired ” how many people do you need to purchase a kosher dinner in order for us to have the meal here”?
Understanding Shukis predicament and trying to bend over backward to help him out I told him that the hotel requires a minimum of ten people to open this room.
Shuki contemplated this for a moment and then said ”ten Ok let’s try”.
I looked at him pretty puzzled. Come with me I want to introduce you to some friends of mine. Intrigued by the determination of Shuki I let my staff know that I will be back shortly and followed Shuki in the direction of the casino.
Along the walk to the casino, I decided to chit-chat with Shuki a bit and find out more about him. He told me that he is a divorced Tel Aviv taxi driver who prefers working the evening shift. Since gambling is illegal in Israel, he and his friends flew out here for the weekend.
No matter what when he is out of Israel he doesn’t eat meat if it isn’t kosher! He hasn’t had a good meal in days!
Right before entering the casino Shuki turns to me and says as if we are in the Israeli army he is a lieutenant, and I am one of his soldiers ready to enter an Arab village.
Listen up. We need to get Moshiko he is the team leader if we get him everyone will follow. I gave Shuki a nod showing that I understand the plan of attack ready to enter the village or at least in our case the casino.
This was the first time I went into the casino while it was active and I was busy comparing the new digital slot machines and other types of digital gambling devices to the older stuff I used to see at trade shows in Las Vegas!
Shuki hits me on the back and says ”Yitzchok focus this is important to me. Look over there do you see them?
They are sitting around the huge poker table next to the roulette wheel.
Moshiko is the bald one with the gold rings in the middle. Good luck I will try to help from within”.Sits down at the table with the other guys covered in gold and wearing shiny huge watches.
The pot was pretty big and everyone was in deep concentration of the game. The cigarette smoke in the air created a fog that barely made my presence visible. I waited patiently looked around the room looked back at the table and said to myself how did you get into this crazy situation? I went from managing a Kosher section of a hotel to feelings of an undercover Israeli soldier invading a poker game in less than ten minutes!
Suddenly I heard thunderous screams of joy from Moshiko and one of the players as they split the hefty pot.
Moshiko then looks at me with these eyes that are burning through me as if to say should I shoot him for disturbing his game or have compassion and let him live? He then says to me in Hebrew” what do you want”?
I look over at Shuki who suddenly pretends he doesn’t know me and has nothing to do with me.
I told him that I run the kosher section of the hotel and there is some interest in having a kosher Friday night meal. I wanted to know if you and perhaps your friends want to sign up and purchase a meal. Moshiko takes a quick break to look at his new poker hand and lets the dealer know that he is out for this round.
Looks back at me and says Yeh ok put me down. Then I had the uncomfortable issue of taking him away from his game again when I told him that I now had only two and I need at least ten to keep the kitchen open.
Moshiko is now excited about his new hand and doesn’t even look up at me. Ok no problem eyes fully fixed on his cards and the other players hands me five hundred euros like its monopoly money. Then starts screaming out Israeli names to guys at all different tables that they now owe him money for tomorrow night’s mandatory kosher Friday night meal.
None of the players even blinked an eye or looked up from the table they just started sending money Moshiko`s way.
As I was walking away Shuki says Hey Yitzchok do you have a Beit Knesset hear as well? We can pray first and Rafi can say Kaddish for his mother that passed away this year.
Now the entire group was looking up and waiting for an answer. I told them sure it’s located directly under the casino, prayers down below help you win above! Just go down the stairs outside the Casino and follow the pathway to the entrance. I will make sure to have the light and air condition set up for prayers as well.
In this week`s Parsha פרשת וירא. Avraham spends a lot of time and effort trying to convince G-d not to destroy the evil city of sodom.
Pleading with G-d that if there are fifty righteous people it should not be destroyed. G-d agrees not to destroy for fifty righteous people however their arent even fifty. Avraham then tries to renegotiate downward until he gets down to ten righteous men. When there aren’t even ten righteous men, Avraham understands that there is nothing more that he can do to save the people and walks away from the failed diplomatic negotiations.
Chasidus asks why does the Torah spell out for us this long story of a failed negotiation?
Even if you want to say that it was because the Torah wanted to show us that G-d chose to begin the Jewish nation with Avraham over Noach since he outwardly fought to save the people of his generation. Why does the Torah have to be so wordy about the details of the negotiations?
The Mystical book known as the Migaleh Amukos(translated as hidden deep revelations) written by the holy Noson Natan Shapiro (1585-1633) explains that Avraham did not completely lose the negotiation.
In reward for him trying his best to save these wicked people, G-d told Avraham if your children return to me fifty days before Yom Kippur I will accept their repentance. If they don’t manage at fifty I will accept even forty-five days.
If they fail to repent still I will accept forty days and so on and so forth until even just ten days before Yom Kippur. This is known as the 10 days of repentance. G-d will accept even repentance of such a short period of time from his children because of Avraham’s efforts.
I would like to conclude this week’s Dvar Torah with my own thought that may be possibly true.
We know that a gathering of ten Jewish men praying of any level of Jewish observance brings the divine presence to dwell amongst them.
Your children will all be righteous. They will all have an infinite spark buried deep inside of them. Or when Moshiko decides to push himself away from the poker table I will help him. When Rafi decides to pray and say Kadish for his parents I will help him. When Shuki decides he wants to make kiddush Friday night, I will help him make kiddush.
Because you Avraham negotiated me all the way down to ten.
When any ten of your children, Moshiko, Shuki, Rafi, or anyone else, get together to pray to me I will speedily run to dwell amongst them.
No matter when where or who they are.For they are intrinsically righteous.
Have a wonderful Shabbos.