“May Hashem forgive you, Mr. Golan,” Yossi’s voice said coldly, “and halevai, you should merit to do teshuvah.”
“Yeh, maybe my granddad will come back from the grave and meet me in Africa and convince me to do teshuvah!” rang out Avi’s voice.
And then, after the burst of ruckus laughter from the other boys, an ethereal voice could be heard saying, “I will.”
“You see,” explained Avi, “I was extremely close to my paternal grandfather. He was a zookeeper. He wasn’t religious at all. And then, as far as we were able to tell, he went crazy. He woke up one day and told us all that the night before he had been at the zoo very late. He went to check on the giraffes because one of them was due to give birth. When he got to their enclosure, the youngest giraffe came up to him and told him that he must take a trip to New Zealand and he had decided to go. We all tried to persuade him to stay, to explain that it must have been a dream. It’s not possible that a giraffe spoke to him. But he was adamant on following his giraffe’s orders.
He left a few days later. We could not seem to get a hold of him in New Zealand no matter how hard we tried. He seemed to have disappeared. We assumed there must have been some accident. My parents and uncle tried everything to trace him, but to no avail. We came to live with the knowledge that we would never know what happened.
And then, 7 years later we were contacted about his death. It was a rabbi from New York calling. He told us he would be accompanying my grandfather’s remains back to Israel. But, he wanted us to know what a special man grandfather was. That it’s not everyday that someone finds the strength to do teshuvah when they are in their late eighties.” Avi paused, as the other boys sat spellbound.
“I always held that rabbi responsible for the loss of my grandfather.” Avi’s voice quivered. “I knew he wasn’t the reason he died, but I did know that he was the reason I did not hear from my grandfather all those years. He knew that there was no way anyone in my family would ever be able to accept him as a ba’al teshuvah. My memories of my grandfather went from being warm and cozy to bitter. He had betrayed me and my family. I could never forgive him for that. I also knew that I would never be able to forgive that rabbi for brainwashing my grandfather, for making him into someone I couldn’t love.”
They sat for a few quiet minutes. “And now,” continued Avi, “he has come back to me. And on my initiative.”
After some subdued conversation Yigal and Yossi left. They speculated the affects of what they had just heard. There was no doubt that they would all be changed people from then on.
AND NOW FOR THE REAL ENDING…
Listening carefully, they heard Avi say, “I’m going to Africa the day after tomorrow, Yossi… There, only a giraffe can make me do teshuvah…” And then they heard the roars of laughter.
The three young men sat dumbstruck, listening to that sentence over and over again: “Only a giraffe can make me do teshuvah…” Only a giraffe…” Unbelievable.
After a few minutes Yossi spoke up. “You know, Avi, there’s a Chazal that says, ‘Bris krusah la’sefasayim—what a person utters is liable to become reality.’ Sometimes you prophesize about your future without even knowing it. Avi, you don’t need a seminar about Judaism. All the work was done for you by a silly giraffe on the path in the jungle.”
Avi left the rehab facility with a yarmulke on his head, tzitzis under his shirt, and a deep debt of gratitude to the giraffe that had subdued him with a head-on crash, opening his eyes to a new way of life—the life of a Torah Jew.
Sometimes, my friends, a kick from a giraffe is a kiss of compassion from Hakadosh Baruch Hu to a wayward child who has lost his way…