Yossi was not sure why David wanted him to think about how he was feeling when he saw what was happening around him, but he trusted David. He trusted him because his Rabbi had told him that David could help him, but also because he was comfortable around David. He was a good listener and Yossi felt that David cared about him and wanted to help Yossi to understand what was happening to him, what caused it to happen and how he could learn to control this unique power.
As Yossi was walking to the store, he saw an older boy poking a stick at a cat hiding under a porch. Yossi walked up to the boy and told him that he was not following the commandments against Tsar Baalei Chaim (cruelty towards animals). The boy looked up at Yossi and began to hit him with the stick that he had used to poke and hurt the cat.
At first, Yossi used his hands to cover his head and his face. Then, he became angry and grabbed the stick. Yossi was about to begin hitting the boy with the stick that he had taken forcefully out of his hands. He stopped, took a deep breath, looked into the boy’s frightened eyes, and broke the stick in half over his knee.
“What did you think you were doing?” Yossi yelled. “Cruelty to animals is a big offence. Then, turning the stick on me because I was trying to stop you from hurting that poor little cat, what is the matter with you?”
The boy, realizing that he was no longer in danger of being hit by Yossi and the cat, seeing that she was no longer in danger of being poked by the boy, both turned around and ran as fast as they could away from Yossi and away from the place that caused them so much fear and grief.
That week at David’s, Yossi told him the story. “I don’t know why I was able to stop myself from hitting that boy. I was angry and then scared and then angry again. I tried to stop and think about what I was feeling, and I think in that second, I was able to restrain from hitting that boy with the stick that he had used to hurt me and the cat. I really don’t understand the need to be mean. It puzzles me.”
David, as usual, listened to everything that Yossi had to say. In the end, he praised him for controlling his anger. “To control the emotion of anger, which is one of the strongest emotions we as humans have, takes courage and maturity. I am very proud of you Yossi.”
David continued, “you know that God does not like us to lose our tempers. We have many instances in the Tanach (Bible) where people are punished for losing their tempers, even our great teacher, Moshe Rabenu, who hits the rock to get water from it rather than speaking to it. Some say, this was one of the reasons God did not let him into the land of Israel.”
“It is a lifetime challenge for many people to keep from getting angry, but it looks like you are able, when it is important, to stop from hurting another person, even in the heat of anger,” added David. “This makes me more confident that you will not use your “special power” to harm another living being.”
Yossi was happy to hear David saying this. He believed that he could be in control of his anger when it counted the most; however, what happened to cause him to laser words off walls and replace them with others? If it wasn’t caused by anger, then what did cause it?”
Yossi expressed this to David and David responded, “Yossi, with your permission, I would like to speak with the reading specialist who taught you how to focus your eyes to help you learn how to read. Maybe he can give us some insight, in other words some ideas about his method and exactly what it causes the eye muscles to do.”
“That is fine with me”, said Yossi. I have his phone number and I am happy to bring you to his office. It is in the old city and a little confusing to find.”
“Wonderful,” said David. "I will call him and maybe next week we can visit him together. Until then, continue to write down your feelings. Especially the angry ones, during this week.”
“See you next week”, said Yossi as he walked out the door. “This was a great meeting”, he thought to himself. “Maybe I really do have a gift that can be used only for good!”
The following week, Yossi came to David’s office ready for him to tell him that they had a meeting with the reading specialist. Instead, when David opened the door for him, he said, “Yossi, I tried several times to reach the reading specialist and then I called the number for information. They do not have this number listed nor do they have his name listed anywhere in the country. I asked the operator to search past records and there is no one with that name, Avreimi Rachmi, in all of Israel, nor has there ever been someone in Jerusalem, listed as a reading specialist, with that name.”
“That can’t be!” exclaimed Yossi. “I went to him for a whole year. We worked almost an hour every week and then he sent me home with exercises. I think that I still have some of the exercises that he wrote down for me to do, at home.”
“Well,” said David, “why don’t we take a little walk over to where his office is, or was, and see what we find. Were you in contact with him after you finished your reading lessons?” David asked.
“Not really”, recalled Yossi, “he told me that he did all that he could do for me and the rest was up to me, to continue the exercises and reading. Only with hard work, would I become the ‘person I was meant to be’, he said. When I think about it, that was kind of a strange thing to say, to become the ‘person I was meant to be’. You would think that he would say something like to become a good reader, or a good student.”
“Let’s go,” said David. “Now I am becoming very curious. I want to meet this Avreimi if we can find him!”
David and Yossi walked through the streets and alleyways of the Old City of Jerusalem. Yossi seemed very sure of where he was going, after all, for a full year he had gone to Avreimi’s office to learn his method of strengthening the eye muscles and focusing on the words to help him read. Yossi was sure that the exercises had helped because he saw his progress in the Cheder and he had been accepted to the Yeshiva (Junior high and high school) since he was able to pass the tests. He never would have been able to do this if he had not learned with Avreimi and practiced his reading and eye exercises every day.
As he and David approached the place where Yossi was sure that he would find Avreimi’s office there was a small store selling religious items. Yossi walked in. “Excuse me. I am looking for Avreimi Rachmi. He had an eye clinic here where I learned for a year,” he said.
“Welcome”, answered the man behind the counter. “We are the Leiter brothers, and this has been our shop for five generations. We have sold religious items from this store for over 100 years. Sometimes they were religious items for Muslims, sometimes for Christians and other times for Jews. We carry many important objects that people from all the three main Religions in this area use. There has never been an eye clinic here and I have no idea who your friend Avreimi is, but I am happy to show you some beautiful Kippot (head coverings for religious Jewish males)!”
“This can’t be,” exclaimed Yossi. “I am sure this is the place where I came to learn how to strengthen my eye muscles and become a reader, I’m sure of it!”
“Let’s look around this area a little, Yossi. Maybe things have changed over the past couple of years since you came here and with all these little streets and alleys, anyone could make a mistake,” David calmly said.
Yossi and David walked around for almost an hour. Yossi always came back to the same place, the small store with religious items.
“See,”, said Yossi. “That blue gate in front of the house over there. That was one of the signposts that helped me to find this place when I first started coming. And look over there, the tile on the wall that has the drawing of the deer baked on it. All of these were markers that pointed to Avreimi’s office so that I would never get lost.”
“It seems that you didn’t get lost”, said David, “but maybe Avreimi did.”
“What do you mean?” asked Yossi.
“Well, maybe Avreimi was here for a short period of time, with a specific 'mission' to accomplish and after he finished his job, he left, disappeared, until he was called on for completing another mission.”
“I don’t understand”, said Yossi. “What do you mean, ‘left, disappeared’? People do not just disappear. Maybe something bad happened to him, God forbid! Maybe we need to call the police! I am worried about him. He was a very special man, and he took it upon himself to help me. I’m not even sure if he was paid regularly, but he was always there for me! Can you imagine the gift of helping someone to learn to read? There is no greater gift! Especially for a boy like me who was put at a table in first grade with toys for little children while the other children learned together! A boy like me who was made fun of for being stupid!” Yossi cried.
Yossi said to David, “I never told you the story about how one day I was walking home with the boys, and they were beginning to read signs and writing on the wall. One boy said, ‘Oh look what this says.’ Everyone stopped and looked at the wall. ‘It says Yossi is a stupid boy who should leave the Cheder and learn how to cook with the girls!’ Everyone began to laugh, even the boys who I thought were my friends! Instead of going home, I ran as fast as I could to Avreimi’s clinic, knocked on the door and fell on the sofa crying. I wanted to run away forever!” Yossi was crying as he told this story to David.
“We have to try to find him!” Yossi shouted.
David tried to calm Yossi down. Then he said to him, “Yossi, we may not be able to find Avreimi. Think about what gifts he gave you. Maybe it was more than teaching you how to read.”
Yossi stopped sobbing and looked up at David. “What are you saying? I don’t understand. What other gifts could he have given me?”
As the expression goes, a light turned on, and Yossi remembered why he was meeting with David in the first place, the laser beam eyes that erased the hateful words on the walls and replaced them with words of loving kindness.
That evening Yossi, David and Yossi’s Rabbi sat in the Rabbi’s office discussing all the events that had happened over the last two months and even before that, when Yossi was learning with Avreimi.
Yossi’s Rabbi turned to Yossi and David and said, “Hashem (God) works in mysterious ways. Many times, He sends people to us who change our lives. Even those who are mean and hateful to us are part of a bigger plan to make the world a better place for everyone. It seems to me, Yossi, that you are a very important part of God’s plan for making our world a better place. Your 'special power', which God willing will always be used for the Good, has the capacity to turn hateful words into words of loving kindness. Imagine if all over the walls of our neighborhood, instead of reading words that caused us to want to separate from or hurt someone who is different, they read words that encouraged us to love one another and therefore look for what we have in common.”
David added, “I think that your Rabbi is right Yossi. We don’t know the reason that you have this special gift, but words are very powerful, and the written word is the most powerful of all words. Written words have built and destroyed nations. They have the power to create or destroy. Reading is the key to entering the world of the written world. It is one of the most precious gifts. All of us remember who taught us to read and the feeling of reading stories on our own. Your Avreimi, gave you an additional gift, a rare gift. You have the power within you to always use it for Good. You have the power to change the world with your words of love and kindness.”
Yossi listened closely to what his Rabbi and David said. He thought about the responsibility he had been given, not just the power. That night, Yossi had a dream. Avreimi came to him in his dream. Yossi cried out, “Avreimi, we looked for you everywhere and we could not find you. Where have you gone? Are you well? Did you give me the gift of the laser beam eyes?”
Yossi had so many questions but finally stopped and listened. Avreimi looked into Yossi’s eyes. “You have done well my pupil”, he said. “I knew that you would work hard on your exercises, and I understood how badly you wanted to learn to read. It wasn’t just so your classmates would stop making fun of you, it was that you truly wanted to read, to learn, to grow. ‘This is a special boy,’ I said to myself. 'This is a boy who could grow up to be someone who will help unite the Jewish people. This is a boy who will be able to control his temper and use all of his gifts for the Good'.”
Then, Avreimi stopped talking, he placed his hands over Yossi’s head, and he gave him a blessing. “Go with God my Yossi. May your light always shine bright and bring light where there is darkness and blessings where there are curses. Always remember that you are loved and that is the power that changed you and will help you to change the world.”
When Yossi woke up that morning, he called David on the phone. “David, Avreimi came to me in a dream. It was he who gave me this power. I must use it carefully and bring light where there is darkness. I hope that we can continue to meet so that you might guide me as I grow and discover what my true purpose here is.”
“With much happiness”, David said. “We will learn together and who knows, maybe someday Avreimi will return, and we will sit with him and learn the true meaning of the words that we read.”
Yossi’s Rabbi called him one evening at home and asked him to come to his office the next day. He wanted him to meet someone.
The next day, after Yeshiva, Yossi went to his Rabbi’s office. The Rabbi opened the door and there, sitting in a chair, was a young man with a knitted Kippa (head covering), a colorful shirt and light pants. Yossi had never seen someone dressed like this in his Yeshiva.
His Rabbi introduced him, “Yossi, this is David. David works with many people helping them to control their emotions, especially anger. I have told David about you and your special ability, and he would like, with your permission, to meet with you for a while, once a week, to help you to develop the skills you need, to be in control of your feelings.”
Yossi looked at his Rabbi, then at David and again at his Rabbi. He was confused that a person, who was not dressed like the Rabbi, seemed to be so respected by the Rabbi. This sense of curiosity encouraged Yossi to want to meet with David and to find out who he was and why the Rabbi was recommending him to help Yossi with his situation.
“If my Rabbi says that you can help me, then I will try”, said Yossi.
“Wonderful”, answered David. “Let’s get started right now!”
Yossi told David what had happened to him and one other time, more recently, when he saw the most hateful words written on a stone wall by his home and once again, he felt the lasers shooting out from his eyes.
“When I regained my eyesight, the words had been replaced by words of loving kindness”, Yossi whispered. “I am just afraid that if I see someone or something happening between people, that makes me angry, I could actually hurt someone with these eyes of mine.”
David listened carefully to everything that Yossi told him. He asked him if he would feel comfortable showing him some of the places where he thought that he had changed the writing on the wall. Yossi was less enthusiastic about walking around his neighborhood with David as people might stare at him with this man who is not a part of their community.
“Yossi, you could give me a tour of your neighborhood, as if I were a tourist here.” David realized that Yossi might feel uncomfortable walking around with him.
“Ok”, said Yossi. “We can try it. If someone asks me, I will say that I am just showing you around.”
Yossi and David left the Yeshiva and began their “tour” of the neighborhood. The first place they went, David saw what was written on the wall and it was words of kindness, which expressed love for your neighbor. The
next place Yossi took him, the words on the wall had been painted over. There wasn’t anything written in its place, but they were simply covered with white paint.
The third place, there was writing on the wall; however, as they came closer, they could see that the writing was in red paint. It was covering something written in black paint. The words were evil and hateful. As Yossi stared at the red letters and read them slowly, he began to shake.
David watched what was happening but decided not to interfere and to let Yossi continue. Yossi stepped back and his eyes began to turn red, like the letters on the wall. White light beams began shooting from his eyes towards the wall, burning up all the red letters. When the letters were all erased, another beam, more of a yellow light, began shooting from Yossi’s eyes. All the words of hate were transformed into words of love. When the writing was completed, Yossi fell back with his eyes closed. It took a few minutes before he opened his eyes, looked at the wall, then at David, then he began to regain his strength and stand up.
“Yossi”, asked David, “do you remember what happened here?” “Yes,” answered Yossi. “I remember everything. I just am not in control of it.”
David walked with Yossi back to the Yeshiva. They went into the Rabbi’s office and David said to them, “I had a hard time believing what Yossi told me until I saw it happen with my own eyes! Does anyone else know about this, Yossi?” David asked.
“No”, Yossi answered. “But I think it is only a matter of time before someone sees me doing this. Our neighborhood has a lot of people, and it won’t be long before someone sees me, especially since I can’t seem to control this. Can you help me to stop doing this, David?” Yossi pleaded.
David thought for a few minutes. “Yossi, before we can solve this problem, we need to try and understand what exactly the problem is here? On the one hand, what you are doing is actually very beautiful. You are erasing the hateful words on the walls of your neighborhood and replacing them with words of loving kindness. That is not a problem. It is a solution to a problem, of evil words against others! “
Yossi thought about what David said, “yes, this could be good until someone sees me doing it and tells others and I become like a boy with ‘superpowers’ that everyone makes fun of!”
“Well, that is a possibility, Yossi, but there are many other possibilities. You could become someone people admire and look up to for helping to bring a love of one another to our divided community. That is another possibility.”
“Do you think that could really happen?” Asked Yossi.
“It is possible”, answered David. “However, we still haven’t figured out what the problem is that we have here. When I watched those laser beams coming from your eyes, erasing the paint on the wall, and engraving new letters into the wall, I wondered, what would happen if those lasers were aimed at a person and not a wall? Could they injure someone? Does this only happen when you read something that makes you angry or does it happen whenever you are angry? If this only happens when you read something that makes you angry, we just need to make sure that no one is near the letters, but, if it happens any time that you are angry, this is a much bigger problem.”
“How can we find out?” asked the Rabbi.
“We will need to do some experiments”, answered David. “In the meantime, Yossi. Please do not tell anyone else about this. Let’s see what causes these beams to come out of your eyes before we worry about other problems. It was very nice to meet you Yossi. Let’s meet again next week at the same time in my office, which is not far from here.”
“I will take you to David’s office the next time”, the Rabbi said. “We will all work together to try to understand this special gift that Hashem (God) has given to you Yossi.”
Yossi left the Rabbi’s office. He felt better that the Rabbi and David would help him with his “problem”; however, he had a feeling that he was the one who would really have to get this under control and make sure that he would never use this “power” to hurt others. He would pray that Hashem would help him to control his laser beam eyes.
The following week, Yossi went to David’s office after Yeshiva. David wanted to ask Yossi some questions and listen to his answers. They were questions about his family and his friends. Yossi’s favorite games, trips, foods. Then David looked at Yossi and asked, “Yossi, do you become angry easily with family members or friends?” Yossi didn’t even have to think about that answer, “No”, he said. “I am very fortunate that I have a lot of patience with my younger sisters and even the boys in my school who sometimes annoy people. Sometimes I get sad or frustrated. When I couldn’t read in first grade and all the other boys had started reading, I felt frustrated and stupid.”
“What did your parents do?”, asked David. “They sent me to a reading specialist who had me doing exercises with my eye muscles. The problem is with the muscles connecting the eyes to the brain. The specialist had me wear special glasses in addition to doing the eye exercises.”
“Did this help?” asked David
“It did help, but I am still not a strong reader. Reading is hard for me and so often I memorize things, so I don’t have to read the passages or prayers that we say often. Now, however, I notice that I am reading more and more. For example, I read street signs and store signs that I used to ignore. This is why I noticed the hateful writing on the walls in the streets.”
“Let’s go back to how you felt when you became angry after reading what was written on the walls” David asked. “Close your eyes, relax and try to think back to how you felt when you saw those hateful words.”
Yossi sat back in the chair, closed his eyes, relaxed, and tried to put himself back in front of the wall with the words. At first, he couldn’t remember anything. David told him not to try so hard, just let his mind gently think about one of those times.
Suddenly, Yossi jumped up from the chair, looked at David and said, “I remember! I remember that I was thinking about a boy in my Cheder in first grade who made fun of me because the teacher put me in a chair away from all the children reading together and gave me toys to play with, as if I were a child in Gan (nursery school). He would call me names and tell me that I was stupid, and I should go home and learn how to cook with my sisters. I wanted to punch him and yell at him and tell him that he was the stupid one!”
“In our school”, Yossi continued, “if you started a fight with someone you could get hit by the teacher. The teacher would blame me because the boy spoke to me softly, with his hateful words. I was the only one who had heard him. So, I kept my mouth shut, but what I really wanted to do was to keep his mouth shut. Why did he have to be so mean to me, I thought to myself? I started not feeling good and telling my parents that I wasn’t feeling well enough to go to school.”
“What happened then?”, asked David.
“My parents found someone to begin to help me with my reading, after the teacher told my parents that I wasn’t learning and maybe I needed a special school.”
“Did you think about this boy while you were reading the hateful words on the walls, Yossi? asked David.
“Yes. I remember thinking about him and suddenly my eyes became very focused, as they sometimes did while I was doing my eye exercises. The muscles in my eyes became hard and then I felt as if I lost my eyesight. I don’t know how long it lasted, but when it was over, I was on the ground, tired and confused. Then I remembered to look up at the wall and I saw different words from what was originally written there.”
“My first thoughts”, added Yossi, were that I must not have correctly read what was written. However, the next two times, when I saw the writing, I paid special attention and read the words twice, focusing the way the reading specialist had taught me to.”
After listening to Yossi, David had an idea. David had a book in his office of many pictures of people in many situations. In one of the pictures, there was a boy making fun of another boy. David asked Yossi to look at that picture for several minutes. When he saw that nothing was going to happen, his eyes didn’t change and begin to shoot laser beams, he asked Yossi how the picture made him feel.
“I see in this picture what happened to me in first grade. It makes me sad and a little angry too. I am grateful that I can read better now, but I will never forget how hurt I was and how stupid that boy made me feel!” Yossi expressed to David.
“What is interesting to me”, responded David, “is that looking at the picture didn’t cause you to shoot the laser beams at the boy who was bullying the other boy. You expressed some strong feelings about anger and being hurt, but that didn’t result in destroying the picture. That is a good sign”, he added.
“Yossi, this week I would like you to concentrate on your feelings. When you see something happening around you, think about how it makes you feel. If there are things that you see that make you angry, I want you to write them down in a notebook or diary and we will discuss them next week. Do you think that you can do this?” David asked.
“Yes, I think I can”, answered Yossi. He then said goodbye to David and thought about his “assignment” for the week.
(Yossi and the Laser Beam Eyes- part III- will appear next week.)
My Bubie gets upset when she comes to our home in Mea Shearim and sees writing on the walls that say hateful things about other Jews. She knows that most people do not agree with what is written but, every time she comes, the writing is still there. This story is one about the power of words, to hurt or to heal. It is in three parts, one for the next three weeks. My Bubie says words are more powerful than weapons and we must always be careful with how we use them.