The rosh yeshiva begged and pleaded with him to please, please meet with the boy. Rabbi Benson felt very badly, but he really didn’t have time. Desperate, the rosh yeshiva asked if he could meet with the boy for just 15 minutes. Rabbi Benson heard the urgency in the rosh yeshiva’s voice and said, “Okay, Rebbe. I will meet with the boy for 15 minutes. Who is this boy that you are so involved with, by the way?” The rosh yeshiva replied quietly, “It’s my son.”
Sure enough, a few minutes after they arrived at their hosts a young man showed up. He was the real deal, completely off the derech, with all kinds of attire that were completely foreign to the community in which he’d been raised. We’ll call him Sam.
Rabbi Benson told his wife that he would be taking the boy to the basement. When the two got settled, the rabbi asked Sam, “What are you passionate about?” to which Sam replied, “The saxophone.”
“Oh, really? Can you get it and play for me?” Rabbi Benson asked.
Sam lived very close to Rabbi Benson’s hosts, so he ran home and got his saxophone. When he came back, he asked Rabbi Benson, “What non-Jewish songs do you know?” Rabbi Benson didn’t really know any. But after thinking hard he remembered a song he knew, called “Lean on Me.” So Sam started to play the song, and the two of them sang it together. They sang and sang, loudly, again and again. That’s all they did. For 15 minutes they sang the song together with feeling. When they finished, Sam gave Rabbi Benson a huge bear hug, and he left. Rabbi Benson rushed to get ready for Shabbos.
Right after Shabbos, the phone rang. Sam’s father was on the line. “Rabbi Benson? Hello. Did you speak to my son about emunah (faith)?
Rabbi Benson replied, “No. Why?”
“Well, did you speak to him about Hashem? Loving Hashem?”
Again Rabbi Benson said, “No. I didn’t speak to him at all. Why do you ask?”
The rosh yeshiva said, “What did you do? Sam came home on Erev Shabbos after being with you and he said to me, ‘Abba. I’m ready to come back. I want to keep Shabbos and be religious.’ What did you do with him?”
Rabbi Benson described what he had done with Sam and explained, “I showed him that I was on his side. That I cared about what he cared about and loved what he loved. That is the big, but simple, secret. The key to our children’s hearts is being on their side no matter what.”