Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman (Nachmanides), known as the Ramban, had a student, Rabbi Avner, who strayed from the path and renounced his religion. Avner became very accepted among the non-Jews and, in fact, became a respected minister.
Wishing to show his contempt for his Jewish roots, one Yom Kippur, Avner sent his emissaries to fetch the Ramban by force. In the presence of his former teacher he slaughtered a pig, cooked it and ate it-all on Yom Kippur!
The Ramban was horrified. "Tell me," he said to his former disciple, "what caused you to renounce your religion?"
"It was a lesson I heard from your very lips!" Avner replied. "One time, when we were studying the portion of Ha'azinu (this week's Torah portion), you said that everything in the whole world and all of the Torah's commandments are alluded to in that portion. I couldn't believe that it was possible. How could the entire universe be contained in such a tiny portion? I came to the conclusion that everything else you taught us must also be false, and abandoned Judaism."
"But it's true!" the Ramban insisted. "There is nothing in the entire world that is not alluded to in Ha'azinu."
"If what you say is true," Avner challenged him, "show me where my name is written in it." The Ramban agreed, and went into a corner to pray. The Ramban then located a phrase alluding to Rabbi Avner's name.
"In Deuteronomy 32:26," he showed him, "take the third letter of every word and you will see your name." Avner read, "Amarti af'eihem ashbitah mei'enosh zichram-I said, I would scatter them into corners, I would make the remembrance of them cease from among men." In Hebrew, the third letters are reish, alef, beit, nun and reish-forming the name R' Avner.
When Avner saw this he became distraught. At once he did teshuva and repented of all his sins. "How can I make amends for all of my transgressions?" he asked his teacher.
"Just do what it says in the verse," Nachmanides replied. "'I would make the remembrance of them cease from among men.' Nothing must remain of your former glory."
R' Avner immediately left for places unknown. In fulfillment of the Torah's words, he was never heard from again.
There is something quite astounding about this story: Why was Avner's name alluded to in the Torah as R' Avner-Rabbi Avner, instead of his simple name? Wasn't he a wicked person who committed appalling sins?
Here, however, the Torah is teaching us the amazing power of repentance. When a Jew sincerely returns to G-d, the Torah honors him. Whatever he did in the past is discounted; it doesn't even matter if his spiritual condition is not presently what it should be. For all Jews will ultimately return to G-d-and are deserving of a title of honor!
Adapted from Hitva'aduyot 5742