Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

7 Cheshvan 5766 - November 9, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family

Please, Hashem, Help Me!

by Yisca Shimony

R' Eliezer Yeruchom's wife stood in her little kitchen preparing breakfast. While her hands were busy slicing the bread, she was wondering what her little son, Yaakov Shaul Elyashar, really preferred to eat. The meager choice consisted of vegetable salad, or bread dipped in spiced olive oil. She stood still, undecided, knife in hand, ready to continue slicing the loaf of bread, but something disturbed her. She looked up suddenly and saw the image of her deceased husband standing by the entrance.

She began screaming hysterically, bringing neighbors rushing from all sides. They shouted verses of Tehillim in an attempt to chase the demon away, but he would not go away. He was desperately trying to tell them something . . .

"Why do you chase me away?" he cried. "This is my home!"

It was then that they realized that the apparition was truly alive; it was R' Eliezer in the flesh, and he was alive and well. They turned to the woman, who was on the verge of fainting, and attempted to convince her that it was, indeed, her husband, returned home safe and sound.

It took a while for the information to register through the cloud of fright and confusion that gripped her but she finally smiled weakly. She looked up at her husband and murmured, "We were told that you had been murdered . . . "


Eliezer Yeruchom Elyashar ended his prayers before the omud and was about to doff his tefillin when armed soldiers burst into the synagogue and dragged him off to the waiting wagon. He screamed for help but the bystanders were helpless to defy the soldiers. He was unceremoniously flung in and the wagon began moving. His parting cry was, "Tell my wife about my arrest."

The wagon drove in the direction of the Safed mountains in the west. R' Eliezer scanned the road ahead, and then looked behind. Was he imagining things? Was there another wagon following in the distance? He prayed and hoped that the person in that other wagon could somehow come to his aid, but the wagon maintained a steady distance, not approaching any nearer.

It was a hot day and he suddenly felt thirsty and faint. He begged his captors for some water. "Where you're going, you won't need any water . . . " he was told curtly.

The wagon reached Acco by afternoon and stopped in front of Pasha Abdalla's palace. R' Eliezer Yeruchom was shoved into the presence of the cruel Pasha, who immediately began screaming at him, "Where is the money?"

"What money?" he asked faintly.

"The money which the rich Chaim Farchi entrusted in your hands!" he ranted, his eyes blazing at the very mention of the Jewish minister he had murdered. R' Eliezer's knees began buckling under him. Was this the fate that awaited him as well?

"I don't have his money," he said helplessly.

"Kill him! He's lying! I know better than to believe him!" The Pasha's eyes glinted with hatred; he unsheated his sword and flourished it in the air but the soldiers knew that if he hadn't beheaded him right then and there, he did not mean to kill him — yet. They pushed him out of the room and led him to the dungeon.

The second wagon, whose driver had followed behind them along the way, arrived just in time to hear the Pasha scream, "Kill him!" He rushed back to Safed and spread the sad news about R' Eliezer's murder. The news was broken to his `widow,' who resolved to dedicate her life to raising her son, Yaakov Shaul, to be a credit to his saintly father.

The Pasha had taken back his words because he wanted the money badly and felt that R' Eliezer was his last chance to lay his hands on the fortune. He hoped that the harsh conditions of the dungeon might make him talk.

Time passed very slowly. The rabbi was sustained by meager portions of dry bread and very little water. He made friends with some of the other prisoners and befriended an Arab who had some money he was willing to lend him. R' Eliezer was able to bribe the guards to provide him with some more food and water.

R' Eliezer took stock of his situation and tried to learn as much information as he could about his surroundings. He noticed that the prison was built on an embankment overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. The steady washing of the waves had a soothing effect on him. Unable to learn or do anything else productive, he studied the motion of the waves and realized that when the tide came in at the beginning of the night, the waves were very high. How could he put this information to good use?

A little more money was able to provide him with some tools to dig a hole under his bed wide enough for him to squeeze through, since the entire castle was built on a flying buttress high above the water. R' Eliezer looked down and was afraid to jump from such a height, but before he could pull himself back, he felt someone pushing his body out . . .

"Shema Yisroel!" he prayed, suspended between heaven and earth, rather, water.

He landed in the water with a plop and was surprised to see that it reached only up to his throat. He moved slowly and carefully along the embankment wall of the prison until he reached the beach. Exhausted, he lay there to rest, but was soon shaken awake by a soldier, one arm grasping him tightly and the other, thrusting a sword tip at his middle.

R' Eliezer was led to an officer's tent where he was accused of spying. The governor of Acco, who had revolted against the sultan, was under siege. The Turkish army had surrounded the city and anyone seen in the vicinity of the army camp was naturally accused of spying.

Not knowing about the revolt, R' Eliezer feared he was in the hands of the pasha's soldiers and kept silent, waiting for the inevitable verdict. The officer looked intently at the wet man and suddenly realized he was wearing prisoners' garb. He began questioning him and learned about the circumstances of his imprisonment and escape. When it dawned upon R' Eliezer that he was not in the hands of the pasha's men, he gained confidence and told the officer all the strategic information he knew and had gleaned while in prison. He offered to help the army conquer the city of Acco.

His scrutiny of the rhythm of the tides had taught R' Eliezer that the walls surrounding the prison, as well as the city of Acco, were frail, weakened by the constant battering of the sea. He told the officer about the low tide after midnight and suggested digging a tunnel under the walls to get into the city.

R' Eliezer's simple plan helped the army and Acco was conquered. As a reward, he was given a cart and horse and a safe escort to his home town. And this is where he appeared before his "bereft" wife . . .

The joy of reunion was great and the sorrow all but forgotten.

Unfortunately, the pasha made peace with the conquering army and he again sought to capture the runaway prisoner. R' Eliezer was warned in time and fled to Jerusalem, which was then under the rule of a different pasha. His wife and son sooned joined him and eventually, little Yaakov Shaul Elyashar became the chief rabbi of the Sefardic community of Jerusalem.

Indeed, the Givat Shaul neighborhood in Jerusalem is named after the esteemed rabbi, Yaakov Shaul Elyashar.


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