Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

10 Ellul 5761 - August 29, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








Produced and housed by
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family
Heart and Soul
Classic and Contemporary Tales of the Jewish Spirit

by Susan M. Tenenbaum
reviewed by Sheindel Weinbach

A silky tablecloth gathered in folds around a wine decanter and a single rose. All in various shades of beige. Elegant and classy. A cover to fit this fine book. Both vintage and contemporary. Excellent reading, quality, caliber, yet very comfortable. Not only for leisure but for the needed spiritual boost called for at this time of year: true stories with an impact. Stories whose cud (message) you chew during the day, come back to, mull over and internalize.

Heart and Soul deals with a broad variety of the usual themes: hashgocha protis, prayer, good character traits, hope, reward and punishment, but executed with skill and expertise and a fine-point pen rich with description. The twenty-one stories in this book include both events in modern setting and past history in an appealing style that makes you want to read more, or stop to think. The people are everyday, even in stories which take place a century or two ago, which makes their message all the more real to the reader. The women, especially, are real down to earth characters we can relate to and be proud of. One of my favorites is about Miri Schwartzman whose tenacity through wisdom prevents her husband from running off to America -- and saves his life -- not only his spiritual one.

I have chosen one particular story on prayer as a timely message and a tempter for the readers to get their own copy to enjoy over Chol Hamoed. For the second time round, I am sure...


David Greenspan was a jeweller from Antwerp who often flew to Eretz Yisroel to do business at the Ramat Gan Diamond Bourse. Europeans are used to constant air travel for business, and David made Israel one of his regular stops before traveling to London and sometimes the Americas. This particular trip occurred a few days before Rosh Chodesh Kislev, when the new rain was welcomed, the fallen leaves swept across the pathways, and the freshness of winter began to set in.

On this occasion, David was supposed to meet a certain business colleague who had some unique gems to show him and had promised to introduce him to further business connections that David hoped would prove worthwhile. Arriving at his hotel room, David sat down to relax in an armchair and began to organize his itinerary for the next few days. One of his first actions was to call his colleague's office with the intention of making an appointment. He was in for a minor disappointment, however.

"Mr. Greenspan, Shalom," his colleague's secretary greeted him cordially. "There seems to have been a small misunderstanding about the time that you were due to arrive. My boss thought you would be coming in to Israel at the end of the week. In the meantime, he was called away urgently on other business and cannot see you today."

David was worried -- had there been some hitch in his proposed business deal? He hoped that delaying tactics were not being employed.

It was all from Heaven, David told himself, deciding not to let the matter bother him.

To make the most of his extra time, David drove his rented car to Yerusholayim to visit the Kosel. From there he went to visit his uncle Aharon and his family. The family welcomed the overseas visitor warmly, and David was invited to spend the night with them.

The next day was erev Rosh Chodesh, and David and his uncle went shopping together in the neighborhood of Meah Shearim. The hours flew past without them noticing until Uncle Aharon suddenly caught sight of his watch. He clicked his tongue in dismay. "Look, David, it's getting late. We'd better join the minyon here in the shteiblach for mincha and Yom Kippur koton."

David agreed, and they made their way through the shuk that runs parallel to Meah Shearim until they found the old beis midrash lovingly referred to as "the shtieblach" by the local residents.

The minyon was well attended. David and his uncle squeezed themselves into a corner next to a father and six small boys with long, dark peios. David observed that the boys' trousers were shabby and patched and that some of the children's shoes had been cut open at the toe to allow for growth. It was obvious that the family could not afford to buy new ones.

The little boys davened mincha beautifully together with the rest of the congregation, and as David's eyes lingered again over the family, he noticed that the boys, but not their father, all wore new warm sweaters. It was clear that the father's coat had seen many a year and was quite threadbare.

Putting the matter out of his mind, David focused on the words of the tefilla -- the vidui and slichos of Yom Kippur koton culminating in the acceptance of the yoke of the Heavenly kingdom. Cries of "Hashem Hu HaElokim - Hashem is the One G-d" lifted from the hearts of all those gathered and filled the air to the skies.

When it was over, David drew a deep breath. All around him the congregants were wishing one another "Ah gutte chodesh" and shaking hands in friendship. As the crowd began to stream out the door, David overheard a whispered prayer. He turned back -- the second youngest boy from the family sharing his bench, a small child of about seven, was davening fervently in Yiddish. His father was deep in conversation with another man, while his brothers had dispersed. Only David heard him say, "Hashem Who looks after all of Am Yisroel, after the fathers and the little children, please give us shoes! My Tatte spent all his money on winter sweaters for me and my brothers and sisters, and there is no money left for boots. Now the rain has begun and our feet will get wet!"

David was moved almost to tears by this earnest plea. Approaching the small boy, he bent down and put his arm around him. "What did you daven to Hashem, yingele?"

With the innocence of childhood, the little boy replied, "My Tatte has no more money left for boots for us, so he said that we should daven to Hashem to help us. And that is exactly what I did!"

There is surely a reason why I overheard this prayer today, David told himself. Standing up again, he located the father and asked him to come outside where they would not be observed. In the fast-falling dusk, David pulled out his wallet and counted out several large shekel bills and Belgian francs. "This should help you buy boots for the children and maybe a new overcoat for yourself," he said, pressing the money into the startled man's hand. Before he could protest, David retreated hastily back into the shul in search of his uncle Aharon. He turned his head only fleetingly to shoot an encouraging smile at the father, who stood rooted to the spot in amazement.

"Sie gebentched mit alles -- Be blessed with everything!" was all the poor man managed to say.

David returned to Ramat Gan. The business that he had sought through his colleague came easily into his hands this time, and he clinched a deal worth ten times more than anything he had dreamed of. "Sie gebentched mit alles!" The blessing of the poor father rang in his ears.


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