Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

20 Iyar 5762 - May 2, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
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Home and Family
Iyar 100 Years Ago -- Remembering my Father
by Mary Kropman

My father, Yehudah Leib ben Binyomin Shap Hakohen, was born on 4 Iyar in Vilna, one hundred years ago. He was niftar and buried in Cape Town on the 19th of Iyar, 30 years ago and was reburied at Har Menuchot in Ir Hakodesh on the 12th of Iyar, 10 years ago.

My father came to South Africa with his father at the age of eleven. They settled in the Eastern Cape where my Zeida became a trader on a small trading station called Ngwenya. At a very young age my Father joined him in the business and when he married my mother, they bought a trading store in the village Debe Nek where they worked until 1957, when they moved to Cape Town.

My mother passed on 10 years ago and, as she left a codicil to her will that she wished to be buried in Israel, my husband, brothers and I accompanied her to Israel for her burial on 26th Cheshvan.

Prior to our leaving Johannesburg on the motzei Shabbos, Rav Pfeuffer zt"l visited me and asked where my father was buried. When I told him that he had been buried in Cape Town 19 years previously, he said, "You are not chayav, but should move your father to Eretz Yisroel."

While sitting shiva at my daughter's house in Har Nof I told my brothers what the rov had said and both instantly agreed. The necessary arrangements were made. However, the Chevra Kadisha in Cape Town could not give us a date, but they said it would be before the following Pesach.

The week before Pesach they phoned to say that it was not possible as they had six funerals that week and they would exhume my father after Pesach. They also asked if we would mind "to have the remains placed in a child's coffin." I was aghast, but I said to myself, "Hashem please don't let it be like that."

After Pesach we were told that my father had been exhumed and that his remains would be flown to Israel. My daughter and son-in-law went to the reburial. They said that initially it was quiet, but suddenly they heard the members of the Chevra Kadisha, "Er iz a tzaddik! Er is beshleimus! Hitzach der fieslach!"

My daughter said to her husband, "Go and see what is happening." When I asked him what he had seen, he replied "Mom, I have a weak stomach, but I thought they were finished and when I looked they were changing his tachrichim and he looked like the picture on your wall."

I phoned Rav Pfeuffer immediately and he told me that it says in gemora Shabbos that if someone does not get angry, the worms will not eat him. My Father was a very gentle person who did not get angry.

My father was a very honest man. When the black people would come to the shop to sell their wool or birdseed he would be very makpid about the weights with which he measured their produce. He would pay the right price but was sure to see that the scale was correct. When selling them goods he was just as makpid and would rather give the customer the benefit of a little more goods.

I have a beautiful letter from Dreyfus Fichla, a black teacher, in which he testifies to my father's honesty and friendliness.

He was a very honest man and he honored friendship not with whites only but with black people as well. He studied the needs of his customers and extended great sympathy to each and every customer. He was an honest dealer, and very courteous indeed. He used to say "friendship is more than money." He would say that he would rather lose money than lose a friend. He believed that if he had no friends he was a poor man but if he had many friends he was a rich man.

When selling articles to a customer he would never sell what he knew was not quite genuine even if the customer thought it was good. He never sued his customers - oh not once! During World War II we would sit in his lounge listening to the radio news about the war. That was the only European home where we could do such a thing. I never saw him angry and saying bad words to anyone.

I later spoke to Rav Frand about my father and the way he was found, and told him about my father's life. Rabbi Frand turned to me and said, "I am not a chossid but I would like to show you something. He fetched a Chumash and read out the posuk : "Even sheleimoh votzedek -- A perfect and honest weight shall you have, a perfect and honest measure shall you have, so that your days shall be lengthened on the Land that Hashem, your G-d, gives you" (Ki Seitzei 25 :15).

The family was in Israel for my niece's wedding that year and we unveiled the tombstones of my parents. The parsha that week was Ki Seitzei. May Yehudah Leib ben Binyomin Hakohen's neshomoh have an aliya and may he daven on High for Sholom for kol Yisrael until the coming of Moshiach, soon in our time.


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