Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

7 Nissan 5762 - March 20, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family
What a Miracle!
by Yisca Shimony

Feiga Leah paced back and forth in her little kitchen, as much as its confined space afforded. She was too upset to concentrate upon the tasks on hand, but finally managed to bring herself back to reality and returned to the confines of her small world. With nimble fingers, she reached for two tin plates on a wooden shelf and placed them on the table. She then removed a steaming pot from the crude stove, a contraption heated from underneath by a large tin can filled with lit coals, and ladled some hot soup into them. The soup was beginning to get cold as she stood gazing into empty space, oblivious of the sounds and sights around her. After a few moments, she pulled herself together again and looked at the still steaming soup. She gathered up the tray and hurried into the inner room.

The voice of her husband, R' Zerach Braverman, was not its usual. His Shabbos zemiros lacked their regular volume and zest; it was not vibrant and lively, but rather weak and sad. By contrast, the sound of joyous singing filtered in through the small window, as the traditional tunes of Shabbos were vocalized by their neighbors.

Feiga Leah sighed as she entered the room with the still warm soup. Her husband looked up and noticed his wife's sad demeanor and in a low voice, reminded her, "It's Shabbos. We are not permitted to be sad." She lowered her eyes and blurted, "But what is going to happen to those poor souls? To Reb Leibel and Reb Moshe, to Reb Boruch and Reb Akiva and the other dozen folk like them? They are all so poor. They are homeless, have no one to cook for them, no money to purchase food..." Her voice faltered. "Until now, we were able to supply them with one hot meal a day from our Free Kitchen. What is going to happen now?" At least on Shabbos they were invited to various homes, but what about the coming week?

"Shabbos! Shabbos!," said R' Zerach, shrugging his shoulders. It was best not to dwell upon the dreadful situation, especially when there was nothing they could do, anyway. As if they had not tried everything in their power during the week...

Neither sighs nor tears could help improve the sad condition, and certainly, these were forbidden on Shabbos. They simply didn't have money, and without necessary funds, nothing could be done. The Free Kitchen for the Poor which they had managed to maintain up till then would be shut down. The couple ate the meal in silence.

In the year 5650, a group of Torah scholars came from Europe to settle in Jerusalem, among them R' Zerach Braverman. A talmid of the righteous R' Nochumke of Grodna, he had gone on to study in the famous Volozhiner yeshiva, with great diligence, but upon the death of Hagaon R' Yisroel Salanter and the news of the arrival in Jerusalem of Hagaon R' Yehoshua Leib Diskin, he had decided to come, as well. He and his wife had decided to open a Free Kitchen to ease the plight of Jerusalem's poor and hungry people. And now that they found themselves without any funds, forced to discontinue the Kitchen, they were broken-hearted.

After the meal, Feiga Leah ventured to ask about the future, but R' Zerach only shook his head. It was best not to dwell upon the dreadful situation. R' Zerach went off to the beis hamidrash where he sat and studied, as he did every Friday night, until, exhausted, he would return home very late, or remain to sleep on a bench until the first minyan. But this Friday night was different. R' Zerach sat with the open sefer in front on him, going through the motions, but found himself unable to concentrate. Hard as he tried, he could not muster his usual diligence; his mind refused to deal with the text. In vain did he try to act as if nothing had happened; in vain did he try to banish his worries and replace them with the sweetness of Torah study but there was no escape this night.

Feiga Leah tried similarly to shake off her sad thoughts revolving about her unfortunate neighbors, the poor and homeless, by immersing herself in reading her holy books, the weekly parsha with ivre- teitch translation, the beautiful midroshim and commentaries of her Tzeina Ureina and her techinos prayers. But the miseries of the poor continued to stare her in the eye and her thoughts kept reverting to their lean, stricken figures... She dozed off, book on her lap, dreaming of the poor stretching out empty plates, only to be turned away...

The Shabbos dragged on thus and passed, somehow, for the couple, torn between sad reality and hopes for some sort of a miracle to salvage their Kitchen.

Twilight brought on the first stars and Shabbos was over.

Feiga Leah ushered out her Shabbos with the traditional "Gott fuhn Avrohom" and "Yehi Rotzon" prayers, adding this time a special plea, "Hashem, have mercy upon those poor. Help us find a way to continue to maintain our Free Kitchen... Please bring upon us a good week with good and joyous news." She then davened maariv.

She entered her small kitchen and could not help noticing the huge pots staring at her from their shelves, buffed to a shine, waiting to be used. Her work began on motzoei Shabbos, as she began peeling and cutting quantities of vegetables and soaking them in water until the following morning. It was a labor of love that kept her busy until late in the evening. That was, until this week, when she had not been able to scrape together any money for provisions.

R' Zerach always went to the Kosel on motzoei Shabbos. This time, his prayers were very fervent; they even took on the pathos of erev Yom Kippur. He tried to escape his depressing thoughts as he poured himself into the words of the prayers, which took much longer than usual.

In her kitchen, Feiga Leah was squirming with inactivity. She looked around and decided to keep herself occupied rather than succumb to depression. "Don't I know that everything Hashem does is for the best?" She adjusted her apron and with determination, picked up one big pot, poured some water from a pitcher, took a brush and some sand, and with all her might, started scrubbing its already shiny exterior.

Her mind was busy reviewing all the possibilities. "Where can help possibly come from?" she pondered obsessively. "There are very few rich people in Yerusholayim, if at all. And they have already extended themselves beyond their means, what with donations and loans. Help must come from the outside." She knew that in the diaspora, Jews, especially the rich ones, were doing their best to support the Torah community in Eretz Yisroel, to provide for the scholars who had no source of income, to raise money for hospitals. Still, each town and city had so many poor, widows and orphans of their own to support!

"Only Hashem can help, and only He knows how..." she whispered, half praying, half convincing herself.

She worked for hours, thinking all the while of the various possibilities of reopening the Kitchen, and realizing the impossibility of the situation.

It was close to midnight when suddenly, R' Zerach stood before her, holding something in his hand. He was smiling broadly. "Look! Here is the miracle!" he cried out.

"The miracle? What do you mean?" Feiga Leah couldn't understand why her husband looked so happy. "What are you holding in your hands? Is that the miracle you're talking about? Tell me!" Hope spread its warmth through her heart.

R' Zerach laid the bundle on the kitchen table and told his story. "I stayed at the Kosel until late, praying with all my might. As I passed through Shaar Sh'chem on my way home, I heard my name being called. I looked right and left and finally spied someone standing in the darkness, right by the Gate. As soon as he saw he had caught my attention, the figure moved towards me. I myself am not sure if it was a man or an angel..." he added in a reverent whisper. "He placed this bundle in my hand and said that someone had given it to him to deliver to me, to be used as I saw fit."

"I hesitated, not knowing what to do. I didn't know this man, after all, and was wary. `You ARE R' Zerach Braverman, aren't you?' he asked. `Yes,' I replied weakly, `I am.' `Well, this is for the poor,' he added, making sure that I was holding the package securely."

"Who was he? Did he say his name?" Feiga Leah asked curiously, wiping her hands and drawing near the table.

"No. In the shadow of the Gate, I was unable to see his face. His speech was strange and foreign, like someone from abroad. Most puzzling was that beyond making sure that I was R' Zerach, he didn't ask me any further questions. He just placed the bundle in my hands and disappeared, even before I could blurt out my thanks. I was in a daze, like in a dream. I couldn't move, couldn't talk. I can hardly even remember what exactly happened, the details, the description... Like I said, it seemed like a dream.

"I stood there in a trance for several moments and when I came to my senses, the man was gone. Vanished. And I was left holding this bundle in my hands. Were it not for this bundle, Feiga Leah, I would still say that I had been dreaming..."

"A man or an angel, what difference does it make!" exclaimed Feiga Leah, undoing the string of the parcel to uncover a large sum of money. "Our prayers have been answered! Hashem must have approved of our deeds and sent His messenger in the darkness of night, when we thought all hope was lost..."

The following day, a hot meal was served to dozens of Jerusalem's hungry and homeless, as usual -- if a bit later than usual...


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