Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

20 Sivan 5764 - June 9, 2004 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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











Home and Family

The Argument

by Yisca Shimony

Mrs. Eichenbaum was extremely busy. As usual, the farm chores fully occupied her time. Every morning before sunrise, she was up and attending to the milking of the cows, collecting eggs and tending the vegetable garden. These chores busied her early morning hours, after which she went to supervise the kitchen work and the cleaning. She derived satisfaction in efficiently fulfilling her duties, knowing that she was bringing in much of the household's profits. Mrs. E. had little time for idle talk, as every minute counted. The cook and the servants followed her example and the farm ran smoothly. Her husband, R' Eichenbaum, took care of the farm's paper work and still found time to be actively involved in the communal affairs of Lublin.

One bright morning, as Mrs. E. entered the kitchen, the cook turned to her. "Do you know that your husband has been spending all of his time these days with the new rabbi?"

"The new rabbi? There's a new rabbi in Lublin?" she looked puzzled. "I haven't heard about it."

"Oh, yes. Rabbi Meir Shapiro. Your husband is showing him the town and briefing him in on communal affairs," divulged the cook, pleased to have the full attention of her always busy, energetic mistress. She loved to gab, but her mistress never indulged in such talk. She looked intently into Mrs. E.'s face and said mysteriously, "They even say in town that your dear husband presented the new Rov with an impressive gift!" The cook reveled in the gleam of curiosity in the eyes of her mistress.

"My husband gave the new Rov a present and everyone in town knows about it except me?"

"I suppose you're too busy to hear the news," said the cook, trying to appease Mrs. E. whom she greatly admired. She was glad to be the one to fill her in on this important news but felt sorry for her, nevertheless. Surely, she deserved to know what was going on in her own family!

"Well, they say that the empty lot you own on the hill was presented to the Rov, who wants to open up a yeshiva in Lublin. As your husband was showing him around the city, he mentioned that the lot belonged to him and the Rov asked if it was for sale. They say that your generous husband simply gave it to him as an outright gift!"

For a moment, Mrs. E. stood there, quietly digested this information. But then, everyday matters came to the fore and she said, "Hmmm. Well, what shall we have for dinner today? I have much work to do yet and want to plan the menu. Do you have everything you need in the way of supplies?"

The idle talk was over and immediate matters settled. But now Mrs. Eichenbaum suddenly seemed less busy. She went over to the desk in the office where her husband kept his records and paperwork and began searching for something. Apparently finding what she was looking for, she determinedly left the room and went upstairs to her bedroom where she changed from her weekday clothing to her Shabbos dress. She hurried out of the house and headed for the shul. In the back was an office where the Rov of the community sat and heard the questions brought by the townspeople. She knocked on the door and was told to enter.

The new Rov, R' Meir Shapiro, sat by the desk, an open gemora in front of him. "Good morning," he greeted the woman amiably.

"Good morning. I am Mrs. Eichenbaum." She waited to see a reaction and was gratified to see the smile of recognition on his face. Then she continued, "I apologize for disturbing the rabbi but I have something important to say." She laid the paper she was holding in her hand flat on the desk before him. What would he say?

He looked up from the paper and said, "Yes. Your benevolent husband agreed to donate the lot on the hill for the sake of building a yeshiva in Lublin. My stipulation for accepting the rabbinate here was that I be enabled to open up a yeshiva," he explained. The woman before him had a strange expression on her face. Was it... hostility? Anger?

Mrs. E. said quietly, "Kvod harav. This lot belongs to me, too. My husband had no right to give away my part of the lot. This paper proves my ownership and the gift is therefore invalid." The only noise in the room was the buzzing of the flies on the windowpane.

"So you disagree with your husband's action?" he said finally.

"That is not the point. I want to present my claim before a beis din and clarify the matter." Mrs. Eichenbaum looked very determined. The Rov sighed and called in his aide who was sitting in the inner room. "Go to the dayonim of the town and tell them there is an urgent din Torah before me. I would like them to come here without delay. And please summon R' Eichenbaum here, too."

Mrs. E. went outside to await the arrival of the dayonim. She was surprised to see many of the townspeople converging upon the shul. The news must have spread already, probably by the aide who had dropped a word or two about the upcoming din Torah.

The proceedings were transferred to a large room which rapidly became packed with curious spectators. The Rov sat on a podium together with the dayonim and Mrs. Eichenbaum was asked to present her case.

"I was informed that my husband donated the lot on the hill to the esteemed new Rov of our city. Since this lot belongs jointly to us, I contest the transfer of "What do you wish?" the dayonim asked, puzzled. Mrs. E. had the reputation of being a righteous woman, communally spirited, a good wife, a generous person, altogether highly esteemed. The family certainly did not lack money or property, so why should she object to her husband's gift?

"I would like to clarify this matter. I have no objection to giving the lot for this important cause but I do object to the way in which it was given. My partial ownership of the property is clear and legal. Therefore it was necessary for me to have been consulted. My name and signature should have appeared on the document showing transfer of ownership. I demand that the agreement be nullified and a new one drawn up. It should include my name as joint owner of the lot. This will make the gift legal."

Everyone heaved a sigh of relief. People nodded and smiled in agreement. Now they understood what the tumult was about. The dayonim did as she had requested and a new agreement was drawn up, including the names of both the owners. The meeting was about to end but Mrs. Eichenbaum had another surprise in store for them. She stated that the dayonim should be paid for their time.

"I was the one who called this hearing and therefore, I should be the one to pay, which I will do willingly." She paused. It seemed as if she was not quite finished yet. People squirmed in their seats with impatient curiosity.

"I also wish to add a clause in the agreement: all the milk which the yeshiva requires is to be supplied by our farm, free of charge, if my husband agrees." Everyone in the room smiled, acknowledging this generous gift as the new clause was duly added to the document.

Word of this incident quickly spread through Lublin and it became the forerunner of many other generous donations that were made to the new yeshiva.

Yeshivas Chachmei Lublin became one of the most illustrious yeshivas to have been built in Europe.


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