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FRUMToronto Articles Parsha Pearls

Devrei Torah relating to the weekly Parsha.

Blog Image: Thoughts.JPG
Vayechi - Reb Shlomo Zalman

This true story occurred in a small town, Radumkann, in Moldavia in about 1860 (educated guess). It was a small town owned by a duke whereby the people in town along with their taxes to the Moldavian government, paid tax to the duke who lived the ígrandí life of the íchattering classí of European nobility - hosting parties etc. in his castle in Radumkann. The Jewish community was so small that they didnít even have a rabbi. The leader of the community was a wealthy merchant named Rí Yitzchok Kuperman. He was a kind, generous and learned man and was worthy of his role. The Kupermans had one daughter who was being raised in the image of her fine parents. One day Rí Yitzchok gets a message that his distant relatives, died in a plague and they had a son who survived. The message inquired as to whether the Kupermans would adopt the boy and raise him. Of course they decided without hesitation to take the boy in and raise him as their own. Both their daughter and adopted son were growing up wonderfully but when the boy turned 14 and the girl was 12, they decided it would be best to send the boy off to yeshiva in Pressburg (the yeshiva of the great Kísav Sofer).   

In the meantime, the duke died and his widow became bored living in the castle as the parties were generally instigated by her husband with his friends. She decided to move to the big city in the region, Dorhoy, to live amongst her upper-class friends. The castle was only used as a summer house. After a few years of this arrangement, the rent stopped being collected and the castle, even in the summer, was left deserted. Then one day a new duke rolled into town and took up residence in the castle; his name - Alesco Gochco - whom nobody had heard of. Going over the books of the estate he realized that the rent hadnít been paid for a while and so he had it collected (the wise Jews of the town had not squandered the money, anticipating this ) and proceeded to have the castle renovated. He was finally ready to begin hosting parties and knowing that he would need all kinds of supplies for his lifestyle, called in the rich Jewish merchant and leader of the community, Rí Yitzchok, to discuss making his various purchases from Rí Yitzchok and the other Jews in town - good deal for everybody, he thought. However, the community found out reliably that Alesco Gochco was in fact an apostate Jew who had converted to Christianity. They decided that they were not going to have anything to do with him - not even accept business from him. Rí Yitzchok therefore, on behalf of the townsfolk, declined the offer of business and told Alesco the honest reason why. Alesco, a bit surprised, simply shrugged his shoulders and said, í fine, thatís your loss and I will do my shopping in Dorhoyí, thus severing all ties with the Jews of Radumkann. ( What was the story behind this apostate ? He was a tailor in Dorhoy and the former duchess was his customer. He was a totally secular Jew and every time she came into his shop, the duchess tried to convince him to convert to Christianity. He always refused saying that being Jewish did not put any restrictions on him as he was secular, and really didnít believe in Judaism or Christianity so why convert ! One day she, in desperation, made him a deal - if he converts she would take care of all the legalities to bequeath to him her estate upon her death. This was an offer he didnít refuse and so after she died and some time to sort out the legalities, ídukeí Alesco showed up in Radumkann). 
In the meantime, the Kupermanís adopted son had reached the age of marriage and Rí Yitzchok sat down to talk about it with his wife. Looking over at her lovely daughter she said," why donít we fix him up with our daughter, she is also ready to get married and we know him and she knows him to be a fine boy and we have received glowing reports from the yeshiva about him !" Rí Yitzchok agreed as he saw his daughter smiling in the other corner of the room, but said that he wanted to get a first-hand report on the boy from the Rosh Hayeshiva. He travelled the next day to Pressburg and brought forth the idea to the Kísav Sofer. The Rabbi told him what a wonderful boy he was and how after a few years of study, the boy would definitely be a shoo-in for a fine Rabbinic post. However the Rabbi told him that since the boy was after all an orphan, he the Kísav Sofer would represent him in the shidduch. He requested a dowry of 10,000 Lei. Rí Yitzchok wholeheartedly agreed and they set the wedding date for Lag Baíomer.
From that day onward, Rí Yitzchokís business took a terrible nosedive. Whatever could go wrong, did, and two weeks before Pesach, unbeknownst to anyone he was almost penniless. The one thing he guarded with his life not to lose, was the 10,000 Lei reserved for the dowry. Suddenly there was a buzz going through town - a little christian boy had gone missing and the rumors were spreading fast that the Jews had kidnapped him and killed him to use his blood for their matzos - a blood libel. Rí Yitzchok, aware of the potential danger of pogrom, immediately went to the local policeman (there was only one), a friend, and told him that this rumor must be stopped or catastrophe could result. The policeman said that he should give him a day or so to investigate. The next day he met with Rí Yitzchok and said, " I am not completely certain ( nudge nudge wink wink )but I think the story is that the local priest, trying to stir up a pogrom, convinced a family to send their son to relatives in Dorhoy, and then to start this rumor. It seems though that the family could be convinced with a little incentive to bring the boy back and thus diffuse the situation - the incentive - 10,000 Lei." RíYitzchok went white knowing that he had no money except for the dowry which he could not afford to part with. He told the policeman that he would return soon and went home to discuss it with his wife. She heard the story and without hesitation told him that they had no choice but to part with the dowry - it was Pikuach Nefesh - a matter of life and death - Hashem would somehow look after them. Rí Yitzchok agreed and took the money, gave it to the policeman, and within 24 hours the little boy was back home and the anger of the masses dissipated and the danger passed.
Two days later, RíYitzchok received a letter from the Kísav Sofer saying that the wedding date was approaching and he expects Rí Yitzchok to come to Pressburg right after Pesach to wrap up the arrangements ($). Rí Yitzchok, now with no money and no dowry could do nothing but ignore the letter. A day after a depressing Pesach, he received another letter which he also ignored. A week later a third letter came stating that if the Rosh Yeshiva didnít hear from Rí Yitzchok within a week he would have to suggest to the groom to cancel the plans for the wedding. Rí Yitzchok was totally stuck and again consulted his wise wife. She said she had no ideas except that the only way they could possibly get that kind of money that quickly was to borrow it from the duke. Rí Yitzchok said "no way, I myself represented the community closing off from all ties with us - now I should beg him for a loan?" She said that was all she could think of. In a terrible quandry, he decided to go see his Rebbe, Rí Avrohom Matisyahu of Shtefinesht. The Rebbe asked him what his plan was and he told him that he didnít have any way of getting such a sum of money so quickly but his wife had this crazy ideaÖ The Rebbe advised him to take his wifeís advice because the gemara says that when it comes to practical down to earth things, we should listen to women over men, especially when it seems like a crazy idea because they are usually planted in our heads by Hashem for a good reason and are not quite as crazy as they first seem. As uncomfortable as it was going to be , Rí Yitzchok followed the advice. The next morning he knocked on the door of the castle and asked to speak with the duke. The duke, surprised by the visit of the leader of the community that scorned him, was nevertheless cordial when he asked what he could do for him. Rí Yitzchok said  " I have come here to borrow 10,000 Lei and to offer my house as collateral - if I donít repay the loan within a year, the duke can have my house ". The duke nodding his head said, "you must have come across a good investment and need some quick cash to take advantage of it". " To be honest,"  Rí Yitzchok said, "it is more personal - I need this for a dowry. I adopted a son years back when his parents died in a plague and we decided that he would be a perfect husband for our only daughter but the boyís representative is demanding the dowry now before the wedding". The duke thought for a minute and told Rí Yitzchok to write up the contract while he went over to the safe and took out three packs of money and put it on the table. Rí Yitzchok saw the packages and protested, "I only asked for 10,000 and you gave me 30,000 - please only give me 10,000 as my house is not worth more than that!" The duke replied, "Itís okay - from your story it appears that if you need the dowry, you probably do not have any money to do any business - so take the 30, use 10,000 for the dowry and use 20,000 to rebuild your business and the collateral will remain the same - donít worry G-D is great ." RíYitzchok shocked to hear this apostate utter the name of Hashem, nevertheless thanked the duke graciously and left. He went the next day to Pressburg, settled the business of the dowry, the wedding was wonderful, the young couple was very happy and Rí Yitzchokís business started to pick up. 
One day, things were going great again, Mrs. Kuperman reminded her husband that it would be the right thing to do to go to the Rebbe and thank him for his sage advice. He went the next day and said to the Rebbe " I want to thank the Rebbe for his advice to go see the apostate". The Rebbe shushed him, "you shouldnít be calling the duke derogatory names like that". Rí Yitzchok didnít understand - " but Rebbe he IS an apostate, no?" The Rebbe replied "no, he has done teshuvah". "What do you mean?" asked Rí Yitzchok. The Rebbe explained, " You came to him and told him your tale of woe and how you adopted a boy and raised him and how you did not have money for the great wedding planned. You touched his heart and he did a wonderful mitzvah of not only lending you what you asked for but being sensitive to your other needs and lending that to you too. After you left his office, he began to think about his life a nd paced all day and continued to pace through his castle that whole sleepless night. The next morning he showed up at my door and said to me he wanted to repent his sins and return to Hashem. He asked me how to do teshuvah. I told him that he had to go into exile, wandering for the rest of his life and he would be forgiven and he accepted my words. But before he left town never to be seen again, he left a little wedding gift," and the Rebbe took out an envelope and gave it to Rí Yitzchok. It was the contract written up for the loan of the 30,000 Lei - considered now paid in full.
Astonished by these turns of events he ecstatically returned home. A week later a lawyer knocked on Rí Yitzchokís door. He was the lawyer in charge of the Gochco estate here to inform Rí Yitzchok that the duke had left the castle and all the grounds to the Jewish community of Radumkann. The community decided to convert the castle into a senior citizen center and hospital, dedicated to Alesco Gochco and Rí Yitzchok donated 30,000 Lei to the renovations and equipment and supplies needed for the enterprise. (and everyone lived happily ever after ) 
The Rebbe had explained to Rí Yitzchok that what turned the duke around to doing teshuvah was the moment his heart softened and he did that great mitzvah. Sometimes when a person is in a situation of almost absolute spiritual darkness, as was the duke, lighting the flame of one mitzvah could ignite that personís soul to break free of the hold that the yetzer harah has on him and run to the light of Torah and Hashem. 
All of us too, go through periods of darkness and despair. Do a mitzvah, even a small one - you never know what good effect it could have on you and your loved ones.

Posted 1/11/2009 12:00 AM | Tell a Friend | Parsha Pearls | Comments (0)

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