All his life, Rav Chaim Kreiswirth zt”l was involved in collecting tz’dakah for the poor and needy and helping other people. In the latter part of his life, Rav Kreiswirth was extremely active raising hachnasas kallah funds for poor orphans, as well as supporting Yeshivas Merkaz HaTorah, where he was the Rosh HaYeshivah. Baruch Hashem, he was quite a successful fundraiser, in no small measure due to an amazing story that he was very much a part of.
During the early months of the Second World War, Rav Chaim fled to Vilna in Lithuania together with thousands of other Jews from Poland. But when Germany attacked the occupying Soviet forces in Eastern Europe and captured Vilna in 1941, Rav Chaim fell into the hands of the accursed Nazis and was shipped off to one of the notorious labor camps. As the story goes, one fateful day, an unfortunate Jew was sentenced to death by hanging, and the night before his untimely demise, he sought out Rav Chaim in the barracks and asked him for a favor. “You look like someone I can trust,” he intoned solemnly.
Rav Chaim listened as the man gave him his name and other identifying information, along with a series of numbers and codes, which represented his secret bank account. “I have a great amount of money in that hidden account. If you survive,” he said in pleading tones, “please find my son Shloime and give him these numbers. Tell him about the account so that he may inherit my vast wealth.” Rav Chaim agreed to the dying man’s wish and burned the information into his flawless memory.
After enduring much suffering, Rav Chaim survived. He moved to the United States and became a rosh yeshivah in Skokie, Illinois. Later, he accepted the position of Rav in Antwerp, Belgium. Wherever he went, Rav Chaim never forgot the dying Jew and his wish. He never gave up trying to find Shloime. Years went by, but the search turned up nothing.
One day, a poor Yerushalmi man came to Rav Chaim, seeking assistance. He poured out his tale of woe while the compassionate Rav listened to his story and asked questions about his family background and where he was from.
The visitor stated that he was a Polish survivor and had arrived in Eretz Yisrael all alone, having lost his entire family in the war. Rav Kreiswirth asked more questions about his hometown, shtiebel, and relatives. The poor man just wanted a donation. He wondered why the rabbi was asking him so many questions. It didn’t take long before he found out.
Rav Chaim jumped up from his chair excitedly. He was convinced that he had found the elusive Shloime, the son of the man who entrusted him with his incredible secret! Rav Kreiswirth had written the information down many years ago, and he asked the man to wait for a moment as he went to retrieve the paper with the bank’s name and account number codes.
“Here,” he said, handing it to the bewildered, middle-aged Yerushalmi. “Many years ago, in the concentration camp, your father gave me these numbers and told me to find his son – you – and give it to him. This is from your father.”
The man took the paper and was speechless. Rav Chaim told him in which city the bank was located and even lent him some money for travel expenses. Knowing the man would not know what to do, he arranged for local lawyers to help the Yerushalmi deal with the bank and prove his identity in order to claim the funds. In the end, it was worth it.
He returned to Jerusalem with $30 million! He was now quite a wealthy man! His father’s inheritance had finally reached him. His gratitude to Rav Chaim Kreiswirth was immense and boundless. Any time Rav Chaim collected money for any need, this man supplied him with the funds and his yeshivah was amply cared for by the generous and thankful Jew.
When Rav Chaim told this story to Rav Gamliel Rabinowitz shlita, the latter was struck by a number of lessons to be gleaned from it. First of all was Rav Chaim’s trustworthiness to fulfill the pledge of a dying man. Second was the hashgachah pratis of a newly rich man and his close friend, a worthy gabbai tz’dakah. The third lesson is that just like this man was so poor and suddenly found himself to be so rich, similarly, any Jew who keeps Torah u’mitzvos but does not see the reward for his actions on this world, will suddenly arrive in the Next World and realize that he is rich! All his efforts down here will pay great dividends up in Heaven, as it says: “Tov li Toras picha mei’alfei zahav va’chesef – The Torah of your lips is better for me than thousands of gold and silver.”