Stories Of Greatness

The Mikvah

Among the many decrees that were issued by the evil Nazi government in the ghettos was the...

Read more: The Mikvah

In the early 1970s, the organization known as Hineni was founded by the renowned Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis, who saw the need for an outreach program to assist those in need of escaping the emotional vacuums of their lives. Her popular weekly classes, which focused on Torah teachings and the important things in life, attracted thousands each week.

Aside from the horrendous loss of life the Second World War dealt our people, another disastrous effect of the Holocaust was, for a large portion of survivors, their loss of faith. After what they had been through, they became disenchanted and threw off any semblance of their Jewish past and their lineage. One such man survived World War II in body, but not in spirit. He was “angry” with G-d and vowed to shake off anything to do with religion. After some time in a DP camp, he boarded a ship that brought him to New York, and he settled in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn. He soon married a similarly disenchanted woman and started a family. They had a son who was the apple of their eye, but they were careful to raise him without anything resembling Yahadus: no bris milah, no Shabbos, no Torah!

A young man from a fine family, replete with outstanding midos and a yearning for Torah study, was having difficulty finding a shidduch. It wasn’t hard to figure out why: Although he was an otherwise good-looking boy, he had a bright red scar running down one side of his face. The scar was unmistakable and the moment anyone looked at him, the first thing that was noticed was the big eyesore on the side of his face. Many shadchanim proposed matches for him based on his reputation as a talmid chacham and a fine, upright bachur. However, the moment any girl would take one look at his face, she would invariably become uneasy and avert her eyes. In fact, most anybody who met him for the first time would display the same reaction. No girl would ever agree to go out with him on a second date.

The Midrash (T’hilim 37) describes the famous meeting between Avraham Avinu and Malki-Tzedek (found in next week’s parshah). Chazal teach that Malki-Tzedek was in fact Sheim, the son of Noach, and he told Avraham that it was in the merit of tz’dakah (charity) that they survived in the ark.

A prominent rosh kollel in Jerusalem once came to discuss a pressing matter with the renowned tzadik and Rosh Yeshivah of Porat Yosef, Chacham Rabbeinu Yehudah Tzadkah zt”l. At present, he explained, his kollel was being housed in one of the large synagogues in the city and the avreichim were learning well. The problem was that a number of the synagogue’s gabbaim were threatening to evict them from their sanctuary on the basis that they were tracking dust and dirt into the synagogue every time they walked in, and the gabbaim had no intention of cleaning up each day after the young men. The rosh kollel was in a bind, for he had no other place to go – were they to be asked to leave.

“Rabbi Elazar said: The light that the Holy One, blessed be He, made on the first day of Creation was not that of the sun but a different kind of light, through which Adam could observe from one end of the world to the other. But when Hashem looked upon the generations of the Flood and the Dispersion and saw that their ways were corrupt and that they might misuse this light for evil, He arose and concealed it from them, as it is stated: “And from the wicked their light is withheld.” And for whom did He conceal it? For the righteous people in the future, as it is stated: “And Hashem saw the light, that it was good” – and “good” is referring to none other than the righteous people” (Chagigah 12a).