Baruch Hashem

    Shabbos Stories for Parshas Shoftim
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Buried like a Rich Man
 
(I don't know if this story is true, but the moral is fantastic!)
 
One of the Reichman brothers passed away this summer, leaving 1 billion dollars.

He left two wills, directing that one be opened immediately and the second be opened at the Shloshim (after 30 days).
Among the instructions left in the first will was a request the he be buried with a certain pair of socks that he owned. The Reichman children immediately brought the socks to the Chevra Kadisha, (Jewish Mortuary) requesting that their father be buried in them. Of course, the Chevra Kadisha refused, reminding the family that it's against the Halacha (Jewish Law), to bury anyone in socks. They pleaded, explaining that their father was a very pious and learned man, and he obviously had a very good reason to make this request. The Chevra Kadisha remained firm in their refusal.

The family frantically summoned the Chevra Kadisha to Beis Din, where the Rov gently explained to them, "Although your father left that request when he was on this world, now that he's in the world of truth, he surely understands that it is in his best interests to
be buried without the socks.
 
Mr. Reichman was buried without his socks.
 
30 days later, the second will was opened, and it read something like this; "My dear children. By now you must have buried me without my socks. I wanted you to truly understand that a man can have 1 billion dollars, but in the end, he can't even take along one pair of socks!
 

Rabbi’s Kidney Donation Inspires Community

Rabbi Ephraim Simon told his nine children that his kidney donation would be their gift to a critically ill man.
Rabbi Ephraim Simon told his nine children that his kidney donation would be their gift to a critically ill man.

So in July, Simon, co-director of Friends of Lubavitch of Bergen County in Teaneck, N.J., gathered his family around him.

“As emissaries of the Lubavitcher Rebbe,” he told them, referring to Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, “we dedicate our lives to helping other people.”

He went on to describe the terminally-ill man he had met earlier, a father of a large family just like theirs.

“By tatte giving him a new kidney, he will live, G‑d willing. This is our gift to him and you are all a part of it.”

Waiting for News

Simon’s journey from community leader to organ donor – the operation took place exactly one week ago – began last year when the 41-year-old rabbi opened a mass e-mail from a woman trying to arrange a kidney donation for a potential recipient. A 12-year-old Jewish girl with the same blood type as Simon’s was succumbing to a terrible disease, and desperately needed a new kidney. The rabbi decided to respond.

“I have a 12-year-old daughter, too,” explains Simon from his home, where he’s in the midst of a two-week recovery period. Having never considered donating an organ in the past, “I was moved to consider testing for her.”

“Let’s see what it entails, and then make a decision,” came the reply from his wife, Nechamy Simon, when he brought it up.

After a few days of intense research, and a careful risk-benefit analysis together, the Simons reached out to the sender of the e-mail, a Jewish woman by the name of Chaya Lipschutz, offering one of the rabbi’s kidneys if he matched as a candidate.

“I cannot let a young girl die, and not do anything,” Simon told Lipschutz.

But the woman informed him that “a donor has already been found.”

Many people would have understandably felt relief at the realization that they wouldn’t be called upon to undergo major surgery. Simon, however, saw things differently.

“I felt like I didn’t act fast enough,” he recalls. “I knew right then and there that if somebody else was in need, I was going to be the one to save their life.”

According to the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, more than 80,000 people nationwide are waiting for a healthy kidney. But last year, more than 4,500 lost their fight for life while waiting.

Simon told Lipschutz, a former kidney donor herself, to keep his name on file and to contact him if another person was in need.

Two months later, the woman called back with news that a 35-year-old mother of two needed a kidney. Simon immediately agreed to undergo tests at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, N.Y., where the woman was being treated. He wasn’t a match.

Then in February, Lipschutz called yet again to ask Simon if he would give his kidney to a single Israeli man in his 30s.

“It wasn’t for a young girl, or for a mother of two,” says Simon, “but one cannot weigh one life over another.”

The rabbi underwent his third series of tests at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan. In the weeks that followed, Lipschutz informed him that should he not be a match for the Israeli man, another person on her list was in dire need of a kidney.

As it turned out, Simon was not a match, but he immediately went to another hospital to undergo tests for the other man, a Satmar Chasid from the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn and a father of 10.

A Meeting of Two Souls

At the kidney clinic of Cornell University, as the rabbi was on his way to have his blood tested, the critically ill man came down the hallway, heading in the opposite direction.

“Excuse me,” said the man, who had heard that a Chabad-Lubavitch emissary had volunteered to donate his kidney. “Are you the one testing for me?”

The two chatted briefly. The man showed Simon pictures of his family and told him a little about the genetic disease that had killed several of his relatives and was destroying his kidneys. Simon assured him that if he were a match, he would go through with the procedure.

A few hours before Passover, both men received the news they had been waiting for. Simon was busy preparing for the communal Seder at his Chabad House when the hospital called.

“Rabbi,” a voice on the other line began, “you are a match.”

Although he and his wife kept it between themselves, their Seder for more than 100 people took on new meaning for them both.

Rabbi Ephraim Simon prays in the hospital.

Immediately following the holiday, Simon called the transplant coordinator at the hospital to set up a series of examinations to assess his fitness physically, emotionally, and mentally as an organ donor.

On May 18, he received the go-ahead. In consultation with the recipient, Simon opted to schedule the surgery immediately following the conclusion of his Camp Gan Israel preschool summer camp.

At Shabbat services that week, he broke the news to his congregation. Seeing his community members as his own family, he wanted to explain to them why he was taking the risk.

Every single person is important, he told them. If an individual is lacking, it is everyone’s job to help him or her. So “in a few weeks, a critically ill Jew in need of a healthy kidney in order to survive will receive one of mine.”

Tears welled up in some of the worshippers’ eyes. One man rushed to the front of the synagogue to embrace his rabbi.

One woman says that because of the rabbi’s sacrifice, she doesn’t feel uneasy anymore when surprise Shabbat guests show up. She now happily prepares extra food.

“I initially had a mother’s natural reaction,” reveals Judy Simon, 61, who at first was very concerned about her son’s long-term health. ”But after doing research, I realized that there is no reason to be.”

After a “heart-warming” meeting with the recipient’s family at the hospital during the procedure, the mother says that it’s “incredible to have a child do this altruistic thing. I feel so honored and blessed to be part of it and to say he is my son!”

Simon went to Cornell University Medical Center the day of the surgery carrying letters and pictures from his nine children. When the anesthesia wore off and he awoke in the recovery room, his wife read the letters to him.

In another room, the recipient was doing so well, that a doctor remarked that if he didn’t know better, he “would have said this kidney came from a brother.”

“I told my children that G‑d could have easily made me ill, and I would have been the recipient,” he says. “Thank G‑d, I was blessed with a healthy family. What better way to thank Him than to use my own health to help somebody else?”

Simon’s eldest daughter, 14-year-old Chaya, says her father’s deed reminds her of a parable she once learned.

“Saving one life is like saving a starfish,” she says. “Even though you cannot save every single starfish, each one that you pick up from the sand and throw back into the sea is a life saved.”

Looking back at the ordeal, Simon – who is quick to emphasize that his wife had as much a hand in donating “their” kidney as he did – hopes that more people will step up and give the gift of life.

“My sacrifice is just a few days of discomfort,” he says. “The reward of saving a man’s life, giving a father his life back, giving a family their father and husband back, outweighs all the risks.

“Not everyone can donate a kidney,” continues the rabbi. “But everyone can reach out to help another person.”

 

A Soldier's Blessing


It was a warm spring day in 1995. Ten years ago. I was in Israel visiting my father, who was 90 years old at that time was and not doing very well. He was seriously ill.

He had been living in Kfar Chabad for a number of years. Now, he was going in for an operation for which he was no candidate. Still, it was the only thing that could possibly save his life. So we went ahead with it.

I was at his side in the empty prep room in the hospital, saying tehilim(psalms) and vidui (final confessional prayers). The room was silent. Just the two of us.

Suddenly—and this could only happen in Israel—someone abruptly swung open the door and jabbed his head in. It was a very be-medaled fifty-something man. A high-ranking officer—a colonel or general, I think—in the Air Force.

"What are you looking for?"

"I'm looking for my friend." Or something like that.

"Would you give my father a brachah (blessing)?"

He laughed.

"I'd like you to give my father a blessing."

He looked very puzzled.

"You're in the Air Force, right? You're prepared, twenty-four hours a day, to give your life to defend your fellow Jews in this country..."

"Of course."

"Then please bless my father. You have a special power. The Rebbe holds the soldiers in the IDF in very high regard. He has said that you have a special power to bless your fellow Jews because of your self-sacrifice to defend the people of Israel."

So he pulled his beret out of his shoulder lapel and put it on his head.

I had him repeat the Priestly Blessing after me, word for word: May G‑d bless you and keep watch over you. May G‑d shine His countenance to you and grant you grace. May G‑d lift His countenance to you and grant you peace....

The man was crying.

I then asked him, "Did you have a chance to put on tefillin today?" No.

So I put tefillin on with him.

I carry a pair of tefillin with me wherever I go. I've adopted the American Express Card motto, "Don't leave home without it!" You never know who might come along—and the power one Jew and one mitzvah can unleash. I ask you: how remote is the possibility of putting on tefillin with a fellow Jew in the empty anesthesia room in the distant corner of an Israeli hospital?

My father shortly went into the operating room. He passed away after the operation, never regaining consciousness. But the very last sight my dear father saw before he left this world was his son putting on tefillin with an Israeli Air Force officer, the symbol of Israel's physical might, but most of all a fellow Jew. Imagine the nachas.

My father may not have survived. But one thing is certain: The officer's blessing and mitzvah of tefillin had power. I'm sure they helped someone, somewhere in Israel, not to mention the powerful spiritual charge to the officer himself.

No Deed Goes Forgotten
 
Once a great Chasidic leader, Rabbi Mordechi of Nadvorna, was on a long train trip with many of his followers. The train made a stop in the city of Niridihous where they had to change trains for their intended destination.

They had been waiting for several minutes when suddenly a young
non-Jewish woman began screaming and wailing, attracting the attention of both passengers and police. It seems that someone had stolen her wallet containing her money and train ticket.

It was usually best for Jews to keep out of the affairs of non-Jews,
especially in this situation when the police were looking for a suspect. So it was a bit strange when Rabbi Mordechai turned to one of his younger Chasidim and ordered him to run to the ticket office to buy a ticket for the woman. He told the Chasid to give her some traveling money as well and not to say a word about where it came from.

The Chasid did as he was told and gave it to the bewildered woman who was literally speechless with gratitude.

Fifteen years passed. The Chasid married had children, the holy Rebbe had passed away and the incident was completely forgotten.

The Chasid had since become a successful businessman and even had non-Jewish friends in high places. Early one morning he received a subpoena to appear in court; he was charged with cheating the government.

The charges were transparently false, the witnesses had obviously been paid, but it didn't help. Suddenly he realized that he didn't have any real friends after all and no one was willing to help him. He ran from office to office and got the same empty sympathetic statements and excuses. Finally he hired a lawyer, prayed to G‑d for a miracle, and went to court.

The pre-trial hearing took less than an hour. He was found guilty of all charges and was to be incarcerated until the trial. The Chasid was desperate. He posted bail for himself and began searching for a better lawyer, but now no lawyer wanted to take his case.

He had no choice but to travel to Budapest where the judge, who was to preside over his trial lived, and try to see him. Maybe he could convince the judge of his innocence. Hastily he packed a bag, took a large sum of money and caught the next train out.

In Budapest the Chasid was in for another bitter surprise. He found out that the judge was a rabid anti-Semite. There was no chance that he would even look at, no less talk to, and certainly not have mercy on a Jew.

But the Chasid did not lose heart, for "everything G‑d does is for the
best" he reminded himself. So he went around the city talking to people until he formulated a plan of action. The Chasid found out that the judge's wife loved fine embroidered linens, especially tablecloths. He would buy the most expensive tablecloth he could find and appear at her doorstep as a salesman. Then, if he could get her interested, he would offer it to her as a gift and beg her to try to influence her husband for him.

It was a dangerous plan, even a bit foolish; she could easily report him to the police. But he had no other solution.

The Chasid spent the entire next morning looking for the most exquisite embroidery in Budapest and finally spent a small fortune on a truly elegant masterpiece of a tablecloth with matching napkins. He went quickly to the judge's home trying to keep as calm as possible. He walked up the stairs to the door, closed his eyes, said a prayer and knocked.

The judge's wife herself opened the door. She looked at him strangely. He tried to begin his sales pitch but the words simply didn't come out. He was trembling, frozen with fear. Suddenly, the woman let out a scream and fainted!

The Chasid's first impulse was to run. If he just stood there they would certainly accuse him of something. But then if he ran and they caught him it would certainly be worse!

Meanwhile, the judge heard the commotion and came running. When he got there and saw the Chasid it was hard to tell who was more astounded. He bent down to his wife, who had regained consciousness,  and asked her, "Are you all right Greta, what happened?"

She opened one eye, looked around and finally pointed at the Jew.
"Yorik, Yorik!" she said, as she rose to her feet. "Do you remember that I told you once, that about fifteen years ago at the train station in Niridihous when I lost my tickets and money an angel came and saved me? Well, this Jew...he has the face just like that angel! It's him!

When the Judge realized that this was the man who saved his wife his countenance changed completely. He invited the bewildered Jew into his home and offered him a reward. When he heard the reason for his visit, he promised him a fair trial. Needless to say the Chasid was acquitted of all charges.

                            MOSHIACH MATTERS

When we reach the month of Elul, we must take stock and ask: Is it
possible that eleven months of this year have passed and Moshiach has not come?! The sum total of our stocktaking is "Ad Masei - Until when must we remain in exile."