Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Skolya Rebbe and parshas Vayeira

I've been neglecting this site, but plan on writing again. As I was reviewing this week's parsha this incredible story came to mind.

But just some background. The Skolya Rebbe, Rabbi Dovid Yitzchok Isaac Rabinowitz, was known for his great genius and depth in Torah learning, among other things. He had a certain custom at his tishen. Somebody present was chosen to say a pasuk (verse), any pasuk, from the Torah. The Rebbe would instantly begin to expound on the pasuk. He would expound, and he would expound, sometimes for up to two hours. The person honored with giving the Rebbe the pasuk was usually a guest or somebody prominent. The Rebbe never failed to impress, and hold those present at the tish rapt. Once while visiting Ireland the Rebbe was at the home of a prominent Rav. During the course of conversation the Rav said, "why doesn't the Rebbe come clean! Everyone knows that the Rebbe plans which pasuk is going to be said ahead of time." The Rebbe challenged the Rav, and asked for a pasuk. He thought for a second, and said "Reuven, Shimon, Levi, VeYehuda." The Rebbe closed his eyes, and expounded on the verse until the Rav had to stop him at 2:30 in the morning. He begged the Rebbe's forgiveness, who, in turn, said, "I forgive you, but please don't accuse another Jew of lying in the future."

And now to the story: The Rebbe was sitting in his apartment when he heard a truck pull up downstairs. Suddenly, the horrifying sound of boots running through the halls and up the staircase was resonating in the corridors of the building. It was a Nazi raid. Amidst the banging on doors, smashing down of doors, dragging of Jews out of their apartments, horrifying screams and, the incessant sound of boots, the Rebbe, scared for his life, sat at his table and closed his eyes. He began to concentrate on the pasuk, "ve'es ha'anashim asher petach habayis hiku basanveirim mikaton v'ad gadol vayeel'u limtzo hapasach" (and the people who were at the entrance of the house were stricken with blindness, from young to old, and they tried in vain to find the entrance. Shemos 19:11. It refers to the people of Sodom who surrounded Lot's house in order to terrorize him and his visitors, but were stricken were blindness, and were unable to find the door to the house). The Rebbe, with intense concentration, repeated the pasuk over, and over, and over again. The apartment to the right was raided, the apartment to the left was raided, and all Jews had been emptied out of the apartments above and below, and later shipped off to their deaths. This pasuk combined with the Rebbe's shefa (connection) on high saved him from the camps. The Rebbe was later able to escape from Europe with his life.

Just as an aside from this week's parsah, as well, the first Satmar Rebbe was once late for a bris. In attendance was Rabbi Eliezer Silver, who was on a tight schedule that day. The bris was to begin at 9:00 sharp, but the Satmar Rebbe was nowhere to be seen. 9:15 came, 9:30. At twenty minutes before ten the Satmar Rebbe walked in, and with a look of astonishment on Rabbi Silver's face he said to the Rebbe, "what happened to 'vayashkeim Avraham baboker? (and Abraham woke up early in the morning)'" The Satmar Rebbe replied, "it doesn't say how long the 'vayachavosh es chamoro (and he saddled his donkey)' took!!!"

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