Tuesday, March 27, 2007

How the Prisoners Saved Their Rabbi’s Daughter

The blog Heichal HaNegina presents an excerpt from the book A Tzaddik in Our Time: The Life of Rabbi Aryeh Levin by Simcha Raz. Reb Aryeh served as an unpaid prison chaplain in Palestine during the British Occupation, starting in the 1920's. Part of the excerpt shows the kind of relationship that can be built up between a prison chaplain and those they serve. Reb Aryeh's daughter had been struck down suddenly with paralysis:

The next Shabbos the prisoners flocked around him and asked how his daughter was. "As well as can be expected," he said emotionally.
During the Torah reading, an unusual thing occurred during the Mi Sheberach (“may he be blessed”) prayer recited after each of the seven aliyos, in which one asks the L-rd to bless and protect the man just called to the Torah. It is customary that the man called to the Torah pledges a sum to charity.

As Rav Aryeh duly recited the Mi Sheberach for the first prisoner called to the Torah, he was taken by surprise to hear the man announce that he was pledging a day of his life for the recovery of the good rabbi’s daughter. When the time came for the Mi Sheberach of the second called, he announced that he forfeited a week of his life for the sake of the sick woman. The third man called pledged a month of his lifespan; and so it went. At last it was the turn of the seventh man, Dov Tamari, who later became a professor at the Technion in Haifa.

"What is our life in prison worth," he cried, "compared to our rabbi’s anguish? I pledge all the remaining days of my life to the complete recovery of our rabbi’s daughter!"

Rav Aryeh looked at the young man and burst into tears. He was moved beyond words to see how devoted these men were to him and how much affection they bore him. Unable to continue with the prayer service, he shook hands warmly with every single one of the inmates and went straight home.

That evening, after Shabbos, members of his family came to tell him that his daughter was beginning to show signs of recovery: she had started to move some limbs. A few days went by, and her health returned completely, in utter contradiction to the medical prognosis, which predicted a long period of illness and convalescence.

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