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Section: Stories   Category: Story Corner
Once Bitten Twice Wise

Towards the end of the Six Day War, a talmid chacham met an acquaintance on the street in Yerushalayim. The talmid chacham had just flown in from overseas, and he asked the man, "How's the situation here?"

The man answered, "Everything is going to be fine."

The talmid chacham answered, "What do you mean everything will be fine!? I heard there are Russian jet planes which can shoot hundreds of bullets in one second!"

He answered, "Why only Russian jet planes?" What about the British tanks? But when miracles occur, what's the difference if there are Russian planes or British tanks?"

The talmid chacham felt ashamed from the retort of this simple man, who was so full of emunah. As he continued on his way, he met R' Meir Chodosh, the Mashgiach of Chevron Yeshiva. He told him about his encounter, and how this simple man had put him to shame with his strong emunah.

Rabbi Meir responded with a lengthy answer, which included miraculous stories that occurred to him in his lifetime. He said, "We think that the wondrous miracles we witnessed now during the war will be forgotten, but it's not true. The miracles, and the impressions they made on us will remain with us. Something of the nekudas emunah will remain in our hearts, and even in the hearts of those who are not religious."

"Listen to what happened to me tens of years ago in the days of the Russian Revolution. After Czar Nikolai was ousted from power, there was a period of total lawlessness, as one faction after another took control. The streets were filled with stealing, looting, violence, and murder. One of the factions that arose was headed by a man named Petlora; his followers were particularly ruthless, and especially preyed on Jews. Any Jew that ventured into the street was endangering his life, as these ruthless gangsters would murder anyone in cold blood without a second thought. Sadly, many Jews fell into their hands."

"One day, I had to take care of a pressing matter, and I had no choice but to leave the yeshivah. Shortly after I left, one of these murderers grabbed me, and I understood immediately that there was nothing left for me to do but say vidui. He held on to me and roughly dragged me to the police station. I managed to say vidui five times on the way. As soon as we entered the police station, he stood me next to the wall, and prepared to shoot me. He moved two meters backwards so he could aim his gun, but apparently I still was not standing in his line of vision. However, he did not want to move again, and instead screamed at me that I should move and align myself opposite his gun. His screams were blood curdling, and I was truly wanted to listen to him since I had nothing to lose at this point anyway. I knew that these were my last moments on earth, and it made no difference to me if I had to move a few centimeters before my death. The only problem was that my limbs refused to obey me. I was paralyzed from fear, and despite my willingness, I could not manage to move even one centimeter. Meanwhile, the murderer continued to screech and curse at me. ‘No way will I move! You move!'"

"During all this screaming, a small window suddenly opened from the next room, and an officer who sat there asked, ‘Why are you screaming so much?' The murderer answered him, ‘I brought here a Jew to shoot.' The officer shouted at him and said, ‘Leave him alone, let him go!' Immediately, the gangster lowered the gun and said, ‘Go!'"

"I went outside and I said to myself, ‘Ribbono shel Olam, my life was given to me now as a present, like techiyas hameism; I'm like a new creation.' I immediately decided to accept something on myself, and I accepted on myself many resolutions. On my walk back to yeshivah, I already lost half the resolutions, and by time I reached yeshiva, only one of my resolutions remained. Two days later, I forgot even that resolution. As more time passed, I forgot everything, and returned to my normal routine."

"Seventeen years passed, and I was already in Eretz Yisrael. I was in Chevron Yeshivah in 1929, when the infamous pogrom took place. I was barricaded in a room with sixty other men, women and children. The murderers burst in the room, and were slashing heads, arms, and legs. The screams and moans of the murdered and the murderers together shook heaven and earth. I and my friend, R' Binyamin, shaking with fright, fell on the floor, and the korbanos, some of them still wavering between life and death, fell on top us. Eventually, a huge pile of bodies lay on top of us."

"R' Binyamin whispered in my ear, ‘Meir, we need to beg the murderers that they should at least grant us an easy death without torturing us; they shouldn't cut off our arms and legs, they should suffice with thrusting their knives directly in our hearts!' I whispered back to him, "Why are you speaking nonsense? Lie down and be quiet! Hope to Hashem!' He heard me and lay silently, and we lay there until the murderers completed the slaughter and left the area."

"We stood up, looked at each other, burst into bitter crying, and hugged and kissed each other in our great emotion of having miraculously survived the slaughter. In the midst of our great horror and sadness intermingled with simcha and gratitude to Hashem on our survival, R' Binyamin turned to me and expressed his wonder, ‘Meir, when I said that we should beg the murderers to grant us a swift death, I had ample reason to do so. Where did you glean such courage and bitachon to tell me to stop speaking nonsense, lie down and be quiet, and hope to Hashem?! How did you have the koach to say this? Are you truly on such a high madrega?'"

R' Chodosh continued his story, and told the talmid chacham that he answered him with same explanation he was elaborating on now. "I'm not on a high madrega, but I saw with my own eyes, and it was etched in my memory seventeen years ago, ‘Even if a sharp sword is resting on a person's neck, he shouldn't refrain from begging for mercy.' Do you know where I learned this? I learned this from that incident with the Russian gangster! At the moment that I stood against the wall in front of that murderer, and he screeched at me that I should align myself with the gun, wasn't this a sharp sword against my neck? Hashem had rachamim on me, and that day, I truly absorbed the meaning of this passuk." (Shaal Avicha Vyigadcha)

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