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Section: Stories   Category: Story Corner
Over His Dead Body!
It was a hot and sweltering day, thirty five years ago.  I had finished kollel for the morning, and I was on my way home from my kollel in Mea Shearim.  On my way, I passed by Rechov Chana, where one of the Gedolim of the Mussar movement in our generation, Hagaon Rav Chaim Ephraim Zeichik, z”tl, lived at that time.  Rav Zeichik was a towering mussar personality from the previous generation.  He lived in the United States, and later moved to Yerushalayim, where he opened a yeshivah and kollel.  
I was a ben bayis in Rav Zeichik’s house, and I was zocheh to find a special chen
 in his eyes.  He was not zochech to children, and consequently there was no one to help out in his house during his old age.  Instead, his students tried to help out, and I also tried to lend a hand.  
That day, as I hurried home in the heat, I passed by Rav Zeichik’s house, and it suddenly occurred to me to stop by his house, and see if he needed anything.    I climbed the steps to his house and knocked on the door.  At first I didn’t hear anything, and I thought that maybe he wasn’t home.  I knocked again.  This time I thought I heard a weak voice, “Come in.”  Hesitantly, I opened the door, and I gasped.  Rav Zeichik was sitting on his couch leaning, over weakly.  His face was as white as snow, and he was groaning softly to himself.  I was sure that he was in the throes of a heart attack.  
“What happened?” I asked in a panicked voice.  “Should I call an ambulance?  The Rav isn’t feeling well?”
“No! No!” Rav Zeichik answered. “Don’t call an ambulance.  It will pass.”
“But the Rav isn’t feeling well.  I think we absolutely should call an ambulance.”
“Absolutely not!” said the Rav.  “I’ll feel better soon”
“Then maybe a cup of water?”  I said.
“Yes, thank you,” said the Rav.
I hurried to the kitchen and returned with a cup of water.  Rav Zeichik drank, and seemed to be revived by the water.  But I was still sure that the Rav had suffered a heart attack.
The Rav sensed my thoughts and said, “You should be blessed from Shamayim.  You came at the right time, and you revived me.”
“So what happened to the Rav that he felt so bad?”
    “I’ll explain to you, said the Rav, “Sit next to me and I’ll tell you what happened to me.”
    One day, the telephone rang in Rav Zeichik’s house as he was about to leave for yeshivah.  He answered the telephone, and someone said, “Is this the house of Rav Zeichik?  I’m calling from the reception desk of the King David hotel in Yerushalayim.  Can the Rav come to us in a half hour?
    Rav Zeichik said, “I don’t’ understand.  Who’s calling me?”
    “I’m just a reception clerk in the King David,” said the man.  “But we have a guest here from the United States, who says that he must meet with you as soon as possible.  He gave me your number and he asked if you could take a taxi and come here now.”
    Rav Zeichik asked, “And why can’t your guest take a taxi and come here?”
    The clerk replied, “Kavod Harav, this man claims that it will be well worth your time to come.  You won’t regret it.”  The clerk then explained that the guest was an elderly man who was not able to get around easily, and Rav Zeichik agreed to come as a favor.  
    Rav Zeichik arrived at the hotel and the reception clerk led him to the man who had called for him, Mr. Goldblum.  Rav Zeichik recognized him immediately as one of the former congregants of his shul in New York.  Mr. Goldblum got to the point quickly, and told Rav Zeichik that his personal fortune added up to fifty million dollars.  Unfortunately, he had no children to inherit his fortune, so he wanted to write a will leaving all his money to Torah mosdos in Eretz Yisrael.  The problem was that he was completely unfamiliar with the Torah world in Eretz Yisrael, which is exactly why he wanted to speak to Rav Zeichik.  He wanted to appoint Rav Zeichik as the one responsible for distributing the money to whichever institutions he would choose.  Of course Rav Zeichik would be free to take one or two million for his own yeshiva- whatever he saw fit.  
    Rav Zeichik answered, “Why after one hundred and twenty?  Why not today?  We’ll call the yeshivos and distribute the money now.  Leave for yourself two or three million dollars –whatever you need for the rest of your life, and distribute the rest.  I understand that you’re already retired, and you’re not investing in new businesses.”
    Mr. Goldblum retorted strongly, “Rebbi, absolutely not! After one hundred and twenty, I’m ready to distribute all my wealth until the last penny – I won’t need it anymore in the depths of the grave.  But as long as I’m still living, not even one penny of mine will go to tzedaka.”
    Rav Zeichik tried to convince Mr. Goldblum otherwise, promising him that the heads of the yeshivos would show him incredible honor at a lavish banquet, but Mr. Goldblum wouldn’t budge an inch.  He insisted that he would not give any tzedaka while he was still alive.  He recorded Rav Zeichik’s passport number, and told him that as soon as he returned to the States, he would write a will, specifying that he was leaving all his wealth to lomdei Torah.
    Raz Zeichik took another drink of water and continued his story.  “Two hours ago, the phone rang.  Someone spoke in English and introduced himself as a senior clerk in the American consulate in Jerusalem.  He requested that I come immediately to the consulate in East Jerusalem with my American passport.  I ordered a taxi, and I went to the consulate.”  
    “I arrive at the consulate, and the Consul himself was waiting for me impatiently in his office.  ‘Are you Harav Zeichik?  Can I see your passport?’
    “The Consul checked my passport and then asked me, ‘Does the Rav know a man by the name of Robert Goldblum from New York?’  Of course, I remembered the rich American tourist who had called me to the King David hotel.  Five years had passed since then.”  
    “’Mr. Goldblum passed away a few days ago, and left a will in which your name is mentioned.  You surely know this.’”
    “I nodded.  Was it possible to forget something like that?  I realized that the time had come for the Torah mosdos to receive their money, but I wondered how the American consulate was connected to Mr. Goldblum.”
    “And then,” the voice of Rav Zeichik trembled, “the Consul explained to me that Mr. Goldblum appointed me responsible for the distribution of his considerable wealth, and I can sit in his room, while I bring in the people.”
    “‘Which people are you talking about?’ I wanted to ask.  What would the Rosh Yeshivah of Chevron be doing in East Jerusalem, and what would the Rosh Yeshivah of Slabodka be looking for in an office full of Arabs?’”
    “I sat and waited, and suddenly the door opened and before me appeared a group of priests wearing crosses around their necks.  The consul gestured to the priests to sit around the table.  ‘Here is the will of Mr. Robert Goldblum which was written on such and such day in New York and was sent to me to be executed.  Mr. Goldblum leaves all his wealth to institutions where they learn the Bible.  As is known, in the monasteries where these priests are from, they learn the Bible every day or at least once a week, and since Mr. Goldblum…’”
    “’Torah!” I cut him off and cried out in protest.  ‘Mister Goldblum spoke with me on the learning of ‘Torah’ and not on ‘Bible’! He was a Jew, not a Christian, and he surely never dreamed in his worst nightmares that he would  leave his wealth to Christians! There’s a terrible mistake here!’”
    “’There’s no mistake,’ the consul said coldly.  ‘If your friend would have wanted to leave his wealth to only Jews, he would have written this in his will, and he wouldn’t have left the writing and executing of the will to lawyers who are faithful Christians.  And since it’s written here that Mr. Goldblum wants his wealth distributed to those who learn ‘Bible”, and he depends only on Rav Zeichik from Yerushalayim, I summoned you to my office to testify which priest belongs to the monastery with more members.  For example, the priest George, from the Armenian monastery in East Jerusalem, represents only 179 members.  Opposite him, the priest…’”
    “My heart was beating inside me like a hammer.  Another minute and I would have fainted on the floor.  I wanted to scream out, ‘Thieves, robbers’ but only broken sounds came out of my mouth.  I began to stutter and I leaned my head to the side weakly.  The consul saw that I wasn’t feeling well, and he generously ordered me a taxi to take me home.  In his great kindness, he decided to forgo my zechus to choose which monastery the stolen money of poor Mr. Goldblum would be distributed to.”
    “I just now came from the monastery a few minutes before you knocked,” cried Rav Zeichik.  “I felt as if my heart was going to break.  Like a malach from Shamayim, you were sent to me at the right moment to save me.  Oh voi, to where did the money of that poor man go?  Do you understand what happened here?  How much I pleaded with Goldblum to donate his money in his lifetime!  If he would have been zocheh, he would have listened to me and prevented this robbery.  But, he was stubborn and insisted, ‘As long as I’m still alive, I won’t give a cent to Torah.  Hakadosh Boruch Hu said to him, ‘You won’t give in your lifetime? You also won’t give after your death!’  Fifty million dollars to nothingness! To fund priests and monasteries.”
    “Oh, yoi, yoi,” moaned Rav Zeichik, as tears rolled down his face.  “He didn’t have the zechus to give to Torah, he didn’t have the zechus!  You need a zechus to give to Jews learning Torah, you need zechus to give true tzedaka, you need zechus!” (Rav Yaakov Moshe Spitzer) (Yair Weinstock, Hivtachti Venoshati)                

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