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Stories from the Fifth Commandment

Saying Goodbye

A Jerusalemite woman took upon herself the task of caring for her ill and elderly father. The father saw the strain this placed on her and begged her to return home. "If you truly have my honor in mind, I beg you to go," he said. Reluctantly, she did.

Very shortly afterwards, the father passed away. The daughter was inconsolable, blaming herself for having abandoned him and feeling she had caused his death.

R' Aryeh Levine of Jerusalem sought to calm her fears. "Even if you had remained at his bedside, he would have passed away," he told the woman. "A person's years are granted from Heaven. No one lives a moment beyond his time. Had you remained with him in spite of his insistence, you would have felt doubly terrible - first, that you did not fulfill the mitzvah of kibbud av, and secondly, that his anguish over your refusal might have hastened his death. This way at least you know that you listened to his last wish!"

The Missing Chicken

Once, when the Karelitz family sat down to the table to eat, Rebbitzen Karelitz noticed that 7-year-old Avraham Yeshaya was not eating.

"Why aren't you eating?" she asked him. The youngster replied, "I don't have a fork!"

The mother looked back and forth from the child to his plate, from the plate to the child. She suddenly realized that she had also forgotten to give him chicken.

Avraham Yeshaya shamefacedly looked at his mother, but didn't say a word. His mother realized that her Avraham Yeshaya (later to become the Chazon Ish) didn't want to hurt her feelings. Rather than mention the missing chicken, he merely mentioned the fork and let his mother realize what else she had forgotten.

Giving by Taking

R' Menachem Mendel of Vizhnitz, famed author of Tzemach Tzaddik, was accustomed to have his mother safeguard his money. Although in her later years he was her sole source of support, he continued to have her watch his money. Whenever he needed to buy some snuff tobacco, he would come to her home and ask her for some money. "Mother, dear, could you please give me some money to buy tabak?" he would ask her. The great feeling he gave his mother that she still was needed was his way of honoring her.

Graves under my Chuppah

It's an old custom for orphans to visit the graves of their dead parents and invite them to the wedding, but Hadassah and I did not know the location of our dear ones' graves. To travel to Auschwitz was out of the question, so we settled for a "Prayer for the Dead" under the chuppah. As the rabbi slowly read the ketubah, I had time to invite our families in my mind.

I could feel their presence. Father smiled, looking just the way I'd seen him in a dream when I was in Kazakhstan. Mother was so peaceful, her lovely face glowing with love and goodness. Her strawberry-blonde hair had turned silvery-white, and I could see tears rolling down her face.

My little brothers - oh, how I would have loved to embrace them! They were all happy, wishing me "Mazel tov." And then there was Hadassah's family, whom I had never met. In my mind I introduced the two sides.

I addressed my father: "Look at her. She is a pure Jewish soul. All of you are resting in the highest and holiest place, sheltered beneath the wings of the Creator. I wasn't worthy of being with you. You sent me away. Now you've come to my wedding, to wish me and her 'Mazel tov!'"

Cries of "Mazel tov!" rang in the air, and I came back to reality. If I'd told anyone who had joined us at the ceremony, they would surely have thought me crazy. But I've repeated the same invitation at the wedding of each of my children. The feeling of my family's presence is always the same, and the conversation is the same. They come, indeed, to bless us with "Mazel tov!"

My beautiful bride wiped the tears from my face. Little did she know that I had just met her family and mine. She presumed that they were tears of happiness - and she was right.

"Graves Under My Chuppah": Excerpted from Once Upon a Shtetl by Chaim Shapiro, reprinted with permission from Artscroll-Mesorah Publications.

All other stories excerpted from The Fifth Commandment by Rabbi Moshe Lieber, reprinted with permission from Artscroll-Mesorah Publications.

Reprinted with permission from http://www.olam.org.



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