Parshas Lech Lecha
Long Distance Call
Good deeds deserve good dividends, but there is one deed mentioned in this
week's portion that is veiled in anonymity. However, its dividends lasted
so forcefully that the impact was realized almost 500 years later.
The Torah tells us about a war that took place. Avram's nephew Lot was
captured. The Torah tells us "Then there came the fugitive and told Abram,
the Ivri, who dwelt in the plains of Mamre…" (Genesis 14:13) It obscures
the name of the refugee and does not even directly state his message. The
next verse, in a seemingly disjointed manner, tells us, "and Abram heard
that his kinsman was taken captive, he armed his disciples who had been
born in his house -- three hundred and eighteen -- and he pursued them as
far as Dan" (ibid v.14).The Medrash tells us that the refugee was Og, a
giant of a man who escaped an attack on his fellow giants. He informed
Avram that his nephew was alive, albeit taken prisoner with malevolent
intent. He figured that Avram would try to liberate Lot and be killed in
battle. Og would then marry Sora. (Perhaps that is the reason that the
Torah seems to separate what Avram heard from what the refugee told.)
For this piece of disguised information, Og receives a seemingly
disproportionate reward. He is granted not only longevity, as he lived
until the final days of the Jews’ sojourn through the desert, but also the
impact of his deed was so potent that Moshe was afraid to attack him before
entering the Land of Canaan! Imagine. Og lived for 470 years after the
deed, and then Moshe had to be reassured that he need not fear his merits!
Rabbi Berel Zisman, one of the few remaining from his illustrious family of
prominent Lubavitch Chasidim spent a portion of World War II in a
concentration camp in Munich. After the war, he was allowed entry to the
United States, but had to wait in the town of Bremerhaven for six weeks.
During that time he decided to travel to Bergen-Belsen the notorious
concentration camp which was transformed to a displaced person camp to
visit a cousin who was there. Dozens of inmates came over to him with names
of loved ones scattered across the free plains of the USA. They wanted to
get them messages. Berel took their messages. To Sam Finkel from Abraham
Gorecki: "I am alive and recuperating. Please try to guarantee employment
to allow me to enter the US." And so on. One card was for Jacob Kamenecki
from a niece from Minsk. “Please be aware that I survived the war and will
be going back to Minsk."
Armed with lists of names and some addresses, Berel arrived in the US where
he became a student in the Lubavitch Yeshiva in Crown Heights. Knowing no
English, upon his arrival he asked a cousin to address postcards. Each had
a message written in Yiddish "My name is Berel Zisman. I have just arrived
from Europe - and have regards from…"He filled in the blanks and ended the
brief note on each card with, "for further information, I can be contacted
at the Lubavitch Yeshiva, corner Bedford and Dean in Crown Heights."
Rabbi Zisman does not really now how many people received his cards, but
one person who lived in a basement apartment on Hewes Street definitely
did. When Rabbi Jacob Kamenecki, one of the United States' leading sages,
came to the Lubavitch yeshiva looking for Berel Zisman, a war refugee who
had arrived at the yeshiva only a week ago, no one knew why.
Berel was called out of the study hall and met the elderly man, filled him
in on all the particulars about the status of his relative, and returned to
his place. When the young man returned to his seat, he was shocked at the
celebrity treatment he once again received. "You mean you don't know who
that Rabbi was? He is the Rosh Yeshiva of Torah Voda'ath!" Berel shuddered,
feeling terrible that he made the revered scholar visit him. A while later,
he met the Rosh Yeshiva and approached him. "Rebbe, please forgive me, I
had no intention to make you come to me to get regards. Had I known who you
were I would surely have gone to your home and given the information to you
Reb Yaakov was astounded. He refused to accept the apology. "Heaven forbid!
Do you realize what kind of solace I have hearing about the survival of my
relative. I came to you, not only to hear the news, but to thank you, in
person, for delivering it!"
Imagine. Avram was nearly 80 years old, he had no descendants, and the only
link to the house of his father's family -- at least documented as a
disciple of Avram's philosophies -- was Lot. Now even the whereabouts and
future of that man were unknown. And when Og delivered the news of his
whereabouts, perhaps Avram's hope for the future was rekindled. Perhaps his
gratitude toward Og abounded. And though Og spoke one thing, and Avram
heard another, the reward for the impact on Avram's peace of mind was
We often make light of actions and ramifications. The Torah tells us this
week, in a saga that ends five books and some four hundred years later,
that small tidings travel a very long distance.
Dedicated by Mark & Deedee Honigsfeld in memory of Joseph Gross -- Yoseph
Zvi ben Dovid Yaakov 7 Marcheshvan and Bluma Honigsfeld, Bluma bas Shlomo
Chaim 10 Marcheshvan
Linda and Sheldon Pfeffer in memory of Benjamin Levine --Binyamin Ben Zvi
Hirsh -- 11 Marcheshvan
Copyright © 2000 by Rabbi M. Kamenetzky and Project Genesis, Inc.
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The author is the Associate Dean of the
Yeshiva of South Shore.
Drasha is the e-mail edition of FaxHomily, a weekly torah facsimile on the weekly portion which is sponsored by The Henry and Myrtle Hirsch Foundation