Monday, October 18, 2010

A story of one of the heroes of the holocaust, Rav Michoel Ber Weissmandl zt"l: "Had you cried earlier..."

A lesson that many parents should heed.
Cry now - or cry later...                   (Hat tip - SBA News list)
In his sefer Chaim Sheyeish Bahem, Horav Yitzchak Shraga Gross, Shlita, relates a story that occurred concerning Horav Michoel Ber Weissmandel, zl, the Nitra Rosh HaYeshivah, who was known for his tireless efforts on behalf of Klal Yisrael during and after World War II.

Two business partners came and shared with him an all too common tragedy. Each had a son who was prepared to marry out of the faith. The fathers, although no longer observant, maintained a "strict" outlook on assimilation. Shabbos and kashrus represent one thing, but to marry a gentile - that was the bitter end. Needless to say, they were beside themselves with grief.

Rav Weissmandel inquired about the Jewish education their sons had received and how much time the fathers had spent learning with their sons. Regrettably, the story was similar to what had happened to many of those who either settled in communities where there was no Jewish education, or who exhibited apathy and, at times, anger after the war which caused them to sever their relationship with Judaism as a religion.

Rav Weissmandel listened to their story and told them he would like to share a story with them.
After World War I, new territorial borders were set up between communities. In some instances, many regions that had originally been part of one country, suddenly were transformed into two countries.

In one city where there was a large Jewish population, the Jewish cemetery was separated from the rest of the community. Hence, the cemetery was in one country, while the "living" lived in another country. This caused a problem for the Chevra Kaddisha, members of the Jewish Sacred Burial Society. While they waited for all the red tape to be cleared between the two countries, the deceased would remain unburied, which is a violation of Jewish law. Finally, a special dispensation was made for the members of the Chevra Kaddisha whereby they could go right through without being subject to needless time-consuming inspections.

Once word got out regarding the special leniency enjoyed by the Chevra Kadisha, a group of gentile smugglers decided to take advantage of the "burial" laws. They filled a coffin with contraband, posed as members of the Jewish Chevra Kadisha, and smuggled goods into the next country, all under the watchful eye of the inspectors. This ruse went on for months, as the gentile smugglers made a thriving business out of their "burial society".

One day a young inspector became suspicious, because the pallbearers just did not give the impression that they were really sad. "Where are you going?" he asked.
"We are about to bury a fellow Jew in the cemetery," they responded.
"You do not look very sad to me. You have been joking and laughing the entire time that I have been looking at you. I do not think you are going to bury any body," the inspector told them. "Open the casket, so that I can see the body," he challenged.

"No, no, we cannot do that. It would be against Jewish law to open the casket," they countered.

The young officer did not believe them, and he decided to seek out his superior.

The smugglers became disconcerted and started to beg and plead with him not to make them open the casket. Now, the young inspector was convinced that they were lying. He called the lieutenant who had very little patience for this band of crooks.

"Open the casket now!" he said.

The casket was opened, and the deceased turned out to be expensive contraband.

The culprits began to cry and plead for mercy, "We made a mistake. It was the first time. We have to feed our starving families."

They promised that they would never do it again. All of the usual excuses were rendered to cover up their lies - to no avail.

The lieutenant turned towards them and said, "You are right that you will never do it again, because by the time you get out of jail, you will be too old to do anything. It is a shame that you cried too late. Had you cried before when you were carrying the casket, then you would not have had to cry now."

Rav Weissmandel completed the story and looked at the two men, saying, "I wish with all my heart that I could help you. Your tears are very moving, and I am sure they are from the heart. Regrettably, they are too late. Had you cried years earlier, when your sons were growing up, and had you been concerned for their Jewish education, then you would not have to cry now."

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