Ethics

For the week ending 2 June 2007 / 16 Sivan 5767

How to Relate to Stories

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

Question: My young son has read so many stories about saintly Jews and has asked me whether all these tales of extreme righteousness are really true. I don't want to damage his faith in these great men but I can't really vouch for the truth of every story. What is the right thing to do?

Answer: A story about the Chafetz Chaim may provide the answer.

A young man, Ephraim Lebowitz, had come from Germany to study in the Chafetz Chaim's yeshiva in Radin. He became the victim of a Russian detective who framed him as a German spy during the First World War. The Chafetz Chaim made every effort to see that he be freed from the threat of a death sentence and even came to the trial to testify on his student's behalf.

"The lawyer introduced the Chafetz Chaim as the saintly man who once ran after a thief who had robbed him shouting, 'I forgive you, I forgive you!'

'You don't expect me to believe such a story, do you?' said the judge.

'Believe it or not, Your Honor,' replied the lawyer, 'but you must admit that people don't make up such stories about you!'

Despite all of the Chafetz Chaim's efforts the court sentenced Ephraim to ten years in prison. When he heard the verdict the Chafetz Chaim offered thanks to Heaven for sparing his student's life and then angrily denounced the unfair sentence.

'Do those fools think that their corrupt government will last ten years — or ten months — or even ten weeks?'

Two months later the Czarist government was overthrown and Ephraim Lebowitz was freed from jail."

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