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Lech Lecha

Hashem said to Avram, "Go for yourself from your land, from your relatives, and from your father's house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation; I will bless you, and make your name great, and you shall be a blessing" (Bereishis 12:1-2).
The true leaders of Israel are a real blessing to the Nation. Their advice is sound and brings us good fortune. But, in order to receive it, we must be subservient to them and do as they say; even when it is inconvenient and, perhaps, painful.

In his new masterpiece, Barechi Nafshi, Rabbi Zilberstein shlita recounts the story of Rabbi Machluf Idan, Chief Rabbi of Jerba, Tunisia, who heard a young boy cursing his friend in the street. The Rabbi immediately approached the fellow and asked for his father's name. The frightened lad began to apologize and explained that he had no intention of saying such a bad thing but that the words had popped out of his mouth unintentionally. The Rabbi replied that if that were indeed the case, then it is an even stronger indication that "deep down inside" the essence of his soul is spoiled and he wanted to discuss it with his father. The child had no choice but to tell the Rabbi who his father was.

Rabbi Machluf went to the synagogue, called the boy's father and reprimanded him for not raising his children properly. At first, the man tried to excuse himself by arguing that it was the boy who had cursed and not he, but the Rabbi insisted that the father is responsible for his child's behavior and is supposed to train him correctly. The Rabbi punished the man by imposing upon him a heavy fine which he instructed him to pay to the local Yeshiva in Jerba.

The father obeyed the Rabbi of his community, paid the fine, and sent his son with the receipt to show the Rav that he had done as he had commanded him. The Rabbi was very pleased and was very warm and affectionate to the young boy who showed real signs of remorse. The Rabbi told him to save the receipt in his pocket because he would need it one day.

Years passed and during the Second World War Rabbi Machluf sent this father and his son to purchase wheat for the community from a faraway city. On the way back home, the two were stopped by a military patrol that demanded that they immediately produce their license to deal with wheat. The father turned white and thought that it was all over for both of them. During war time, the crime of dealing with goods without a license was punishable by death or bitter exile.

Suddenly, the son remembered the receipt he had in his pocket and the words of the Rabbi, many years ago, that he would need it one day. With amazing nerve, he put on an air of confidence and presented the Hebrew document to the soldiers. They couldn't read a word, of course, but the way the boy handed it over to them convinced them that he and his father were indeed "kosher."

The two were freed immediately, because they had obeyed their Rabbi, who had brought them a great blessing.

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Jerusalem, Israel