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Moshe said to the children of Gad and the children of Reuvein, "Shall your brothers go out to battle while you settle here" (Bemidbar 32:6)?
When the tribes of Gad and Reuvain requested of Moshe that he allow them to remain in the already conquered lands across the Jordan River, rather than cross the river and inherit land on the other side with everyone else, Moshe suspected that they were selfish and wanted to benefit from the battles which their brothers had already fought for them and not help them conquer the rest of the Promised Land. He therefore reprimanded them and told them that they must always share in their brothers' burdens and help lighten them from upon them.

We are now in the period of mourning for the destruction of the Holy Temples in Jerusalem. The Talmud teaches us that the second Temple was destroyed because Jews harbored senseless hatred towards each other. It has been said that the way to rectify this wrong and merit the rebuilding of the Temple is by practicing "senseless love" towards one another; loving and helping out our fellow Jew, whether or not he or she really deserves it.

Sometimes, in order to free ourselves of our obligations towards others, we convince ourselves that his problems are insurmountable and that there is nothing we can do to actually help. Since this is what we would like to believe, it is not at all difficult to dissuade ourselves from even trying. But the truth of the matter is that if we were to honestly try our best, Hashem just might grant us with tremendous siyata diShemaya - Heavenly assistance - and we may actually succeed in doing what we thought was impossible.

The following moving story, from Aleynu Lishabeach, should teach us how selfless sacrificial acts can affect even the hardest of hearts.

The holy Rebbe of Skulen ztvk"l, Rabbi Eliezer Zyshe Portugal, suffered for many years under the Communist Regime in Romania. Nevertheless, not only did he not succumb to their religious restrictions, he even risked his life many times to help save others from their clutches. Among other things, he specifically dedicated his life to free prisoners from incarceration, which usually included unbearable tortures, which he and his son experienced first hand. One Friday morning, the Rebbe approached Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Horowitz z"l, the Rabbi of a local town, and asked him to assemble all of the townspeople to the synagogue to pray for his welfare. When the Rabbi asked what the danger was, the Rebbe explained that he was about to visit the local Government official to intercede for a family of eight who were arrested several months ago for "crimes against the State." The Rabbi asked the Rebbe what danger was involved. The most that could happen is that the official will refuse the request. The Rebbe explained that he already approached this official a few days ago and he was infuriated that he had come on behalf of "traitors" rather than be concerned for the welfare of the "Motherland." "He pulled out his gun," the Rebbe related, "and aimed it at me. He said that he would not kill me today, since I am listed in the files of the Secret Police as a very fine, ethical person. However, if I ever dare to ask him again to free prisoners, he will finish me off on the spot."

The Rabbi then asked the Rebbe, in light of the situation, whether he was allowed to endanger his life by revisiting the official for that purpose. The Rebbe replied that in the Jerusalem Talmud it is stated that one may put himself in a situation which may or may not endanger his life in order to save someone else whose life is in certain danger. Rabbi Horowitz immediately gathered the townspeople to the synagogue, and all day long they prayed to Hashem for the Rebbe's welfare and that he be successful in his seemingly impossible mission. However, to their dismay, many hours passed and there was no sign of the Rebbe. Everyone was very concerned, and they prayed more and more fervently. Finally, shortly before Shabbos, the Rebbe arrived; his face shining with happiness. He thanked the worshippers for their prayers and told them that as soon as he entered the official's office and presented his request, the madman grabbed him by the throat and threw him down the stairs. However, immediately after that, he gave an order to free the entire family. Apparently he was impressed that the Rebbe had risked his life to save people who were not his family nor in any way related to him. Although this Communist was ruthless, even his heart of stone was moved by an act of greatness, performed by a brave, devout lover of Jews.

May his memory be a blessing for all of Israel and may we be redeemed soon by the hands of Moshiach.

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Jerusalem, Israel