title.jpg (23972 bytes) subscribe

Back to This Week's Parsha | Previous Issues


"This is the law of the animal, the bird, every living creature that swarms in the water, and for every creature that teems on the ground. To distinguish between the contaminated and the pure, and between the animal that may be eaten and the animal that may not be eaten" (Vayikra 11:46-47).

Reb Yosef Chaim Zonenfeld ztvk"l once told a story which he heard from his rebby, the Kesav Sofer ztvk"l, son of the Chasam Sofer ztvk"l (Rabbi Moshe Sofer, 1762-1839, born in Frankfurt am Maine, Germany who became Rabbi of Pressburg, Moravia, in 1806).

In the city of Pressburg lived two businessmen, importers and exporters, who were students of the Rav. The two fellows were very successful and owned their own boat with which they personally would go to purchase goods at various ports in the Adriatic Sea.

On one trip, they came close to the shore of Spain where they were arrested by the Spanish guards who suspected them of being one of the many pirate ships which operated in the Mediterranean. They were taken to Barcelona and arrested. At that time, the infamous Spanish Inquisition was still in force (the last recorded victim burned at the stake in Seville was in 1780, and the Inquisition was only officially ended until 1834) and any Jew caught practicing his religion was forced to convert or be tortured to death R.l. Therefore, the two businessmen concealed their Jewishness and introduced themselves as two simple entrepreneurs from Pressburg, Austrian-Hungarian citizens, loyal to the Kaiser, Frantz-Josef. ???? Thanks to the good relations between Spain and Frantz-Josef, the two men were treated cordially and were not kept in jail but each was assigned a customs officer who would accommodate him at his home until the investigation was over, whereupon he would be freed if he were acquitted.

The hosts were quite cordial to their unexpected guests and each was invited to his respective "home" for a festive lunch consisting of meat and wine. However, as the meal was being prepared, one of the hosts noticed that his guest appeared particularly nervous, his facial expressions changing from red to white alternatively, until he appeared to be on the verge of fainting. Suddenly, the host grabbed his guest by the arm and led him down to the cellar of his home, closed the door tightly behind them, and whispered to him the following: "From your discomposure I realized that you are really a Jew and that you are extremely agitated at the possibility that you will be forced to defile yourself by eating non-kosher food, something which, apparently, you have never done before."

The host paused for awhile and then continued, very emotionally. "You should know that I, too, am a Jew, a descendent of the Marranos, and no treife food comes in to my home. Everything that is being served for lunch is absolutely kosher!" In order to prove his unbelievable declaration to the astonished Jew, the officer took out a sharp knife which was concealed in the floor and said, "You see, with this knife I personally shecht (ritually slaughter) all of the chickens which my family eats. So now come with me into the dining room and let us enjoy together our mid-day meal."

One can very well imagine the shock and relief the Jewish businessman felt at this remarkable revelation that he was saved, almost miraculously, from eating treif (non-kosher food).

After a while the investigation was complete and since the two were found to be honest men and all of their merchandise was legal, they were returned to their ship and allowed to travel at their own discretion. The two friends "compared notes," each telling the other of his experiences with their respective hosts and the hospitality they showed them.

You are probably expecting to read that the same thing happened to the second businessman, and what occurred was a double-miracle. This would be a nice, happy ending to this story. But, unfortunately, that was not the reality. The other fellow was forced, against his will, at the risk of losing his life, to completely conceal all Jewish identity. When he heard how his friend was saved from eating treif, he began to cry hysterically at his bad luck that he had to taint his soul with forbidden foods all the time he was there.

When the two finally returned to Pressburg, the second businessman was still upset and depressed about what had happened to him and after saying a quick hello to his family he ran immediately to his revered Rav, the holy Chasam Sofer, to pour out his heart before him and ask, "What sin did I commit that I was punished in such a way, when my companion, a fellow just like I am, was saved miraculously from eating non-kosher?"

The holy Chasam Sofer looked at him compassionately and asked him, "Tell me, my son, can you remember ever in your life eating anything whose kashrus was questionable?"

"G-d forbid, my Master and Teacher," exclaimed the man, astonished at the question. "I am super-strict on all dietary laws, the stringent ones and even the less severe ones. Anything which has even the slightest doubt as to its kosher status can not be brought into my home."

But the Rabbi was obstinate. "Think harder, please. Perhaps you can remember that in spite of your convictions you once ate something that was questionable,"

The man thought and thought. Finally, he began to speak hesitantly. "I do remember, now, something which happened shortly after I was wed. My young wife brought me a chicken which had a sheiloh (a question concerning its being kosher). Since I had just recently finished learning the Laws of Kashrus, and I had just received semicha (ordination), having passed all of the required tests, I ruled that the chicken is kosher. But my bride was not satisfied and took it to an experienced rabbi who was hesitant to declare it kosher. Because of my self-confidence and stubbornness, however, I told my wife to cook the chicken anyway and I ate from it."

"Thatís it!" cried the Chasam Sofer. "I received a tradition from my Rebby, the holy Rav Nosson Adler ztvk"l

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Jerusalem, Israel