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November 28, 2014 / 6 Kislev, 5775
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Rav Akiva Eiger


When the cholera epidemic broke out in Prussia in 1831, Rav Akiva, though of an extremely delicate constitution, often spent whole nights at the bedside of the sick. He promulgated various sanitary laws of behavior, urged the people to boil their water, and through other practices of cleanliness, helped reduce the death toll in Posen and its surrounding communities.

This came to the attention of the Emperor, Frederick William III, who sent a special royal order of appreciation to the rabbi. An emissary of the Emperor came to the rav’s house to deliver this letter of commendation.

Upon entering the house, he was sur­prised to see a large bowl containing torn postage stamps.

“What are these torn postage stamps doing here?” the officer asked.

The Gaon answered, “I receive many inquiries every day from people throughout the country. I usually answer by send­ing them a letter with the proper reply. But sometimes I hear that one of my constitu­ents may be traveling in the neighborhood of the inquirer. So I give him the letter to deliver personally. However, by doing this I am making the government lose money by not purchasing postage stamps for the letter.  Therefore I purchase the stamp and tear it up and in this way the government is not cheated from its share of the delivery of this mail.”

The officer was astounded at such piety, and when he returned to the Emperor he narrated his experiences, pointing out the saintliness of this rav.

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Yonadav was greatly impressed at the vast sums of money the young man had in his possessions.

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“I do nothing worthwhile,” he modestly replied and refused to discuss any of his deeds. For the man was a very modest and humble person.

While he slept, he dreamed of Eliyahu HaNavi, who was trying to awaken him from his sleep.

“I’ll pay you whether you cure her or kill her,” shouted the loyal husband.

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When the soldiers heard this they exclaimed happily: “You mean this is the sacred Jewish fruit? Hurry, get on the horse. You are coming with us to the palace.”

Now let me ask you, what would happen to an infantryman if he deserted his regiment and went to serve in the cavalry? He would be court-martialed, wouldn’t he?”

Dug out beneath his bunk was a little chest which he guarded with his very life. It contained a small Sefer Torah, miniature size, but kosher, and a shofar.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/kidz/tales-of-the-gaonim/rav-akiva-eiger/2011/11/25/

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