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Stories of Yom Kippur


Tales of the Gaonim-logo

On Erev Yom Kippur, the Gaon Rav Atshal of Frankfurt (Tifereth Avraham) would usually permit the eating of every doubtful fowl, which was brought before him to decide. He would make all the doubtful cases kosher.

His Beth Din and his disciples began question his actions.

The gaon replied: “He who makes a kosher fowl treif, incurs the wrath of his fellow man (bein adam l’chavairo), while he who make treif fowl kosher incurs the wrath of G-d (bein adam l’makom). We all know that the sin between man and G-d on the holiday of Yom Kippur will be forgiven but the sins between man and his fellow man, the holiday of Yom Kippur cannot help. Therefore, we have to very careful of our fellow man and not incur his wrath or cause him to lose money, especially before Yom Kippur.”

The Power of Saying Kaddish

The following strange experience is brought down in the sefer Ish Al Hachoma, written by Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld’s grandson who heard it from the rav himself.

In the city of Pressburg there lived a wealthy woman whose husband owned a large estate. Every year, before the High Holy Days the woman would come to the Yeshiva Ksav Sofer and make a large donation requesting that the yeshiva appoint a student to say Kaddish for the orphaned souls who left no heirs. This was also to include the many children who left the religion and did not say Kaddish for their parents. The administration gladly complied.

After a while the woman’s husband died and without his guiding hand the business failed and the creditors took away all of the woman’s possessions. Out of desperation she had to seek employment to support her two daughters. Her daughters were of marriageable age and she needed money to make the wedding and provide for a dowry. But alas she had none, for she barely eked out a living, let alone had any money to spare.

She accepted her bitter lot quietly as she struggled to meet the daily living expenses. But now the holidays were approaching and what aggravated her most was that she could not give any money to the yeshiva, for them to say Kaddish for the orphaned souls.

With a bitter heart she approached the administration, explaining her predicament and pleading with them that they continue the Kaddish even though she couldn’t pay them at the present time. “Somehow, G-d will help and I will be able to give you the money like I used to,” she cried.

The administrators were amazed at the sincerity and piety of this woman and they assured her that Kaddish would continue to be said. With a light heart and a smile on her face the woman thanked them. It appeared as if all her worries were now gone. Forgotten was the fact that she needed a large sum of money to marry off her two daughters and how hard she had to struggle to earn the daily bread. As she walked out of the yeshiva she looked up at the Heavens and exclaimed, “G-d, I did my part, now its Your turn, for You are the Father of orphans and the Protector of poor widows. I have no doubt that You will not let us down!”

Walking out of the yeshiva she suddenly came face to face with an elderly man, with a large snow-white beard, who made a very impressive appearance.

“Pardon me,” he said, as he stopped the poor woman. “Are you the widow of the very wealthy man who died recently?”

“Yes,” she replied, wondering who this man could be.

“I owed your husband money,” he said as he questioned her about her present circumstances.

The woman began to cry as she described her extreme poverty. She explained that creditors had taken how all the money her husband left her away and she didn’t know how she would secure the dowry for her two daughters.

“How much do you need for the dowry and to make the wedding?” he asked.

The woman named a figure in the thousands. The man immediately took out his checkbook and wrote out a check for that sum of money and told the woman to cash it the following morning in the local bank.

“However to make sure that the bank does not question the validity of this check and how you came to receive it, go back into the yeshiva and call out two boys to act as witnesses to this transaction,” he said.

The woman obediently reentered the yeshiva and called out two young men who were told about the entire transaction. “You will also witness my signature on this check and note which I will give to this woman,” he said. He then wrote out a note directing the president of the bank to honor the check and with that he departed.

The woman was too astonished to say another word as she went home. She thought it might be a joke but as she had nothing to lose, she visited the bank the following morning.

When she presented the check and note to the bank teller, he suddenly turned white and with a frightened look told the woman to wait while he presented it to the president of the bank. Entering the president’s office, he gave him the check and note. As soon as he looked at it, the president fell off his chair in a dead faint. The teller rushed out for help and soon the bank was in turmoil. The woman too had become frightened when a guard put her in a room so she couldn’t leave.

After a while the president was revived and he asked to see the woman. “Tell me, who gave you this check and note?” he asked.

“An old man who met mea the entrance of the yeshiva,” she replied. “And the two yeshiva boys will testify to this.”

“Could you identify the man if I showed you his picture?” he asked.

“Positively,” she said, “and so will the two yeshiva boys.”

The bank president then showed her a large picture of his father and she positively identified him as the man who gave her the check. Meanwhile the two yeshiva boys were sent for, and they too identified the picture. The bank president then directed his teller to pay the woman the full sum of the check.

He then explained the circumstances to all the people standing around. “This picture,” he said, “is the picture of my father who died ten years ago. Last night I had a strange dream. My father came to me and said in an angry tone, ‘since you married a Gentile woman, you stopped saying Kaddish for me. My soul was tormented and could find no peace until this poor woman arranged that the yeshiva should say Kaddish for all the orphan souls which included me. It was only then that my soul found peace again. Therefore I have repaid this woman. Tomorrow she will come to your bank with a check from me to enable her marry off her two daughters. Honor it so that I can continue to dwell in peace. I awoke in a fright and when I repeated the dream to my wife she laughed at me and she considered it a joke. But now I see that it was all true.”

The man retunred to the ways of his father and his wife converted to Judaism and they became pillars of the community.

“And” concluded the Gaon Rabbi Sonnenfeld, “Who do you think the two yeshiva boys were? I was one of them and the other one was the Gaon, Rav Yehuda Greenwald, later to become the Av Beth Din of Satmar and the author of the sefer, Zichron Yehuda!”

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