Photo Credit: Jewish Press

In Eretz Yisrael, some cities, like Bnei Brak, have mostly religious populations and other cities, like Tel Aviv, have mostly secular populations. And of course, there are also some cities and neighborhoods that are mixed. If a religious family lives in a mixed city or neighborhood, they often have to travel to other cities or neighborhoods for certain items that aren’t available where they live, such as modest clothing and food with excellent kashrut supervision. Often when they do that, they make a large purchase so that they don’t have to travel too often in order to get what they need.

Yaakov and Shira Levi live in ‘a mixed city’ where they learn and work and raise their lovely children in a very happy Torah home. They get along very well with all their neighbors, including those who have a very different lifestyle from them, and when Yaakov gives a weekly evening Torah class to non-religious teenagers from their neighborhood, the class is usually packed. And afterwards many of the boys hang out there so they can speak to Yaakov, ask him questions about Judaism, and about life and bask in the love and care which he exudes, and they so clearly feel.


One afternoon Yaakov and Shira had to travel to another city to do some major shopping for items that weren’t available in their area. The Levi’s children were young and their parents knew from experience that taking them along for the shopping would make everything much harder and more tiring for everyone, so Mrs. Levi asked her twelve-year-old sister, Rina, to come over and baby-sit while she and her husband went shopping.

Rina came, the kids were very happy to see her, knowing that they were in for a fun afternoon, and Yaacov and Shira went on their way. The trip took a bit longer than they expected, which put them a bit off schedule because in addition to wanting to get back to the kids, it was a Monday and that was when Yaakov, at eight o’clock, gave his class to the neighborhood kids. He had already prepared the class and was sure that he’d get back in plenty of time to give it.

They reached their destination, parked and went to the first store. They found what they wanted pretty quickly, the prices were okay, and it wasn’t long before they were out and on their way to the next store. It took a bit longer there than in the first store, but not too bad, and eventually they left with their purchases, and drove to the next store. They went in and were a bit surprised to see how packed the store was and how long the lines were. But they had no choice because they needed a lot of items that weren’t available in their neighborhood, and so they each took a wagon, split up their list and started looking for everything they needed. It was getting close to seven and they still had a lot more to buy.

The lines were quite long and Yaakov realized that if they completed all their purchases, he probably wouldn’t get back in time to give his weekly class. He told that to Shira, saying: “I’ll try to think of someone who can take over for me.” That was obviously not a great idea because Yaakov knew the material he was going to teach and he knew how to share it with his special students. He had a great rapport with them, understood their mindset – even though it was so different from his – and loved sharing Torah with them, seeing their neshamas, their souls, lighting up their faces as they listened and participated with questions and comments. Yaakov knew that teaching them was very important, but what could he do? They still had many items on their lists and the hour was getting later and later.

When he said this to Shira, she thought for a moment – and though the stereotype of a woman is that she loves shopping, she was a deep, sensitive, honest woman, and so she said: “Yaakov, this class is so important to the boys. You’re the only one they have to teach them Torah and you see that lots of them are slowly coming closer and closer to a Torah way of life – or at least they are beginning to understand and appreciate what it means to be religious. I think you shouldn’t get a substitute. I think we should pay for what we have so far and leave so you can give the class.”

It didn’t take more than a moment or two for Yaakov to realize that Shira was right. So they got on line, paid, and started the trip back home. By the time they got close to home it was practically eight o’clock so Yaakov got off at the shul where he gives his class and Shira went on home with a car filled with purchases, looking forward to seeing her kids again.

Yaakov began the class and as he felt the mutual connection with the boys, he was very happy that he took his wife’s advice. During the class he heard sirens outside but he didn’t think twice because there was a hospital not far from there so sirens were not unusual. But then someone burst into the room and told Yaakov that his apartment was up in flames!

Yaakov ran out and raced home, praying all the way that Hashem would spare his family, and as he approached his building he saw firetrucks and an ambulance and a large crowd of people watching as firemen fought the fire. As Yaakov got closer he saw black smoke coming out of his apartment! His eyes darted in all directions, searching for his family among all the people, praying that he would see them outside, safe. As he continued to beg Hashem to save his wife and children, suddenly he heard: “Abba! Abba! Yaakov!” all at the same time, and he saw his precious family half sitting, half lying on the ground, barefoot, stunned, frightened and confused. But baruch Hashem, Yaakov saw with infinite relief that his wife and children were . . . shocked, but alive and well, baruch Hashem!

Yaakov raced towards them and as he embraced his children, Shira told him that when she arrived home, the children were all sleeping, and she thanked her sister and sent her home. And then suddenly Shira noticed smoke coming out from under the living room door. She immediately rushed into the bedroom, woke up, dragged, pushed and pulled her children out of the apartment and down the stairs. As she passed a neighbor’s apartment, she banged on the door and told them about the fire and to call the fire department.

Now, as Yaakov and Shira stood beside their precious children, outside their building and their blackened, still smoking apartment, Yaakov and Shira cried with gratitude as they thought of what might have happened if they had spent more time with their purchases instead of coming back so that Yaakov could teach Torah to young, secular Israeli boys? Would a twelve-year-old know what to do? If she noticed the smoke, she might have opened the door to investigate where it was coming from and what was happening. She could have been overcome by the smoke and the smoke might have spread throughout the apartment as the children innocently slept.

And even if she didn’t open the door, would a twelve-year-old be able to deal with such an emergency and danger properly and quickly? Maybe it’s better not to think of what might have happened, Heaven forbid. Let’s contemplate the fact that Shira was there in time to save her family because she had her priorities straight, and successfully convinced her husband to give his Torah class to a group of secular neighborhood boys, despite the inconvenience of not completing their purchases. What a small price they paid for such a huge mitzvah. And what a great reward they earned. Yaakov and Shira did their best to save the neshamas of Hashem’s precious children, and middah kineged middah, measure for measure, Hashem saved Yaakov and Shira’s precious children.


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Naomi Brudner, M.A., lives in Yerushalayim where she writes, counsels and practices Guided Imagery for health, including for stroke patients.