I just heard the most extraordinarily profound story. It is a lesson in emunah that answers so many questions that many of us have. Often we know no answers for decades, and sometimes we will never know the answer while in this world.
But hearing this true story of terrible pain and anguish, will help us to believe, and know that even though it is sometimes unfathomable to us, everything is from Hashem, and everything is for the good.
Rabbi Tzvi Pesach Frank, zt”l, was the Rav of Yerushalayim for over three decades. Once when Rav Yaacov Frank was in the U.S., he went to the Lubavitcher Rebbe who asked him to tell him a story about his grandfather. And he told him this story.
During the time when Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank was the esteemed Rav of Yerushalayim, a very fine and highly respected American family sent their son to Eretz Yisrael to learn in Yeshivat Chevron, in the city of Chevron. But after a while, as they heard more and more news about how volatile and dangerous it was in Eretz Yisrael during that time, and knowing that Chevron was populated by our hate-ridden enemies as well as by Jews, the boy’s parents started to have misgivings about their son being there, and decided to bring him back to the safety of the United States.
They contacted Rabbi Moshe Mordechai Epstein, zt”l, the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Chevron, to tell him of their decision. Rabbi Epstein contacted Rabbi Tzvi Pesach Frank and asked him to write a letter to the boy’s parents to reassure them that the boy was fine and doing well and that they needn’t worry.
Rav Frank wrote a letter to the parents saying that they have no cause to worry because he, Rav Frank, the Rabbi of Yerushalayim, was taking it upon himself to be responsible for the boy’s welfare. He would personally watch over the young Torah student to make sure he would be fine no matter what.
The boy’s parents were more or less reassured, though not completely, because their beloved son was so far away and in such a dangerous place. Yes, everything was quiet now, but who knew what the next day would bring. But with Rav Frank’s promise, and knowing how well their son was doing in yeshiva and how much he wanted to stay and continue learning there, they agreed to let him stay.
And then came the horrible Arab massacre of tarpat, in which sixty-seven innocent Jews in Chevron, including twenty-four pure, innocent, holy Torah students of Yeshivat Chevron were brutally murdered. And that boy, the beloved American son, was one of the holy youngsters who was savagely murdered on that horrific day.
The boy’s family was heart-broken beyond words. And there was someone else who was also deeply heart-broken, who was crushed by that boy’s death. Rabbi Tzvi Pesach Frank. No words could express his agony and pain, and no words could comfort him for he thought and felt that he was responsible for the boy’s avoidable death. Had he not promised what he did, the boy would still be alive.
Rabbi Frank was never the same after that. His heart, his mind, his life was overwhelmed by the tragedy which he felt responsible for. He simply couldn’t be comforted, couldn’t forget and couldn’t forgive himself.
Though he continued with his daily life, his family knew that Rav Frank never returned to being the person he was before that, because his sadness, regret and feelings of guilt weighed so heavily on his crushed heart and mind.
Decades went by and now Rabbi Frank’s grandson, Rabbi Yaacov Frank, who told this story, was in Eretz Yisrael, and he enlisted in the Israeli army. One day while on duty there was a heavy rainfall and the soldiers were told to take shelter until the rain subsided. Yaacov ducked under a rooftop together with another soldier. As they were there for a while, they started talking and when he told his comrade his name, the other soldier asked him if he was related to the Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank, the venerable Rav of Yerushalayim. Yaacov answered in the affirmative, saying he was a grandson and as they spoke, Yaacov told the other soldier about what had happened in Chevron and how ever since then, his grandfather was never the same, so great was his pain.
And then the other soldier, who was an historian who had studied in depth the yishuv in Eretz Yisrael prior to the founding of the state, told Yaacov something amazing. He knew all about the murder of the American student in Yeshivat Chevron, and when he heard how broken Rav Frank was because of the incident, he told Yaacov: “You have no idea how many Jews were saved because of that boy’s death. It wasn’t a death without meaning or value.” Yaacov was astounded by what he was hearing. “What do you mean?” And the soldier continued: “That American boy’s family were highly respected and very well-connected Jews in America. As soon as they got up from shiva, they began to act. They publicly expressed not only their deep sorrow, but their great indignation and rage against the British forces who were then ruling in Eretz Yisrael. There were large numbers of British soldiers and policemen in Chevron when the massacre took place, and yet they did absolutely nothing to save the Jews who were being attacked! They saw what was about to happen and did nothing to prevent the massacre! And when the attacks began, the British armed soldiers and policemen passively watched and still did nothing at all to save any of the Jews, including the twenty-four yeshiva boys who were being brutally murdered!
The soldier continued speaking as Yaacov silently listened. “Again and again the boy’s family publicly voiced their accusations against the British government. As a result of the many public accusations and protests of that boy’s family, the British government removed their government’s representative who was in charge in Palestine at the time of the massacre, and replaced him with someone else, a more decent human being, General Artur Roko, who issued thousands of certificates to enable Jews to leave Poland, extricating them from the Holocaust just in time to save their lives!
Yaacov was awed and overcome by what he was hearing. The soldier continued: “In addition to those thousands of Jewish lives being saved, when those Jews came to Eretz Yisrael, they became soldiers, helping us to free Eretz Yisrael from our enemies. So you see, that boy’s death, as sad and tragic as it was, was part of a larger picture filled with meaning and purpose! His death was the catalyst to save thousands of other Jews, and to strengthen the Jewish presence, and eventually the Jewish rule in Eretz Yisrael.”
Yaacov was astounded. The rain subsided, and when Yaacov went home later that day, he told his wife all that had transpired, and said that he must go now to Yerushalayim to tell all this to his grandfather, Rav Frank. His wife responded: “This is Wednesday and we’re going to Yerushalayim for Shabbos so you may as well wait until then. Why go now?” But Yaacov insisted. He knew how pained his beloved grandfather was and he wanted to share this extraordinary information with him to lessen his anguish and soothe his pained heart. And so Yaacov went to Yerushalayim and straight to his grandfather, and he told him the amazing facts he had heard that all revolved around the tragic death of the American yeshiva boy.
Rav Frank was clearly moved and even shaken by what he had just heard, and then after a few silent moments, he said to his dear grandson: “You have no idea what you have done by telling me this. You have no idea what you have given me.” Clearly a huge burden of guilt, regret and sorrow had been removed from his crushed and weary heart.
That night, Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank’s pure neshama returned to its Creator in Heaven.