Monday, September 8, 2008

A Mitzvah with Mesiras Nefesh

Rav Eliezer Rokeach, zt”l, the Rav of Amsterdam, decided to move to Eretz Yisroel and booked passage on a ship that sailed toward the end of the month of Elul. On the first night of Rosh HaShanah, a gale blew up over the sea, and huge waves began to break over the side of the vessel. The storm grew worse as night drew on, and the small ship seemed doomed to never reach its destination. Water was already flooding the deck, and time was short.
The captain approached the holy man in a fearful state, pale and trembling. He begged, “Rabbi, our ship is about to break up and be swallowed by the depths. She cannot last in this wind much longer. Please, pray to your G-d to quiet the storm, because if He doesn’t, we are surely lost!”
Rav Eliezer heard the poor man’s pleas and asked, “Tell me, has the dawn broken yet?”
The ship’s officer answered, “Yes, a few minutes ago.”
Rav Eliezer took the shofar that he had brought with him and climbed out from the hold up to the deck. As soon as he verified that the dawn had indeed come, he immediately blew the shofar. Wonder of wonders! As soon as the sound blasted out into the dawn, the storm stopped and all was perfectly still. Sky and sea were completely becalmed.
The captain fell to the Rav’s feet, praising the G-d of the Jewish people and His faithful servants who saved them all from death at sea.
When recounting this story, the Rebbe of Peshischa, zt”l, would add, “Don’t think for a moment that the gaon would ever have exploited the precious mitzvah and wielded it like some kind of charm. G-d forbid! What happened was that as soon as the captain told him that the ship was about to go down, Rav Eliezer wanted to quickly grab one final mitzvah before dying. That was why he blew the shofar. And HaKadosh Boruch Hu saw his devotion to the mitzvos and repealed the death sentence!”

No comments: