Weekly Chasidic Story #1091(s5779-09/27
An Unexpected Gift
'Your flight will soon take off. Just stay out of trouble and make sure to
never come back to India.'
Connection: The murders occurred during the week leading up to Parshat
Todot, this week's Torah Reading
Story in PDF
format for more convenient printing.
An Unexpected Gift
The yeshiva katana (mesifta) in Netanya originally was located
in Hadera. The structure there was one of the worst you've ever seen or even
heard of--the boys were actually making traps to catch mice and rats! Finally
the municipality closed the yeshiva due to faulty kitchen etc., condemned
the entire building, and issued a demolition order.
Then the yeshiva moved to Netanya, into the building of another Hassidic
group. There, too, the conditions were not good. Rabbi Moshe Orenstein, the
Rosh Yeshiva, wanted to purchase a new building, but had no money. A
fund-raising campaign was initiated.
A number of years went by, Rabbi Orenstein saved every penny he could, and
eventually a new building was constructed on a tight budget. In the beginning
of 2016 they entered the new building, even though it was not finished.
This year, Rabbi Orenstein approached three professional tradesmen and asked
for quotes for the construction of an institutional kitchen. One proposal was
significantly cheaper than the others and of course that was the one he chose.
The contractor's builder arrived. A young man covered with tattoos. For three
days he worked non-stop. When he finished, he said to Rabbi Orenstein, "I
see that there are many unfinished things in the structure."
Ornstein said to him, "True, but we don't have the money to deal with
it yet. When we raise the funds we will finish everything that needs to be done."
"Let me do it now. You saw that I was significantly cheaper than the others.
It'll be worth it," offered the builder.
The builder worked for a few more days. When he finished he presented to Rabbi
Orenstein his bill: NIS 200,000.
Rabbi Orenstein paled. He asked about the terms of payment - "How long
can I take to pay it out? How many payments?"
The man stared at the rabbi for half a minute or so in silence. Then he took
out his pen and wrote on the invoice: "PAID IN FULL."
Rabbi Orenstein was amazed and happy, but also confused. "Why are you
The man replied simply, "I am repaying an old debt." He explained:
"Many years ago I lived in India. I was using drugs and also dealing them.
In fact, I was quite a successful trader. But one day they caught me. I was
condemned to a prison sentence of many years.
"One night when I was sitting in despair in my cell, the warden suddenly
appeared and unlocked the door. He whispered to me, 'You have two minutes to
"I stared at him in amazement. 'What? How?'
He pointed to a young bearded man at the end of the corridor and said, 'Stop
talking and go!'
I ran to the man, who was clearly a rabbi. He gave me a plane ticket to Israel,
and told me to run outside and get in the taxi waiting near the gate. 'Your
flight will soon take off. Just stay out of trouble and make sure to never come
back to India.'
"'How can I ever repay you?' I stammered.
"'You do not owe me anything. One day you will do something for Chabad.'"
The man concluded his story by saying, "So now I am repaying the debt
through the Chabad Yeshiva here in Netanya!"
Then he added, "Subsequently I found out that my rescuer was Gabi Holtzberg."*
Rabbi Gabriel Noah (Gabi") Holtzberg was the Chabad representative
in Mumbai who was cruelly murdered in his Chabad House during a terrorist attack
along with his wife Rivka and 4 other people, Bentzion Kruman, Rabbi Leibish
Teitelbaum, Mrs. Yoheved Orpaz and Norma Shvarzblat Rabinovich, on 28 Cheshvan
5769- Nov.26, 2008.
Source: Adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from two English versions
of the story that I received in two different WhatsApp groups. The Hebrew original
was submitted by Chani Dunin, sister of Rivki Holtzberg, to I don't know what
Connection: The murders occurred during the week leading up
to Parshat Todot, this week's parsha
Tilles is co-founder and associate director of Ascent-of-Safed, and chief editor
of this website (and of KabbalaOnline.org). He has hundreds of published stories
to his credit, and many have been translated into other languages. He tells
them live at Ascent nearly every Saturday night.
To receive the Story by e-mail every Wednesday--sign
"Festivals of the
("Under the Full Moon" vol 2 - holiday stories)
is now available
for purchase from ASCENT
* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *
Book 1 of Yerachmiel Tilles's 3-volume set,
"Saturday Night, Full Moon",
is also available for purchase on
back to Top back
to this year's Story Index Stories
home page Stories Archives