#458 (s5766-48 / 6 Elul 5766)

Pursued by Kindness

"From this moment on we are going to take care of you until a week after the war, no matter how long it might last."


Pursued by Kindness

by Chana Besser

Now that people are home, we're hearing about what they went through while being homeless for a month. I have permission to share this story, as long as I don't use their real name. So let's call this Tsfat family the Levis. In fact, let's call him, a veteran oleh from England, Levi Levi. Why not? It's not his name anyway.


The Levis left Tsfat before the first Shabbat of the war. Their three young children were screaming with every siren and every missile explosion. There were four explosions very close to their house by the time they had left town. Like most of the people who left before the first Shabbat, they hoped it would be safe to come home after Shabbat and took very little with them.

They fled to Tiberias for Shabbat, but four missiles exploded there, one went right over his head. A week later, Netyanya was their fourth city of flight, they had spent the last two nights in unbearable circumstances, and Mr. Levi was sitting in a coffee shop near the beach having a lousy cup of coffee. He was facing up to the reality that they would have to bring the family back to Tsfat and spend the rest of the war in a bomb shelter. It had to be better than the last two nights.

"Anything about Tsfat on the news?" he asked the caf? owner, who had a TV in the shop. The man ignored him.

"Excuse me, did I hear you say 'Tsfat'?" a woman asked him. She and her husband had just walked in from the beach. They were still wearing their bathing suits and a little more clothes over them.

"Are you from Tsfat?"
"How are you doing?" her husband asked.
"I'm down to my last few hundred shekels."
"Is there anything that you need?"
"Yeah, a valium."

"Don't worry," the husband said. "From this moment on we are going to take care of you until a week after the war, no matter how long it might last."

They were true to their word. A wealthy Jewish family visiting Israel from Switzerland, they apologized for not being able to invite the Levi family to share their home. Their apartment in Netanya was full with their family and the wife's parents were visiting too.

They paid for a hotel room overlooking the sea, and catered in two mehadrin (strickly kosher) meals a day. They invited the Levis so that they wouldn't be alone for Shabbat meals, and showed them the kashrut certification from their caterer. In the honor of their religious guests, the whole Shabbat would be catered mehadrin. And no one would turn any lights on or off as long as the Levis were present.

The Swiss couple noticed that Mr. Levi wore the same clothes on Shabbat as he had worn when they had met him. So early Sunday morning, there was a knock on their hotel room door. They had bought them toys and diapers, and a whole wardrobe of new clothes. All the sizes were perfect. The hotel didn't offer laundry service, so the wife came by every two days, picked up their laundry, washed it at her Netanya apartment, and brought it back clean for them.

"Is there anything else that you need?" the husband asked.
"Tefilin. I left my tefilin in Tsfat. We only left for Shabbat."
They borrowed tefilin for him.

On Tisha B'Av, as soon as the fast ended, there was the Swiss couple at their hotel room door with mehadrin pizza and Ben and Jerry's ice cream.

They were doing the same thing for ten different families from the North. A week and a half before the cease fire, their generous Jewish friends returned to their home in Switzerland. Before leaving Israel, they gave the Levi family 900 shekels and the keys to their Netanya apartment, all stocked up full of food and new bottles of shampoo and everything else they might need.

Levi was happy to bring his family home as soon as the cease fire began. He looked at his almost empty wallet, thought about the bills that would be waiting for him, his business that had been closed for a month, and forced himself to make a vow anyway. It wasn't much, but just to show his appreciation for how Hashem had sent him so much kindness from another Jew whom he didn't even know, he told himself he would give fifty shekels to the first soldier he saw in Tsfat.

"I don't need it!" the soldier protested. He was a reservist going home.
"Then give it to the first soldier you see who does need it," he pushed the fifty shekels on the reservist. Under those conditions, the reservist took his fifty shekels.

"How'd you like a shwarma?" he asked two English speakers he recognized on the street. They looked hungry.

After he bought them shwarmas, Levi was walking home. "Do you want 10 mehadrin glatt frozen chickens?" a friend offered him.

"Hashem, thank you! That's a really fast return on an investment for two shwarmas," he thought, carrying home a freezer compartment full of fowl.

His second day back home Levi opened his shop. An American tourist came in.

"How's business?"
"It's bad. Really bad."
The tourist gave him $500 cash.

Immediately he gave the ma'aser on the $500 to his employee. Levi felt terrible that he hadn't been able to pay him for a month.

The next day an American woman came into his shop.
"I have some tzedaka for families in the North. Does anybody need it?"
"My employee," Levi said. "I couldn't pay him for the whole war."
She gave his employee $300.

Two days later, the lady came back to Levi's shop. "I was thinking about how you put your employee before yourself," she said as she gave him $300. "So I came back today with money for you, too."


Adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from a pre-publication version of Faith Under Fire: 33 Days of Missles and Miracles: Eyewitness accounts and personal stories of Israel's Northern War (Feldheim).

Chana Besser was born in post-war Germany, grew up in Chicago, and raised her daughters in Denver, Colorado. She made aliyah in 1995 to Safed, where she teaches, learns Torah and occasionally writes.

Yrachmiel Tilles is co-founder and associate director of Ascent-of-Safed, and editor of Ascent Quarterly and the AscentOfSafed.com and KabbalaOnline.org websites. He has hundreds of published stories to his credit.

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