Weekly Chasidic Story #767 (s5772-46 / 18 Menachem-Av 5772)

One Mezuza -- Two Souls

They warned her that a Jewish student living alone in a French town with a mezuzah on her doorpost is taking a big risk.

Connection: Weekly reading - the mitzvah of mezuzah: Deut. 11:20(+21).


One Mezuza -- Two Souls

In the 1970's, which is when Perla Cohen took her first steps towards becoming closer to Judaism, she was a student of economics at the University of Lyon. She joined one of the classes that the original local representative of the Lubavitcher Rebbe in Lyon, Rabbi Shmuel Gurewich, held on the campus once a week for several other girl students. Since her family lived out of town, she was frequently invited to stay for Shabbat in the house of the Gurewich family and over a period of time she developed a strong and close relationship with Mrs. Gurewich.

On the other hand, she was in no hurry to make a firm commitment to the path of Torah and Mitzvot, despite the numerous study sessions in which she participated. A long period of time would pass between her deciding to keep one mitzvah and taking another upon herself.

Finally the time came for affixing a mezuzah on the door of her home. Responding to the explicit request of Mrs. Gurewich, she agreed to affix a mezuzah at the entrance to her 2nd floor studio apartment. However, after a few weeks Perla Cohen decided to take it down. Some girlfriends had visited her and warned that a Jewish student living alone in a French town, announcing to everybody by means of a mezuzah on her doorpost that she is Jewish, is taking a big risk in these days.

These frightening warnings had their effect on her and one day she took away the "security risk" from the entrance to her apartment.

About two weeks later she found a note from the post office on her front door. The note stated that a package had arrived for her, but since she was not at home, the package had been delivered to the neighbor upstairs on the fifth floor.

She went upstairs and the neighbor, a man in his seventies, said that he had just been passing by in the staircase. When he saw that the postman did not find her at home, he agreed to take the parcel for her. He handed her the package, and when she thanked him and she was about to leave, he suddenly said 'Shalom' to her.

She asked him in a surprised tone: "Are you Jewish?"

"Yes", answered the neighbor, "and I'd like to ask you something: why did you take down the mezuzah on your front door two weeks ago?"

When she started to stutter and tried to explain to him the 'security risk', he said that he wanted to tell her something.

"I am a Jewish man who lost my entire family in the holocaust -- my wife and my children. Since then I have been running away from my Jewish religion as much as possible. No Yom Kippur, no kosher food and no observance of any commandment. I looked for a place to live, situated as far away as possible from Jews in order not to see their faces.

About a month ago the elevator was out of order, and on that day I had to climb the staircase by foot. When I came to the second floor, I suddenly saw a door with a mezuza fixed to the doorpost.

The last time I saw a mezuzah was 30 years ago, and the sight suddenly took me back to the past. Memories began to flood my mind. I stood there for half an hour, touching the mezuzah and unable to control my tears.

Since then I have stopped using the elevator. Every day I descend and ascend the staircase to my apartment by foot so that I may stand in front of the mezuzah for a while, caress it and delve into my thoughts. I felt so strongly that this is the only thing that connects me to Judaism, to my past.

Therefore, I was so shocked and disappointed when two weeks later I no longer found my mezuzah and my Judaism to which I have so longed to return, with a full heart…."

That day, two Jewish souls joined the Chassidic community in Rabbi Gurewich's house in Lyon. The first was Perla Cohen, who later established a magnificent Chassidic home together with her husband, another young returnee to traditional Judaism (they are now happy grandparents-ed.).

The second was Mr. Avraham Londert, a Jewish man aged 70, who began a new life in the merit of the mitzvah of mezuzah.


Source: From "Chassidic Gems," as heard from Rabbi Gurewich by the compiler, Tuvia Litzman.

Connection: Weekly reading - the mitzvah of mezuzah: Deut. 11:20(+21).



Yerachmiel 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.

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