by Rabbi Sholom DovBer Avtzon
In honor of my father’s 17th yahrzeit, which will be this Wednesday, erev Rosh chodesh Kislev, I am posting an anecdote about him. It is an excerpt from my upcoming book, Farbreng with Reb Binyomin Kletzker, and it is my thought and reflection on the story of how through his davening, Reb Binyomin unintentionally inspired Reb Zalman Zezmer to become a chossid of the Alter Rebbe.
My parents settled in Detroit, Michigan, in 5713 (1953). At that time, many prominent Rabbonim would come there to raise money. One of them was Rabbi Yosef Kahaneman, the Rov of Ponevezh and founder of many yeshivos.
One day, as the minyan concluded davening Shacharis and the people left, Rav Kahaneman sat down to learn. Suddenly, he heard someone davening with tremendous emotion. Initially, he thought that this man was experiencing an extremely difficult situation and was pouring out his heart to Hashem, beseeching for His help and mercy.
Although he was there to raise money for his institutions, Rav Kahaneman felt it was his duty to help another Jew in distress. He waited for almost an hour until the individual concluded davening. He then went over to him and said, “Reb Yid, how much money do you need to cover your immediate expenses? I am willing to help you.”
The Jew looked at him in bewilderment; he didn’t understand what he was talking about. Rav Kahaneman saw his perplexed expression and thought that perhaps the man was too embarrassed to disclose his situation. So he continued: “I heard your heartfelt tefillos to Hakodosh Boruch Hu, and I said to myself, ‘Hashem sent me to this shul today for a reason, and I believe the reason is to help you.’”
The Jew replied, “I don’t understand. Boruch Hashem, my family is healthy. I have nachas from them and we are covering our expenses. I don’t need any assistance.”
Rav Kahaneman persisted: “If that is so, please tell me, why were you pouring out your soul to the Aibishter? If everything is good and there are no problems, why were you crying like a child?”
The Jew replied, “Today is a legal holiday, and my place of employment is closed. Since I have a few extra hours, I decided to connect myself to Hashem, and the way one connects to Hashem is through davening.”
That Jew was my father, Reb Meir a”h, who worked as a mashgiach in a meatpacking plant, kashering and salting the meat, ensuring thousands of Jews that the meat they ate was indeed kosher. His battles to uphold the level of kashrus for every Jew will be published bezras Hashem in Sippurei Meir – Stories of A Chossid.
Rabbi Avtzon is a veteran mechanech and the author of numerous books on the Rebbeim and their chassidim. He is available to farbreng in your community and enthrall the participants. Let him share his insights on the historical background of Yud-Tes Kislev or any of our Yomei D’pagra. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and your members will thank you.