My Life Was Saved by the Tefillin I Gave Away – Chabad.org

Posted By on November 17, 2019

There are times when Divine providence is so stark that youcannot help but take notice.

Both my father and my wifes father passed away more than 30years ago.

My father-in-law, Menashe Bernath, was a simple man, a Gdfearing Jew with the kindest heart. His mother died when he was a baby, and hisstep-mother forced him to sleep in the barn in the small Romanian village wherethey lived.

By the time he was seven, he had been sent away to aneighboring village to be apprenticed to a local grocer, yet he never becamebitter. He divided his meager salary in two. Half he would send him to hisstep-mother; the other half he gave to the village rabbi who lived in extreme poverty.

He eventually immigrated to New York. Although he neverreceived much of a Jewish education, his sweet prayers were legendary, as washis outsized heart, which stopped beating when he was only 62 years old.

My father, Shmuel Avrohom Abba Pollack, born in theUkrainian mountains, was a devoted member of the Otynia Chassidic dynastywhich was almost entirely wiped out by the Nazis. My father lost his first wifeand three children to the Nazis, yet he had the strength to remarry my motherand begin anew in Brooklyn, where I was raised.

My father was a beloved figure in Crown Heights where hegave Talmud classes in the Empire Shtiebel (shul).

A printer by trade, he developed a warm relationship withthe Lubavitcher Rebbe, of righteous memory, whose books he would print.

After my father and father-in-law both passed away withinthe span of two years, their tefillinended up in my house where they sat on a shelf undisturbed for decades.

R. Shmuel Avrohom Abba Pollack and R. Menashe Bernath.

Around two months ago, I said to myself, These tefillin are sacred. They were used fora mitzvah for so many years, I am sure that they can still be used by someone.I decided to send them to a scribe who inspected them both to ensure that theywere in fine condition.

The day the tefillin came back from the scribe (it was aMonday), I put them in a bag and hung it up next to the front door, so that Iwould not forget about them.

That afternoon, around 3 p.m., I was home, which is somewhatunusual for me. I heard a knock on the door, and was greeted by a meshulach, an alms collector fromIsrael, who was raising money for his daughters forthcoming wedding. I invitedhim in, gave him a snack and a cold drink, and sent him on his way with a checkin hand.

As I walked him to the door, he remarked that in a few weekshis son would be celebrating his bar mitzvah and he had no idea how he wouldfind money with which to purchase a pair of tefillin.Ive lived in this neighborhood for 40 years and many collectors have come tomy door, but this is the first time I recall anyone asking for money for tefillin.

Overjoyed, I stuck my hand into the bag and handed him apair of freshly checked tefillin forhis son. Laughing and crying at the same time, he expressed his gratitude andjoy over this amazing turn of events. He then confided that his sister andbrother-in-law would soon be making a bar mitzvah as well, and neither did theyhave money for tefillin. Withoutfurther ado, I scooped out the second pair of tefillin and handed it to the man.

My only regret is that in my great excitement, I neglectedto ask the tzedakah collected for hisname and contact information.

The following morning my wife and I woke up early to visitour daughter who lives in Waterbury, Conn., 80 miles to the northeast of ourhome in Queens.

Apparently we were both more tired than we thought, and weboth dozed off, awakening abruptly when we crashed into the guardrail.

The car was totaled but we walked out without a scratch. TheState Trooper could not believe it when he looked at us and at the car. Neverhad he seen people survive such an accident with nary an injury.

I felt that it must have been connected to the tefillin. After 30 years of disuse, Ifinally arranged for them to be used once again, and the following morning mywife and I were saved from a terrible accident.

A friend of mine drew my attention to the following story inthe Talmud, concerning a man known as Elisha the Winged One:

Why was he known as the Winged One?In his time, the wicked government decreed that any Jew who wore tefillin onhis head would have his brain pierced. Undeterred, Elisha bravely wore tefillin in the marketplace. He once sawthat he had been spotted by the government-appointed observers with his tefillin on and he ran away as fast ashe could. The man caught up to him, but not before Elisha slipped the tefillin off his head and clutched ittightly in his hands. What do you have in your hand? asked the soldierharshly. Oh, just the wings of a dove, said Elisha. Oh yeah? sneered thestranger, open your hands and prove it! Left with no choice Elisha opened hispalms. A miracle occurred, and the tefillinhad become doves wings.

Why, of all objects in the world, did the tefillin become doves wings? The Talmudreplies: Just as the wings of a dove protect it, so do the mitzvot protect thepeople of Israel.

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My Life Was Saved by the Tefillin I Gave Away - Chabad.org

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