Hope Amongst The Ashes
By Sholom Kramer

Three girls were involved in a discussion. It was two against one.

"What for?" asked Orna, "How will it help us?"

"What do you care," insisted Molly. "It will take just five minutes, and if it doesnít help it certainly canít hurt."

"But it just doesnít feel right to me," said Yafit uncomfortably. "All this mystic mumbo-jumbo doesnít suit me."

"First of all, it isnít mysticism. And second of all, how do you know it doesnít suit you? Have you ever tried it?" Molly asked, doing her best to sound convincing.

"Okay, letís go," Yafit conceded. "But I donít want them to confuse me. First I want to watch and listen, and only then make a decision."

Molly, a resident of Rechovot, had been involved with the Chabad House for a few years. She wrote letters to the Rebbe through the Igros Kodesh, and now she wanted her friends to write, too. The three girls, who had just graduated teachersí college, went to the Borochovís to write a letter to the Rebbe and to ask for a bracha for a shidduch.

Mrs. Borochov warmly greeted the threesome, and after inviting them in, she sat down and began patiently explaining to the two new girls about the Igros Kodesh and how one can ask the Rebbe for a bracha.

"I have a problem," Yafit spoke up hesitantly. "My parents were in a bad car accident. My father injured his spine and heís in a wheelchair. He took it very hard. He canít understand how G-d could do this to someone. His emuna is weak and he has stopped observing even basic mitzvos."

"Tell him what you heard here," suggested Mrs. Borochov. "Tell him about the Rebbe and about the Igros Kodesh and convince him to write to the Rebbe."

"It wonít help," said Yafit shaking her head. "Lots of people tried talking to him, but nothing has worked. He doesnít even want to listen anymore."

Mrs. Borochov thought for a moment and then said, "I have the first article that was written in the secular newspapers about Igros Kodesh. Give it to him Ė maybe that will convince him."

"I know my parents," sighed Yafit. "They really arenít open to listening."

"If you see that they are unwilling to read the article," said Mrs. Borochov, "just leave it out on the table. Who knows? Maybe theyíll pick it up and read it, and be convinced."

Yafit agreed and took the article.

* * *

Mrs. Borochov looked for the happy bride, Molly, in order to bless her. A feeling of satisfaction and happiness engulfed her. This was the third wedding in half a year. The three girls who had come to her six months ago asking for a bracha for a shidduch had found their matches and two of them had married already. Now it was the turn of the third girl, the one who had convinced the others to ask the Rebbe for his bracha.

She caught sight of the kalla sitting in her special chair. One of her friends was whispering in her ear. The kalla laughed and the friend picked up her head. Her eyes met Mrs. Borochovís, who tried to remember how she knew the girl.

"Hello, Mrs. Borochov, how are you?" The girl didnít notice Mrs. Borochovís hesitation and went over to her with a big smile.

"Baruch Hashem, Iím terrific," said Mrs. Borochov, "but maybe you can remind me..."

"Of course. Iím Yafit Cohen."

Mrs. Borochov instantly remembered her and said, "Oh, yes! Is there any good news about your parents?"

"No, nothing happened," answered Yafit.

* * *

But who would have known what was about to occur.

It started like an ordinary fire. A field of thorns began to burn, moving on to some trees and then the news was out that the Karmel forests were burning. The firemen said there was nothing to worry about. "Within a day it will be under control," they said. But they were wrong. They underestimated the power of the blaze.

The wind quickly fanned the flames, pushing them further and further. The fire spread to forests, fields, vineyards, and even to yishuvim in the area. Tons of water was poured and hundreds of people were called into action. The firemen used helicopters, trucks, hoses, and anything that could help them, but the raging fire seemed to mock their efforts, advancing acre by acre, field by field.

The residents of Yishuv A, where Yafitís parents lived, were not worried. The firemen explained to them that the fire was not heading in their direction and that there was no reason for fear. So when they saw the curtain of flames a few meters away from their yishuv, it was with utter shock. People began dashing from their houses to their cars, trying to load their vehicles with whatever they could salvage.

The fire raged on at a murderous pace to engulf the first house, then the next. The people were stunned by the destruction. Only a miracle from Heaven could save them.

Then the helicopters came. It wasnít a supernatural miracle, but they did come from heaven and managed to rescue all 700 people of the yishuv. The fire persisted the whole day, and only on the following day could the residents return to their burned homes and try to save what remained.

When Yafit Cohenís parents returned to their home, they were in shock. All the other houses affected by the fire had been partially burned. Even badly burned homes still had something left. But their home was completely gone! All that remained was a pile of ashes at their feet.

With tears of pain and despair blurring her vision, Yafitís mother tried to sift through the ashes, hoping that perhaps something remained. Suddenly she noticed something... her eyes widened in amazement, in utter disbelief. It was a piece of paper, the article her daughter had given her about the Igros Kodesh, which she had refused to look at. The article was the sole possession remaining after the fire. Even the table it had rested on was no more.

She bent down and with trembling hands she removed the paper from the ashes, shook it off, and there in the midst of the destruction, she began to read. At first the tears continued to flow. They dripped on the paper and dampened it. When she finished reading it her eyes were dry. The pain and anguish had dissipated and a feeling of excitement overtook her. A ray of hope had broken through.

* * *

Mrs. Cohen told Mrs. Borochov about everything that had happened to her and her husband. When she finished her tale of woe, she said, "The truth is, I wasnít so sure whether to call you... I didnít know what to do and then I remembered that my daughter had mentioned you, so I decided to give you a call."

"You did the right thing!" said Mrs. Borochov. "Now go get your husband and bring him over. We have a lot to talk about."

"What did you say?"

"Just get into a car and come over," repeated Mrs. Borochov. When she realized that Mrs. Cohen was still wavering, she began telling one miracle story after another that happened through the Igros Kodesh. Mrs. Cohen decided to pay a visit during Chanuka.

At the appointed time, the Cohens went to the Borochovís house, where they met a woman who had a story of her own. She told them that she recently had been diagnosed with a malignant tumor in her brain, but after she asked the Rebbe for a bracha through the Igros Kodesh, the tumor disappeared.

Fortified by this story, the couple sat down with Rabbi and Mrs. Borochov. When Mr. Cohen had a better understanding of the Igros Kodesh, he approached the bookcase, removed volume ten at random, and opened it to two letters on pages 306-307. The second letter was a letter of consolation to the residents of Kfar Chabad after the terrible tragedy in which five Tmimim had been murdered.

The Rebbe consoles the settlers by quoting the Alter Rebbe, the Mitteler Rebbe, and the Tzemach Tzedek about the order in the midas haírachamim. First there is the midas haídin (judgment, severity) and only thereafter is there rachamim (mercy). All three of the Rebbeim refer to a fire. The quote from the Alter Rebbe mentions that wealth comes after a fire. The quote from the Mitteler Rebbe states that although certain people were planning to move because of a fire, he didnít think it was a good idea, because in the place where the fire was Hashem would surely send His blessings. The quote from the Tzemach Tzedek refers to acquiring wealth after a fire and discusses rebuilding a house.

Then Rabbi Borochov read the first letter, which ends on the adjoining page just before the second letter. Quoting from the page before, which ends, "it is not right," the next page continues, "to move because of the incident, because it is specifically there that G-d will command His blessing and mercy, an inheritance without limitations."

Mr. Cohenís jaw dropped. "How can that be?" he mumbled in amazement. "I didnít tell a soul! How did he know?"

"What happened?" asked Rabbi Borochov.

"After the fire we brought a claim to the administration of the yishuv and asked them to pay us for the damage we suffered from the fire. But they refused. They werenít even willing to listen. After so many years of living and working together, their outright refusal hurt and angered us. We were planning to leave the yishuv, but we didnít discuss our plans with anyone, not even with our daughter. And here the Rebbe seems to have read our thoughts, and he is telling us not to move! Itís just incredible!"

"The Rebbe often said that kosher mezuzos and tífillin serve as protection," said Rabbi Borochov, trying to strike while the iron was hot. "Maybe you should check your tífillin and mezuzos."

Mr. Cohen agreed to let Rabbi Borochov check them. Rabbi Borochov went with them to the temporary dwelling the government had provided for them, and just as he suspected, the mezuzos and tífillin were pasul (unfit). He made another trip to get them kosher tífillin and mezuzos.

Some time later, Rabbi Borochov was asked to farbreng in a non-Chabad yeshiva. He was happy to have the opportunity to do hafatzas haímaayanos, and farbrenged with the students for hours, explaining about the Igros Kodesh. Among other stories, he mentioned this story about the Cohens.

The rabbanim and talmidim listened intently; but one of the rabbanim appeared to be indifferent. After the farbrengen that rav approached him; Rabbi Borochov was sure an argument was brewing. To his pleasant surprise, the man said: "I know that story about the fire. I hadnít heard the part about the Igros Kodesh, but as a neighbor of the Cohens, I can add a few details to the story.

"The fact that their house burned down was most unnatural. The fire stopped four houses away from theirs, and then inexplicably jumped the four houses and landed on their house. It was as though Hashem wanted to give them a push. As far as what it said in the Igros Kodesh, everything the Rebbe said was fulfilled. The director of the yishuv accepted all their claims, down to the tiniest detail, and they got whatever they claimed!"

(The real names, other than Borochov, which is genuine, are known to the author.)


With tears of pain and despair blurring her vision, Yafitís mother tried to sift through the ashes, hoping that perhaps something remained...





Suddenly she noticed something... her eyes widened in amazement, in utter disbelief. It was a piece of paper, the article her daughter had given her about the Igros Kodesh!



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