June 17, 2024
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June 17, 2024
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The Power of Hashgacha

Highlighting: “There’s More to the Story: A Treasure Trove of Precious Stories” by Rabbi Yechiel Spero. ArtScroll/Mesorah Publications. 2023. Hardcover. 288 pages. ISBN-13: 978-1422632994.

(Courtesy of Artscroll)

When you read a story from Rabbi Yechiel Spero, you know there will be more.

More inspiration. More surprises. More lessons and more uplift.

In his latest book, “There’s More to the Story,” we read about:

A young American boy trapped in Siberia who finds a unique way to hear shofar on Rosh Hashanah.

A loner, dependent on his neighbors in Lakewood. A washing machine that keeps breaking down. A story that will change the way you look at the power of chesed.

An elderly woman who’d rejected her teacher, Sarah Schenirer, but finds her way back to Yiddishkeit almost seven decades later with the help of a young Bais Yaakov student.

… And so much more.

We read stories about the man who ran the world’s most grueling marathon—in his bedroom, where he was trapped by COVID-19. About the Holocaust survivor who told the judge he’d earned his doctorate—in the university of life. About the mix-up that sent a gorgeous three-layered cake to a young boy’s classroom siyum and ensured he would stay Torah-observant many years later.

These stories are, indeed, a treasure trove, gems sparkling with emunah, ahavas Yisrael, and the power of prayer and Hashgachah Pratis: a precious gift from a master storyteller.

The following is one of the dazzling stories in this new, must-read book.

You Can and You Will

Reb Leibel Kutner, a well-known Gerrer Chassid from Lodz, whose tidbits of chizuk inspired thousands, lived in Tel Aviv following World War II. Until he passed away, he continued to inspire everyone with whom he interacted.

During the war, Reb Leibel endured unspeakable tragedy, as he lost his wife and eight children. Through it all, he held steadfast to his emunah, bitachon, and simchas hachaim. Even in the darkest of times, Reb Leibel continued to infuse those around him with the fighting spirit and spark that only a Yid possesses.

In one of the labor camps in which he was incarcerated, Reb Leibel worked in a munitions factory for twelve hours a day. In a desperate race against time, the German Nazi war machine attempted to produce as much ammunition as possible. The inmates were forced to work vigorously, but it was never enough.

One evening, one of the ammunition machines malfunctioned, halting the entire production line. For all intents and purposes, output for the next day would have to be called off, unless the machine could be fixed. Seething with rage, the Nazi foreman glared at the terrified prisoners. As he walked back and forth, clicking his heels, he sized up each of the prisoners standing before him. No one knew what he was preparing to do, and they feared the worst.

His eyes locked onto Reb Leibel. “You! You will be the one to fix the machine!”

Reb Leibel did not know how to respond. He had no expertise in repairing machinery. He was merely doing what everyone else was doing, trying to look busy so he could survive. He didn’t even know where to begin. Looking back at the Nazi, he responded simply, “I don’t know how to fix machines.”

Though he knew that excuses were intolerable, he had to at least state his case.

The guard was adamant, insisting, “Du bist ah Yid, you are a Jew! Uhn ah Yid kent, and a Jew can!”

Reb Leibel knew that if he refused at that point, he would be shot on the spot. Yet if he didn’t succeed, he would also be shot. The machine had to be fixed by morning; if he didn’t repair it successfully, he would surely die. However, he still had the whole night, so he had to try. After all, as the Nazi expressed, “Du bist ah Yid, You are a Jew! Uhn ah Yid kent, and a Jew can!”

Reb Leibel stood over the machine the entire night. Taking his time, he disassembled it, unscrewing it bit by bit, part by part, and piece by piece. He hoped that somehow by taking it apart and putting it back together, the machine would whir into action. After greasing the disassembled parts, he began the difficult task of fitting everything together.

His back hurt, his whole body was exhausted, but he tried his utmost not to allow any negative thoughts to fill his mind. Over and over, his chizuk came from the most unexpected place. The words of the wicked man, his tormentor, echoed in his mind and in his neshamah. “Du bist ah Yid, You are a Jew! Uhn ah Yid kent, and a Jew can!” Every time he thought of giving up, the refrain played in his mind once more. “Du bist ah Yid, You are a Jew! Uhn ah Yid kent, and a Jew can!” And he marched on.

The hours passed quickly and the sun was beginning to rise. Time was running short, as the last precious few moments of night disappeared. He held his breath and pressed the ignition. The machine rattled and shook violently. Reb Leibel whispered a prayer and then, miraculously, the machine began to purr.

A short while later, the Nazi barged into the factory, expecting failure and ready to pounce on his victim. When he saw the machine working, he could hardly believe his eyes. Yes, he had demanded that it be fixed, but the skeletal Jew had been given little to work with and possessed no knowledge of the machine he was ordered to repair. Somehow, he had managed to bring it back to life.

Reb Leibel noticed the surprise in the German officer’s expression and decided to capitalize on the moment. He cleared his throat and boldly spoke up. “I think that since I did such a good job fixing the machine, I should be rewarded.”

Those within earshot listened in alarm. They wanted to run for cover. No one spoke that way to the Nazis. No one had the gall or audacity to dare ask for anything. One’s very breath was not a given. Nevertheless, Reb Leibel seemed firm in his request. He knew that asking for a reward would lift the spirits of his fellow brothers and imbue them with hope. Undoubtedly, it would give them a little more desperately needed oomph in their step. He had to do it.

The other inmates waited anxiously, hoping the Nazi would not remove his gun and instantly end Reb Leibel’s life. He didn’t.

Instead, himself stunned by the request, the Nazi asked Reb Leibel what he had in mind. Reb Leibel didn’t need much. He just wanted a few cigarettes as compensation. Shockingly, the Nazi reached into his pocket, pulled out a few cigarettes, and handed them to Reb Leibel, as everyone else felt a great sense of pride. The Nazi looked around one last time, turned around abruptly, and walked out the door.

Holding a lit cigarette in his hand, Reb Leibel turned to the inmate standing next to him and declared with confidence and strength, “Du bist ah Yid, You are a Jew! Uhn ah Yid kent, and a Jew can!”

Turning to the next one, he reiterated his statement. Over and over, the chant was repeated. “Du bist ah Yid, You are a Jew! Uhn ah Yid kent, and a Jew can!”

It’s the refrain we have uttered again and again, since the beginning of this long and bitter exile.

It’s the refrain we can never forget.

“Du bist ah Yid, You are a Jew! Uhn ah Yid kent, and a Jew can!”

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