1. It was on August ’16, 1939, that Papa and Mama began their voyage to Eretz Yisrael. They were scheduled to dock at Haifa port on Wednesday, August 30. Arrangements were made for Papa and Mama to stay in Haifa for a few days at the home of Rabbi and Mrs. Alfa, where Avremal was boarding. In mid-route, the captain received orders to sail in a circuitous route in case the waters of the Mediterranean Sea had been mined because of the impending war. And so, instead of arriving on Wednesday as scheduled, the boat docked on Friday, September 7, one hour before sunset. A few hours before that, World War II had erupted with the German invasion of Poland. From the loudspeakers came the announcement that passengers were to debark immediately. All the baggage from the hold of the ship would be unloaded onto the pier, and the passengers would be responsible for having it removed as quickly as possible. Pandemonium reigned. Papa and Mama were terribly upset. It would soon be Shabbos! How could they take care of their baggage when they would have to leave the port immediately in order to get to Rabbi Alfa’s house in time for Shabbos? Papa grabbed the suitcase that contained his sefer Torah and his tallis and tefillin, and Mama took only her pocketbook. They edged their way through the pier and asked to be shown to the head customs officer. A tall English officer listened as Papa explained to him, ”l cannot deal with our baggage now. I have never desecrated the Sabbath in my life. To arrive in the Holy Land and desecrate it here is impossible!” Tears rolled down Papa’s cheeks. The officer answered curtly, “Rabbi, this is war you must make allowances.” “Just stamp our passports and let us through.’ We’ll pick up our baggage after the Sabbath,” Papa pleaded. “That will not be possible. We are removing all the baggage from the ship and leaving it on the pier.” “I don’t care about our baggage! Please, just stamp our passports so we can leave.” The officer looked at Papa quizzically_ “How much baggage do you have?” “Sixteen crates in the hold and nine suitcases in our cabin.” “What?! Do you realize that once you leave here, your baggage will be on the pier with no one responsible for it? By tomorrow night, I assure you, you will not find a shred of your belongings. The Arabs will have stolen them all,” the officer said emphatically. “I have no alternative. It’s almost time for the Sabbath, and we cannot travel on the Sabbath. Please, please, just clear our passports and let us go,” Papa’s voice rose in desperation. The officer, incredulous, called to another English officer, “Stamp their passports and let them through. This rabbi is willing to lose all his belongings in order to get to where he’s going in time for their Sabbath.” The second officer stared at Papa in amazement, as he stamped their passports and cleared their papers. Papa, clutching the suitcase with his sefer Torah, and Mama, holding on to her pocketbook, grabbed a taxi and arrived at Rabbi Alfa’s house just in time for Mama to light the Shabbos candles. That entire Shabbos, Papa was spiritually elated. Over and over again he repeated to Mama, “The Boss does everything for me. What could I ever do for Him? Now at last I have the zechus to give all for the Boss for His mitzvah of Shabbos and to be mekaddesh Hashem.” For Mama it was difficult to share his elation fully. She was physically exhausted and bereft emotionally. The loneliness for her children weighed heavily on her mind and heart. The additional loss of all her worldly possessions was not an easy pill to swallow. But Mama did not complain, and being with Avremal comforted her. Saturday night, after Papa had waited the seventy-two minutes after sunset to say his evening prayers and then make havdala, Rabbi Alia suggested to him, “Let’ s go to the port. Maybe some of your crates are still there.” Papa and Mama did not share his optimism, but they went along with him. It was pitch dark at the port. However, they spied a little light at the far end of the pier. As they neared the lighted area, a clipped English voice rang out, “Who goes there?” ‘ Papa called out, “Some passengers from the boat that docked late yesterday afternoon.” The English guard approached them. “What is your name?” he asked tersely. “Jacob J. Herman,” Papa answered. “Well, well, Rabbi, it’ s about time you put in your appearance. l was assured that you would be here the minute the sun set. You are a little late. I have been responsible for your baggage for more than twenty-four hours. My commanding officer said he would have my head if any of your baggage was missing. Kindly check to see that all is in order and sign these papers. Please remove it all as quickly as possible I am exhausted!” (All for the Boss)      (shabbos, mesiras nefesh)
  1. Naming a baby is often tricky. Meir and Ahuva finally had a boy after a number of girls and decided to name him after Ahuva’s grandfather. Ahuva then started having second thoughts. “My grandfather was a very nice man and a fine person,” she said to her husband, “but he wasn’t a talmid chacham. He was just a ’poshuta Yid.’ Maybe it would be better if we name the baby after a gadol.” Meir went to ask his rav, a major rosh yeshiva. “When did her grandfather live?” he asked. “He came to America in the thirties and worked in the curtain business. He was niftar a few years ago,” Meir told him. “And where are his children today?” the rosh yeshiva persisted. “All of them are frum and all his grandchildren are bnei Torah.” The rosh yeshiva gave Meir a piercing look. “Anyone who lived in America in the thirties and forties and raised a family that produced bnei Torah is not a ‘poshuta Yid.’ Name the baby after him. I think the same could be said for anyone who lived in America in the fifties, sixties, seventies… (Impact Volume Four) (never be complacent)
  1. In Bergen Belson, the Bluzhever rebbe help lead a group to light Chanuka candles. They used shoe dye for oil, and tread from from their clothes for wicks. They all rocked their life to gather together to light the candles. As he was about to make the barachos and light, a Polish Bund leader named Zomatchkovsky said, I understand how you can make the other blessings, but how can you make the shehechianu. How can you thank Hashem for bringing us to this time? The rebbe said I had the same question, but as I look around I see hundreds of faces of Jews who are risking their life for this mitzva. You have all never given up. You have such incredible courage. Never in Jewish history have we seen such strength. For this I make the bracha of shehechianu. To see the greatness of the Jewish people. Later after the war. Zomatchkovsky sent a message to the Bluzhever rebbe. That answer saved my life and gave me the strength to survive. Thank you. (path through the ashes 158) mesiras nefesh, chanuka
  1. RABBI Moshe Faskowitz, Rosh Yeshivah of Yeshivah Madreigas HaAdam, posed the following question to Rav Pam: The new schools being ‘opened for Russian immigrant children  in America were going to require millions of dollars in tzedakah funding. In all likelihood, there would be only a small percentage of children who would graduate from these schools and continue on to” higher” Torah education and develop ‘into genuine bnei Torah. On the other hand, American boys and girls with little religious background seemed very receptive to kiruv (Jewish outreach) programs in their areas. Would it not be Wiser to take the millions of dollars destined for Russian schools. and channel it to- wards a major kiruv effort in this country? This is what Rav Pam answered: Imagine a businessman who had borrowed a large sum of money and for many years could not repay it. One day, fortune smiled upon him and he won a huge sum in a lottery. Now, there were two things he could do with the money: either invest it in some new; profitable venture, or repay his old debt. Obviously, the right thing to do would be to repay the debt. ‘ Since the end of the Second World War, continued Rav Pam, Torah learning has spread from one end of the earth to the other in a supernatural way. Such flourishing of Torah can only come about as the result of true mesiras nefesh (self-sacrifice). While many American bnei Torah do make sacrifices for. Torah, theirs do not come close to the sacrifices which were made in pre- War Europe, where Torah students literally“ went hungry to study and parents who lived in poverty-Went without basic necessities so that their sons could learn. Where, then, is the mesiras nefesh that has brought about such a miraculous rebirth of Torah learning around the globe? ‘ It Was the mesiras nefesh of Russian Jews behind the Iron Curtain, Rav Pam maintained, which brought about the world-wide renaissance of Torah learning since the war. The tefillos and tears shed by parents and grandparents that their children should live to serve Hashem mothers and fathers who risked imprisonment so that a baby  boy could have a bris milah; the sacrifices of young men who eagerly allowed themselves to be circumcised when mohelim arrived for this purpose in the 1960’s; the risks taken by parents to give their chil- dren Iewish names and to teach them Aleph-Beis; these acts and more are what brought about the siyata diShmaya (Heavenly assistance) which built Torah in the free world. Therefore, Jews in the free world have an obligation to repay their debt to the previous generation of Russian ]ews by doing whatever is necessary to give their grandchildren and great-grandchildren a genuine Torah education?    (mesiras nefesh, kiruv, love immigrant) (Rav Pam)
  1. Rav Shlomo Freifeld was once on a fundraising trip and he ate supper at the home of a friend. The hostess served eggplant as one of the courses. Reb Shlomo could not tolerate eggplant, and he would break out in a rash if he ate it. The talmid that accompanied him was shocked to see Reb Shlomo calmly eating the vegetable Later on, he asked Reb Shlomo about it. “That woman prepared the dish in my honor, and her whole self-worth was dependant on my enjoying it.” Then Reb Shlomo laughed. “lf you eat something that a hostess makes for you, even if it kills you, it’s called misa al Kiddush Hashem” (Reb Shlomo) (mesiras nefesh, onas devarim)
  1. In a famous incident, the Novaradok yeshivah was besieged by Bolshevik soldiers in the year 1919; The Alter of Novaradok was away at the time, but a short while earlier had responded with at telegram to his t11lmidim’s request for guidance in the fate of Bolshevik threats that they cease their Torah studies. The telegram read: “Av Harachamim” Father of Mercy, the opening  words of the prayer recited Shabbos morning for the martyrs of our people, The message was clear: they should be prepared to die, if necessary, rather than give in to the Bolsheviks’ demands. The commanding Bolshevik officer led his soldiers into the beis midrash, marched straight to the rabbi in charge and demanded that the yeshivah close its doors immediately. The young scholar rose and unbuttoned his shirt. Fully composed, he said, ”Shoot.” His students lined up behind him and unbuttoned their shirts as well. The officer and his men» were thrown off balance by this show of spiritual strength. They turned and left.  (mesiras nefesh) (The Manchester Rosh Yeshiva)
  1. The actual Nazi invasion of Lithuania took place on ]une 22, 1941. Virtually all the Jewish homes in the center of Kelm were destroyed by the German bombardment. By the next day, the Red Army had completely fled the area, leaving the way clear for the unimpeded entry of the Germans into Kelm on June 24. On July 1, all the able- bodied men between 14 and 60 years of age, including the men of the Talmud Torah, were ordered to gather in the granary of Zundel Luntz, a successful Jewish farmer, whose farm was on the outskirts of the town. The Jewish men of Kelm were put to work, by Lithuanian nationalists, clearing away» rubble. The Nazi conquerors felt justifiably confident leaving the Lithuanians in charge. The night of the fifth of Av, Reb Doniel dreamt a horrible nightmare, and the next morning (Iuly 29), he broke from his normal custom and recited hatavos shalom. As he was doing so, a group of Lithuanian fa- natics broke into the granary and ordered all the men to gather. Already the Lithuanians had savagely killed a number of Iews in Kelm. From the looks on the faces of the Lithuanians that morn- ing, their victims could have had few doubts as to what lay in store for them. But as they marched at gunpoint, the men of the Talmud Torah sang and danced as if it were Simchas Torah. They were enraptured in the songs they had sung so often — ”Vetaher libeinu Fovdecha b’emes, Purify our hearts to serve You in truth,” and “Ashreinu ma tov chelkeinu, How fortunate are we, how good is our lot. ” Held high on a chair was the Alter’s daughter Rebbetzin Nechama Liba, whom they carried just as if she were a sefer Torah.“ ‘ When they reached their destination, the executioners ordered the men to start digging a large pit – a pit in which they would soon be buried. When the pit was completed and the extermination about to begin, Reb Doniel sought permission to address his flock for one last time. He quoted the piyut recited on Yom Kippur that re- counts how the angels themselves cried out upon seeing Rabbi Akiva’s flesh raked by metal combs, “This is Torah, and this is its re- ward.” Hashem replied, “If I hear another word, I’ll return the world to the primordial void.” . At that moment, Reb Doniel explained, the world had lost any merit to justify its continued existence. Yet Hashem had promised not to bring another Flood, Wiping out all of mankind, and so had chosen the Ten Martyrs mentioned in the piyut as an atonement for the rest of the world. If the angels forced Hashem to restrain His hand and spare the Ten Martyrs, they would, in effect, force G-d to destroy a world no longer worthy of existence. , Turning to his students, Reb Doniel told them that they stood at that moment in exactly the same position as the Ten Martyrs: The world had lost the merit to exist. Only through the atonement of their deaths would Hashem stay His hand and not return it to Tohu Vavohu. Therefore, he urged his students, ”Let us be neither con- fused nor frightened, but rather let us accept upon‘ ourselves this awesome responsibility with love.” With that he turned to the chief of the murderers and told them, “I have finished. Now you can begin!“    Rav Dessler, By Rabbi Yonason Rosenblum, Published by Artscroll Mesorah, page 253 (kidush hashem)
  1. Raising money for the yeshivah entailed enormous self-sacrifice‘ As we have already seen and shall yet explore, it also involved bizyonos and degradations … but, often enough, the sweet smell of success after a particularly trying episode of me-sirus nefesh.’ d Like the time he arrived for an appointment with a philanthropist whose office was located on the eighteenth floor. “Eighteen” wasn’t the lucky number that day, for the elevator service was out of operation. As the Rosh Yeshivah’s escorts were figuring out what to do and weighing the wisdom of asking the gvir to leave work and come down to meet them in the lobby, Reb Nosson Zvi had already hit upon the solution: he was hobbling to the stairwell. Naturally the escorts tried to inject a little reasoning into what was seemingly a brash, unwise and dangerous decision—but to no avail. “This isn’t a good idea,” one of them muttered, expressing the perfectly obvious. Because of the Rosh Yeshivah’s ailment, he had a choppy style of locomotion that wasn’t even remotely suited for the steps—certainly not eighteen flights of them. Reb Nosson Zvi understood all of this, but he also understood that a little more than a tenth of a mile up lay a potential treasure—the possibility to acquire vitally needed funds for the yeshivah. This was going to require mesirus nefesh, but that was the way the Rosh Yeshivah operated. “Convenience” was a concept thoroughly foreign to him. Truth be told, eighteen flights would be a daunting task for many without physical disabilities, and surely no small number of individuals faced with the same dilemma would seek to reschedule the appointment. But if you are reading this book (the evidence suggests you are); you will probably not fall off your seat in surprise to hear what happened next. Each step was a battle; each flight a war. The feat took 45 stressful, strenuous, arduous minutes. And it was as mentally stressful as it was physically draining‘ ‘ By the time Reb Nosson  made it to the destination, the mind over matter factor had long since been eroded and the Rosh Yeshivah emerged from the door and collapsed in the waiting room onto the luxurious pile carpet (thank God for that). The office staff fretted as to whom: to call: 911  a doctor  EMS? But the gvir himself, who was horrified as anyone by the Rosh Yeshivah sprawled out on the floor, instinctively knew what to do to revive the tzaddik. Without any hesitation he removed his checkbook and entered a sum that he had not even considered heretofore. It (along with some Water) did the trick.    For the Love of Torah, By Hanoch Teller, Published by Feldheim page 251 (mesirus nefesh)
  1. Reb Nosson Zv’s superhuman effort melted hearts of stone. One rich businessman regrettably refused the Rosh Yeshivah’s request for a large donation. “I can’t,’ he declined, assuming that he had put the matter to rest. “I can’t either,” Reb Nosson Zvi countered, “but I do anyway.” After just a moment of uncomfortable silence, he received the full donation. This kind of thing happened over and over again. For the Love of Torah, By Hanoch Teller, Published by Feldheim page 253 (mesirus nefesh)
  1. Rav Chaim Berman told a story in the name of the Ponovezher Rav, Rav Yosef Shlomo Kahaneman, a story he used to illustrate true ahavas haTorah. Rav Avraham Burstein was the rav of the city of Tevrig in Lithuania. During World War I. there was a curfew placed on the city. No one was allowed to have any lights in their homes lest the enemy be able to spot their homes and attack. Rav Avraham disregarded the warning and left on a very small light, enough to enable him to see the page he was learning. Nevertheless, the soldiers noticed it and barged into his home, accusing him of being a spy. Rav Avraham tried to explain that he was only using the light to study, but the soldiers would hear none of it. They demanded that he admit to his crime. Rav Avraham stood by his story and would not admit to any wrongdoing. ‘lhe soldiers, determined that he must be a spy. prepared to shoot him. But just before they did, Rav Avraham asked for one last wish: 15 minutes. In those 15 minutes, Rav Avraham opened a Rambam, explaining to the soldiers that he had been studying something and had not figured it out, so he needed a bit more time with it. This was his dying wish.A few moments later, a siren sounded to call the soldiers together; they needed to move on to the next village. They immediately left, leaving Rav Avraham alive to figure out his Rambam. (learning)  (Touched By Their Tears)
  1. When the members of the Mirrer Yeshivah fled Europe, during World War II, they spent a number of years in Shanghai before they were able to relocate to Eretz Yisrael and America. Although the people were generally treated well by the local Chinese. there was a group who did not like them and who plotted against them. They secretly arranged that the members of the yeshivah would be taken onto a ship. Once the ship would sail out to sea, all the Jews would be thrown overboard. One Chinese man felt an afiinity for the jews. He respected the boys and knew that they were men of G-d. He, therefore, revealed to the authorities the details of the operation, and the plot was foiled. However, the group that had planned the attack discovered who had reported their plans. They tracked him down and beat him to death. The boys in the yeshivah were very troubled by the incident. This righteous gentile had saved the yeshivah from utter catastrophe. He had not done so for his own honor or for riches. Instead, he had saved them because he felt it was the right thing to do. Why had the Al-mighty punished him so? A group of the young men in the yeshivah decided to ask the great mashgiach, Rav Chatzkel Levenstein, to help them understand what had happened. As soon as they came to his door, they heard him crying. “Ribbono Shel Olam,” Rav Chatzkel cried. “this gentile was a wonderful man. But he was a goy. And this is the one and only time he helped the bachurim of the yeshivah. And you gave him a matanah (a gift). You gave him the chance to be mekadesh Shem Shamayim and die al kiddush Hashem. But I, Chatzkel Levenstein. have served You faithfully my entire life. l have helped the bachurim many times. I want this matanah from You so much! Why was I not zocheh to give my life for You?” Their question had been answered. The Al-mighty had granted that individual the gift of Kiddush Shem Shamayim.    (kidush Hashem) (Touched By Their Tears)
  1. In a shiur on the laws of Shabbos, Rav Ben Tzion Abba Shaul mentioned the halacha that if a house is burning down one may not desecrate the Shabbos to save it. Someone from the crowd said, “What? Just sit and watch your house burn down?” He replied, “I didn’t say you should sit and watch. You shouldn’t just sit and watch. You should sing and dance for the opportunity to fulfill the misva of loving Hnshem ‘with all your money/” (Torah Leaders)   (mesiras nefesh, shabbos, shema)