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No Can’t Do

I had reached $32,000. I had also exhausted all of my connections


It was a warm morning in July when I called the pay phone at MTJ.

“Is Rav Dovid available?” I asked.

I heard the door of the phone booth folding, listened to the person who’d answered rising from the little seat, and finally the Rosh Yeshivah’s hello.

I explained my dilemma. A woman in the community whose husband had refused to grant her a get was now agreeing to give her one — if he received $50,000 by 9 p.m.

As I had never dealt with extortion, I called Rav Dovid Feinstein ztz”l to ask him what to do.

He listened quietly and then succinctly replied, “What can you do? You can’t leave her an agunah. Give him the money, and she will have her get.”

“Can I have a brachah from the Rosh Yeshivah?”

“Be matzliach. The money is out there. Hashem will help you get it.”

I just had a few hours to complete this unenviable task. I started making phone calls.

I was able to raise the first $30,000 within the first three hours.

After that, it was tougher.

Some said, “I refuse on principle to be a partner to an extortionist.”

Others commented, “Rabbi, if she wants the divorce, let her pay for it. Why should I?”

At seven o’clock, I had reached $32,000. I had also exhausted all of my connections.

I sat down at my shtender and said, “Ribbono shel Olam, I don’t know what else to do. I cannot face this poor woman and tell her I wasn’t able to raise the money. Please help me.”

There is a small chassidic community of Klausenburg chassidim in Union City, New Jersey, a short drive from Passaic. During the summer months, when a good part of the community is in the mountains, the few chassidim who stay in Union City for the week — just a handful, not enough for a minyan — come each day to daven in my shul, and I had become friendly with them.

And now, as I sat with my head buried in my arms, I felt a hand on my shoulder.

It was Reb Baruch, one of the regulars from Union City.

“Is everything all right?” he asked, clearly concerned.

I unburdened myself to Reb Baruch as I broke down crying.

“You don’t have anyone you can ask for $18,000? There must be someone.”

“There is one man I know who could help. However, when I asked him, he replied, ‘I’m unable to help you now. ’”

Reb Baruch sat down next to me and said, “You know the Klausenburger Rebbe ztz”l was a rebbe already in Europe. He once related that when he was collecting to build the Laniado Hospital, he approached a man for a sizable donation, and the man responded, ‘I’m sorry, I cannot give that amount.’

“The Rebbe looked at this man, well aware of how wealthly he was. He then told him, ‘When I was a rebbe in Europe, I had a gabbai carry my tallis and tefillin. A carriage would be waiting for me if I had to go anywhere, and my gabbaim would carry my luggage to the wagon.

“ ‘When the Nazis imprisoned me at the Mühldorf concentration camp, I became a slave who had to carry 110-pound bags of cement. At first, I could not imagine that I could do it. However, when you realize you must do something, suddenly that which you thought you could never do becomes doable.’ ”

I leaped to my feet, hugged Reb Baruch, and went back to the man who had said, “I’m unable to help you now.”

I told him about the Klausenburger Rebbe.

He wrote me a check for $18,000.


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 889)

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