by Rabbi Bentzion Elisha
The Holocaust shattered both their spirit and any sense of spirituality. Even though their bodies made it alive out of the German murderous ashes of death, any visible connection to Judaism or the Creator did not survive the war. Instead, their hearts turned cold and they were left with an anti-religious sentiment of ice. When they married they wanted nothing to do with Judaism, Jews, or G-d. Needless to say, they didn’t keep any holidays and keeping in line with their angst, didn’t circumcise any of their sons including ‘Alex’.
When Alex married, he surprisingly married a Jewess. She wasn’t observant, but she was Jewish nevertheless. His in-laws, unlike his own parents, who were anti-Jewish and anti-religious to the extreme, didn’t harbor any such ill feelings, and although not observant, they insisted a Bris, a circumcision, should be given to their grandsons when they were born.
Years later, one of their sons became a Baal Teshuvah. At his son’s engagement, Alex, who happens to be well to do, asked his son what would he like as a wedding present. Without hesitation, his son asked of him something that pulled the rug from underneath him.
“For my wedding, I would like for you to have a Bris,” his son simply asked. ‘Unbecoming’ of a person of such a fierce anti religious upbringing, he agreed and actually complied a couple of days before the wedding.
At the wedding celebration a stranger walked up to him. “I heard you had a Bris before the wedding,” the wedding guest said.
Alex nodded his head with a reserved smile.
“I have something for you, actually a gift” the stranger said as he dug through his inner jacket pocket retrieving a dollar bill.
“This is a dollar from the Lubavitcher Rebbe. I received this dollar bill from the Rebbe himself, and I would like for you to take it as a gift in celebration of your Bris.”
Alex looked at the dollar and tears started pouring down his cheeks.
The tears made the guest uncomfortable.
“Why are you crying?” he asked.
Alex lifted his eyes, locking with the eyes of the perplexed guest, and told him “Let me explain.”
“In my youth, my adolescence, I lived with my family in Brooklyn. One time my friends and I wanted to go to the movies but we had no money. One of my friends suggested we go to the Lubavitcher Rebbe who gave out dollars on Sundays for people to give and distribute Tzedaka, charity, and use the money to purchase our tickets instead. We all agreed with the ‘brilliant’ plan and decided to go.
After standing in the long line my friends, who were standing in front of me, got dollars from the Rebbe. However when it came to be my turn, the Rebbe stopped and asked me if I was Jewish. I told him that ‘yes, I am’, but then he asked me if I had a Bris, I told him that no, I didn’t. The Rebbe then told me ‘I won’t give you a dollar now, however I will give you a dollar when you get a Bris Milah…'”
This story was shared by R’ Benyamin Silberstein on the occasion of the Bar Mitzvah celebration of Yitzi Silberstein, on the sixth of Nissan.
Rabbi Bentzion Elisha is an award-winning photographer (ElishaArt.Com) and writer based in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. His book ‘Mental Museum’, a collection of contemporary stories, is scheduled for publication by this summer.