11 Cheshvan 5781 / Thursday, October 29, 2020 | Torah Reading: Lech Lecha
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The Power of Chessed    

The Power of Chessed

When he finally returned to Duluth, Minnesota, his home town, he took time out to sit down and write a letter to the German Jew who had touched his life...


When he finally returned to Duluth, Minnesota, his home town, he took time out to sit down and write a letter to the German Jew who had touched his life with such kindness.
Don't think that the really great stories are the one's that are written by the world's greatest writers. The really great stories are the stories that really happened to real people and they are really and absolutely true. The following is one of the many really great stories. Great because it's really true!
America had finally entered World War I. Troops poured into Europe to put an end to the war. The war was in its final stages. American troops were dispatched through out Germany. The year was 1917.
A lone Jewish soldier from Duluth, Minnesota, Alex Lurye, found himself in a small German town called Seldes. It was Friday night. Being far away from home was lonely. The young Jewish soldier had some time on his hands. Feeling out of place, he decided to see what the local Jewish population was like. Entering the local village synagogue must have created a stir. An American soldier in uniform! The Americans fought the Germans in bitter combat. The lone soldier felt out of place. He was greeted by a kind German Jew by the name of Herr Rosenau who made him feel at home in the synagogue.
After the services, Herr Rosenau invited the serviceman to his house for kiddush and the traditional Friday night meal.
Seeing the beauty of a traditional Shabbat together with the warmth and kindness of this German-Jewish family made a deep impression on this young soldier. He was a stranger, a foreigner, even an enemy Yet because he was Jewish he was invited to another Jew's home, given a delicious warm kosher home cooked meal, complete with wine and the traditional Shabbat songs. Herr Rosenau's family, together with his teenage daughter, gave the soldier the feeling that he was not alone, certainly not an enemy, even in such a far and distant land.
The soldier was never able to come back again to see this kind family again. However, the warm impression that he had received, the experience of the Shabbat in a warm and caring Jewish home did not leave him. It meant so much to this young soldier that when he finally returned to Duluth, Minnesota, his home town, he took time out to sit down and write a letter to the German Jew who had touched his life with such kindness. This was is 1917. For some unknown reason, although Herr Rosenau received the letter it was never answered. It was placed in a desk drawer and there it rested for twenty one years.
Time moves on. Ruth, the teenage daughter of the German Jew, has grown up and married a German Jew by the name of Eugen Wienberg. She now has three small children. The oldest is a boy of eleven. The time is a bad time for the German Jews. The year is 1938. The dreaded Adolph Hitler has taken hold upon Germany and anti Jewish proclamations are being contrived and enforced on a continually regular basis. Herr Rosenau is now a grandfather. He is bothered about the dark and dismal future for himself and his fellow Jews in Germany. He doesn't pay attention to his eleven year old grandson, Sigbert, as he is rummaging through his desk looking for something of interest. Suddenly a foreign postage stamp catches his eye. He pulls out the envelope with the postage stamp from America. "Grandfather, can I have this?"
Twenty one years have past since he received the letter. "Yes, take it," the grandfather replies. After years of giving, an old forgotten envelope makes his grandson happy. He takes it home to his mother. "Look, look what grandfather has given me!"
The mother and her husband, Herr Wienberg eye the envelope with curiosity. The letter is still inside. They remove the letter and read it. It is the thank you letter from the American service man, from twenty-one years ago.
The mother remembers the young man. "Let's write to him! Maybe he will remember us and sponsor us, enabling us to immigrate to America" (It must be remembered that the U.S.A. did not let refugees come to its shores freely. However if some one would sponsor you, then there was a chance.
Looking on the envelope, they saw that there was no return address only the name, Alex Lurye, and the city and state, Duluth, Minnesota. "We have no future in Germany, we must get out before this mad man, Hitler, begins to do worse things to the Jews".
So they wrote a letter addressed only as follows:
Alex Lurye
Duluth, Minnesota
What can you do? Can you send a letter to a person in a large city with out a street address and expect it to be delivered? Of course not. You would have to be foolish to think that it would get to its destination. But some times it works out. In this case, Alex Lurye had become a wealthy businessman who was well known in Duluth, a town of over a hundred thousand people. The postmaster delivered the letter.
When Alex received it, after a lapse of twenty one years, he quickly sent a return letter acknowledging his receipt of their letter and pledging to help bring the Wienberg family to Duluth. Alex kept his promise. The entire Wienberg family was brought over in that year and arrived in May of 1938. Shortly there after, the Rosenau family came over to America.
In Duluth, the Wienberg family began working hard to make life bearable through the depression era. Sometimes two jobs were necessary for both the father and mother in order to make it through the week. Yet in Duluth as in Seldes, Germany, the family made sure that the Shabbat would be joyously honored.
The rest of the family was quickly brought over to the states. Unfortunately, the horrible World War II swiftly came. The rest of German Jewry was destroyed.
Yet the kindness that Herr Rosenau had given to a stranger twenty one years earlier had come full circle. Because of their kindness, with out any thought of personal gain, Herr Rosenau and his family were spared from the horrible fate of their fellow German Jews. The chessed that they had so warmly given to others with out desiring a payment in return had come back to them with dividends. The entire family was saved.
Today that family has sprouted and grown. A family blessed with many children and grandchildren and great-grand-children (bli iyin hara). All have taken upon themselves always to honor the Shabbat.
Doing chessed is the Jewish way. Helping another Jew, with out trying to receive a thing in return. Pure and unadulterated kindness. It's for you and for me.

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