This is taken from Ner Echad- a beautiful message about ahavas chinam- all of us who were at the challah gathering felt it(B'H)! May it continue to spread to everyone, everywhere!
Parshas Masei; The Healing Power of Caring
In this week’s Parasha we read about a man who kills someone accidentally and is exiled to an Ir Miklat, a city of refuge. In addition to accidental killers, a very distinguished group of people, the Levites, whose job it was to travel throughout Israel teaching and preaching, lived in those cities. Their presence played an integral role in each killer's rehabilitation.
The killers would go free only when the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) would die. The Talmud in Makos tells us that the Kohen Gadol's family members were quite worried that the convicts would pray that the Kohen Gadol would die before his appointed time, thus releasing them early. In order to dissuade them, the mother of the Kohen Gadol would distribute food and clothing to the inmates to deter them from praying for her son’s death.
It is hard to understand. Were the Kohen Gadol's mother's cookies worth exile in the Ir Miklat? How did these gifts work as bribes?
Rebbetzin Batsheva Kanievsky’s grandfather, the Tzaddik Rabbi Aryeh Levine, took it upon himself to visit Jewish inmates held under British rule prior to Israel's statehood. He became like a father to those prisoners, bringing them food, clothing and love. For years, despite sweltering heat and frigid rains, he never missed a Shabbos visit, save one.
Once, in the midst of a Shabbos service, Reb Aryeh's daughter had become paralyzed and the doctors were helpless. He was needed for support at home, immediately. After the Shabbos, an Arab messenger was sent by the concerned inmates to inquire what tragedy interrupted the weekly visit.
The next Shabbos, despite the enduring tragedy at home, the Rabbi went to the prison as usual. Normally during the Torah reading, prisoners would pledge a few coins to charity. This week the donations were far different.
"I will give up a week of my life for the sake of Reb Aryeh's daughter," the first convict pledged. Another prisoner announced that he would give a month from his. Each one called to the Torah upped the previous pledge until the last prisoner cried out, "what is our life compared to Reb Aryeh's anguish? I will give all my remaining days for the sake of the Rabbi's daughter."
At this unbelievable display of love and devotion, Reb Aryeh broke down and wept.
Miraculously, that Saturday night Reb Aryeh's daughter began to move and within days was fully recovered.
The cities of refuge were not jails; they were environments in which reckless people became aware that careless actions have serious ramifications. They would observe the Levites pray, learn, and teach others. They would see the epitome of sensitivity to, and concern for, fellow beings.
The mission of the Kohen Gadol's mother was not just to distribute food. The inmates saw the love a parent had for her son as she subconsciously pleaded with the inmates to spare her child. They saw how a total stranger, despite her high stature, would make sure that their needs in the city of refuge were cared for.
After developing an awareness of the preciousness of life, they would never be able to pray for the death of anyone, even if that death meant their own freedom. In fact, they, like Reb Aryeh's prisoners, may have offered their years for the merit of the Kohen Gadol.
Years later, this same remarkable trait was carried on in Rav Aryeh’s
granddaughter, Rebbetzin Batsheva Kanievsky. Without a word of rebuke, she was able to penetrate the hearts of thousands of women who came to her, who simply felt her love, and felt her concern. Through our experience over the last year with Ner Echad, we’ve heard countless stories of women whose lives were changed by the few minutes they spent with the Rebbetzin. Let us take a lesson; let us surround ourselves with those who empower us to do good, and let us be a source of love and goodness to all those who keep our company.