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Tuesday
Jan222019

ONE BRIS MILA AND $500

PART I

Previously, I told the story of the mohel, R’ Alon Razla, who made herculean efforts to circumcise a baby on time. He flew on a private plane to Alabama and made it home in time for Shabbos which was Erev Purim.

My colleague at Beis Moshiach, R’ Avremele Rainitz, who read this story, told me a story that he heard firsthand from Rabbi Boruch Aharon Huss. R’ Huss told the story during a Yom Tov meal in his sukka on Hoshana Rabba of this year.

“I want to tell you a special story from which you can learn what an impact there is in every word we say. You can never know what an impression it will make.”

R’ Boruch Aharon Huss is a geshmake Jew, who was niskarev from Satmar to Lubavitch and later went on shlichus to Eretz Yisroel. In recent years, he is active in spreading the wellsprings of Chabad Chassidus among other religious groups living in the Jewish neighborhoods in Montreal.

In the course of his work, he met Igor, a Russian who lived in Montreal at the time. They got to talking and R’ Huss learned that Igor had not had a bris.

“How is that possible? A bris is a basic, crucial mitzva! It’s the sign between a Jew and the Creator!”

Igor was not interested in undergoing circumcision. He had heard about this mitzva and decided it wasn’t for him. R’ Huss could not bear to let this mitzva slip through his hands, and he explained how important it is for the neshama. But Igor didn’t get it.

“It doesn’t speak to me at all,” he said drily. “It’s not for me.”

When R’ Huss emotionally exclaimed, “But you are a Jew! A Jew needs a bris mila!” Igor coldly said, “So what … I don’t believe in anything. The fact that I was born a Jew does not obligate me in any way.”

The conversation went on for a long time, but all the beautiful explanations fell on deaf ears. Igor insisted he would not have a bris mila.

PART II

A few months went by and one day, they met again.

“I get a mazal tov,” Igor said, as he winked mischievously at R’ Huss.

“Mazal tov? For what?”

“I was circumcised,” said Igor with a big smile.

R’ Huss was thrilled. He had thought it was a lost cause and that Igor would never agree to be circumcised and here, just a few months later, the unbelievable had occurred.

“What convinced you and who convinced you?” R’ Huss wondered.

“One of the Rebbe’s shluchim. Like you, he spoke to me about bris mila, but when he saw that I wouldn’t do it, he made me the surprising offer of $500 if I would go through with it. Since I needed the money, I agreed.

“You told me how important a bris is, and how it affects the neshama and opens up one’s Jewish feelings. I want you to know that it doesn’t! I had the bris and I don’t feel anything special. Everything is the same as it always was.”

R’ Huss didn’t know what to say. He was well aware of the power of the mitzva, but he still found himself at a loss for words.

Two years passed, and the two met a third time. This time, Igor was wearing a black yarmulke and had a beard.

“Igor!” R’ Huss clapped excitedly. “What happened to you?”

“It really works!” laughed Igor. “This bris … apparently there is something to it, because it started to ‘work.’ I feel that something inside, deep in my heart, is beginning to move. Spiritual things are beginning to speak to my heart. Although I laughed at what you explained the first time we met, it really works!”

R’ Huss was very happy to hear this and after a few brief minutes of pleasant conversation, they parted ways.

PART III

A few years went by and they met again. Rabbi Berel Lazar, Chief Rabbi of Russia, went to the Rebbe with a group of Russian Jews. R’ Lazar brings a group like this every year for Shabbos Slichos.

Igor was happy to see R’ Huss. He told him that he left Montreal and returned to Moscow and now he had come as one of the leaders of the group of mekuravim.

“Come, I will introduce you to R’ Lazar,” he said, almost pulling him by the hand. “I want to tell him who the first Jew was to push me to do a bris mila.” Igor laughed, though he was actually as serious as could be.

They went over to R’ Lazar who was surrounded by Jews from Russia. Igor waited for the right moment and then introduced R’ Huss. “Rabbi Lazar, here is the first person to talk to me about bris mila. It all began, thanks to him.”

A short conversation ensued between R’ Lazar and R’ Huss who actually knew one another from the time they both learned in 770. R’ Lazar said in amazement, “Thanks to you he did a bris? You should know that you have a big z’chus!”

R’ Huss didn’t know what R’ Lazar was amazed about. True, it’s a big z’chus for a Jew to undergo a bris, but R’ Lazar does this regularly and his reaction made it sound like something unusual took place here.

R’ Lazar noticed R’ Huss’ surprise and said that Igor was not only a baal teshuva; he worked to be mekarev others. “Every Shabbos, during the meals, 100-150 Jews sit with Igor and he talks to them in Russian about Judaism and gets them more involved in Judaism and Chassidus.”

R’ Huss was perplexed, for Igor didn’t seem the orator-type, but R’ Lazar said, “Igor speaks from the heart and people love to hear him. He speaks the truth. His neshama is lit up!” This was just some of Igor’s praise, which was said in Igor’s presence.

During that Shabbos, Shabbos Slichos, R’ Huss and Igor sat down to talk. It was after they had had some mashke and Igor’s heart was opened wide and he shed his cool exterior.

“Look, R’ Huss,” said Igor, placing his hand on his shoulder. “Today I know what you were talking about and how important what you said was. I am ashamed that I did this important mitzva for $500. What an embarrassment, to do something so holy for money!” Tears appeared in his eyes.

“L’chaim!” said R’ Huss, and Igor responded, “L’chaim v’livracha.”

“I want to tell you,” said Igor, “that being so ashamed of what I did, I decided that for every dollar that I got, I would convince another Jew to undergo bris mila!”

R’ Huss thought Igor was talking under the influence, but he sensed that it was coming from a deep place inside his heart.

“You mean, to convince 500 Jews to have a bris, one for each dollar?”

Igor nodded.

“So, where are you up to?” asked R’ Huss in astonishment.

“Not too far, a little past 100.”

PART IV

Some time later, R’ Huss met the shliach who paid Igor $500 to undergo a bris. R’ Huss gave him an update about Igor and how, thanks to the shliach and the $500, he was mekarev this Jew who was doing remarkable things.

“I’ll tell you the truth,” said the shliach. “After I gave him the $500 dollars and he had a bris, I wondered whether I had done the right thing. I had never done anything like it before. Our Torah and mitzvos are not for sale. I gave it a lot of thought, but it was moot since there was no way to take it back.

“Now, I am happy to hear that such wonderful things resulted and continue to result.”

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