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Wednesday
Mar252015

THE RAMBAM SAVED THE DAY

This story took place before the Peace in Galilee War. RMordechai Baron, a resident of Kfar Chabad, was called to serve in the Reserves. On the appointed day, he reported to the base from where he went together with his buddies to one of the bases near the front.

R’ Mordechai Baron by the Rebbe

Upon arriving there, R’ Mordechai took out his t’fillin and began helping many soldiers do the mitzva. He took advantage of the long waiting time the soldiers had to offer them the opportunity to do a mitzva.

After some time, he came across an older soldier who politely but firmly refused to put on t’fillin. Usually, when R’ Mordechai was turned down, he would just move on to the next soldier after wishing the person a good day, but this time, for some reason, he decided to talk to him. He began explaining the meaning of the mitzva but the soldier continued to refuse.

A group of soldiers had congregated and they listened in on the discussion between the two of them, curious as to how things would turn out. Some of them mixed in, some begged the soldier to put on the t’fillin while others encouraged him to stand by his principles and refuse.

After more discussion, the soldier asked sardonically, “If I put on t’fillin, how will I benefit?”

“What do you want?” asked R’ Mordechai.

“If you give me two Rambam bills (they were old, 1000 shekel bills, that had the likeness of the Rambam on them), I’ll agree to do it.” The soldier was confident that he wouldn’t be willing to pay that much money.

R’ Mordechai did not hesitate and on the spot he took out two Rambam bills and offered them to the soldier if he carried out his part of the deal. The soldier was flabbergasted for he hadn’t dreamed that his offer would be accepted, but oddly enough, he still refused to put on t’fillin.

Now the soldiers standing around changed their tune, even those who had supported his refusal earlier. They told him that he had to keep his word and honor the commitment he had made. The soldier found himself in the center of a commotion.

The discomfort in the situation as well as the repeated importuning on the part of the soldiers tipped the scale and he finally agreed to put on t’fillin. As he did so, one could see that he was very moved. He said the brachos with the utmost sincerity while emphasizing the words. He stood there, wearing the t’fillin, for quite some time, reading the words of the Shma word by word. His emotional response surprised everyone.

After he removed the t’fillin, R’ Mordechai gave him the two bills and they parted ways. Some of the soldiers who were there, who saw how important it was to R’ Mordechai that someone do a mitzva, also rolled up their sleeves and put on t’fillin.

R’ Menachem Wolpo, shliach from Netanya, was there too and saw what happened. He asked R’ Mordechai to share the mitzva with him and gave him one Rambam bill in exchange.

***

When his reserve duty was over, R’ Mordechai returned home and nearly forgot this story. Some years later, he noticed a letter from 770 in his mailbox. He was taken aback since he had never sent a letter to the Rebbe. He assumed that it was a mistake and that the letter was meant for the neighbors, but there was his name on the envelope.

When he opened the envelope, his heart stopped. In the envelope were two Rambam bills. Why on earth had this been sent to him? It was only after a long time and after wracking his brains to come up with an answer that he suddenly remembered the incident five years earlier when he was in the army.

R’ Mordechai felt that the Rebbe wanted to pay him for his mivtzaim expenses. He saw how the Rebbe knows what is going on even on the other side of the world and he wanted to pay for the nachas R’ Mordechai had given him.

R’ Mordechai looked into the matter and determined that nobody had reported the story to the Rebbe. Even R’ Wolpo who had witnessed the story was dumbfounded when he heard about the bills that the Rebbe had sent him, for he too had not reported about it to the Rebbe.

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