Sarah’s Corner: Am Yisrael Chai


Am Yisrael Chai

Sarah Pachter

Who Can I Carry?

Rav Fischel Schachter once made a shidduch for his daughter. He asked his mother, “Don’t you know the girl’s grandmother?”

She answered, “Yes, we were in the war together.”

At the time of the l’chaim, Mrs. Schachter had been unwell and was able to move only with a walker. The kallah’s grandmother, Mrs. Traut, approached Mrs. Schachter and said, “What do you need a walker for? Get rid of it!”

To which his mother chuckled and responded, “Are you gonna carry me again?”

Rav Schachter questioned his mother about this exchange, and she finally began to open up.

During World War II, Mrs. Schachter was in a work battalion in Bergen Belsen. Each day she was loaded onto a truck and taken to the top of a local mountain. They were not given food nor water, and were instructed to carry huge boulders up and down the mountain. If anyone tripped, fell, or dropped the boulder, they were shot instantaneously.

Mrs. Schachter was 16 years old and weighed 40 pounds. One morning, she was unable to move from the truck. Mrs. Traut, a frail young woman herself, said, “Get off the truck! If you don’t move, they are going to kill you. Let’s go.”

She responded with despair, “I can’t. My feet and hands won’t move. I’m done. Let them kill me here.” 

“Then I’ll carry you up the mountain.”

“You can’t carry me and the boulder! You’ll die also.”

“Then I’ll die for a purpose.”

Mrs. Traut miraculously carried the boulder in one hand and Mrs. Schachter in the other. Had the Nazis seen them stop they would have been killed, but they were spared.

Two generations later, this one heroic act led to the creation of many Jewish neshamos.

Am Yisrael Chai!

A New Scooter

Mr. Fastlyn[1], a teacher at YULA high school, stays twice a week after the final bell to help students with homework and upcoming tests. He does not own a car and commutes two hours each way by bus, utilizing a basic scooter to get to and from the bus stop.

Recently, his scooter broke, interrupting his routine. Staying after school with no functioning scooter meant missing his regular bus and extending his long commute by forty-five minutes.

The students were empathic to the teacher’s plight, and did something to make a change for the better. Unprompted, they collected money to purchase an electric scooter for this special teacher. One child even gave one hundred dollars towards the purchase. What a chesed and kiddush Hashem!

Am Yisrael Chai!

One Tichel or Two

A kallah student of mine, Sharon[2], was newly married and finishing her master’s degree. At her secular university, she felt alone and awkward about covering her hair. A friend of hers, Devorah[3], attended the same college and was not yet married.

Sharon complained to Devorah, “My only wig is being washed, and I’m dreading going to school tomorrow. I will have to wear a scarf in class, and I feel like people will stare at me. I’m already uncomfortable with a wig, the scarf will just be too much for me!”

The next day, Devorah arrived at school sporting the very same scarf that Sharon wore! Sharon recently expressed to me how touched she was by Devorah’s small act, despite years having passed since then.

A small act can change your life, and the life of another.

Am Yisrael Chai!

Lemonade Surprise

My children made a lemonade stand with the neighbors on erev Sukkot to raise money for Chai Lifeline. Someone from the community drove up, and seeing that it was for charity said, “I don’t want the lemonade, I just want to give to charity,” and handed us a fifty-dollar bill.

Am Yisrael Chai!

Spinach Anyone?

We went to visit my brother’s family in Silver Spring, Maryland, for Sukkot. My sister-in-law, Yael, has a friend named Rina,[4] who gave birth to her fifth child only a few days before our arrival. I overheard some of a conversation between them.

“Rina, I’m heading to the market, do you need anything?”

Rina must have declined because Yael then asked, “Are you sure? I’m just getting spinach for a special dish I’m making. It’s silly for me to only get one thing. Surely you need something for the baby, at least!”

Rina insisted she didn’t need anything. Instead, Rina immediately went to the market, picked up spinach, and placed it on Yael’s doorstep. 

This story isn’t just about spinach. My brother had mentioned that Yael drove Rina to the hospital for her delivery, and that their teenage children watched Rina’s kids so her husband could meet her there. Yael never divulged this selfless act. Not only does this example display tremendous chesed from both women, but also humility. Neither said anything—they just did. Chesed is about being willing to stretch outside ourselves and hear the call of need, from strangers and friends alike.

Am Yisrael Chai!

Missing Child

One evening, a six-year old Jewish boy from the Los Angeles community went missing. Within minutes, word spread and hundreds of people began to search. Simultaneously, a massive WhatsApp tehillim chat was created. 

Men gathered near the family’s home, and were patrolling with flashlights on the streets. They stopped local cars and opened garbage bins and dumpsters. Hatzolah, Chaverim, and other organizations sent volunteers and search cars. People came in droves to canvas every corner of this city. Equally, the commitments on the tehillim chat were being posted faster than one could type. This went on for hours.

Into the evening, local parents could not sleep knowing there was a mother in our community that did not know where her child was. The communal efforts did not cease until the child was found safe a few hours later. 

Am Yisrael Chai!

Falafel Horon

Tal Kupferstein was a Hatzolah volunteer in Israel, no small feat. Becoming a volunteer takes months of training and relentless dedication to answer the call of daily emergencies.

On November 15, 2019, he responded to a call regarding an accident. Tragically, while he was on the way, he himself was hit by a car and terribly injured. The accident caused a punctured lung, broken ribs, and fractures to his pelvis and leg. Tal needed emergency surgery and faced a long road to recovery.

Once the initial emergency was dealt with, Tal’s fellow volunteers wanted to help in a long-term fashion. Before the accident, Tal had opened a falafel shop. This restaurant was his sole means of supporting his family; while he was recovering, he was unable to run the shop.

Hatzolah not only saved lives, but planned to save his business as well. Volunteers signed up to run the store around the clock, enabling it to remain open for two months without Tal. Using a process similar to the Meal Train website, it took only a few days for the shifts to completely book up.

One special Hatzolah volunteer owned his own falafel shop, yet closed it for a day in order to run Tal’s.

Am Yisrael Chai!

Some of these examples took gargantuan effort, while others are smaller acts of chesed. One might read them and think, Oh, anyone would do that! But many of these acts are simply unheard of in society at large.

Yes, the Jewish people are a ‘stiff-necked’ nation. Sure, we have many flaws. And of course we fight, like siblings do. But just like family is there, through thick and thin, we carry each other in our hardest moments. May Hashem see these acts and continue to carry His nation through all of our times of difficulty, fulfilling  His eternal promise to us.

Am Yisrael Chai!

[1] Name has been changed

[2] Name has been changed

[3] Name has been changed

[4] Name has been changed