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23 Shevat 5765 - February 2, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly
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Home and Family

True Tales of Yesteryear
The Grave He Dug

By Yisca Shimony

Batya Karelitz sat by the counter in her shop, which was now without any customers, studying her account books. Again and again, she pored over the many expenses, pondering over her state of affairs. The goods were bought on installment, and many of these bills were soon due, but the cash box was almost empty! She recalled her husband's words that when it comes to parnosso, they should make an honest effort, but realize that the rest was up to Heaven.

With this thought, the furrow on her brow smoothed out and a smile appeared on her face. She had fulfilled her duty as far as effort was concerned; now she must fulfill it with regards to trust in Hashem. And even though the shop was empty, their needs would be fulfilled somehow.

Strangely, as though sent from Heaven, she thought, several customers walked in through the door. Batya Karelitz raised her eyes and smiled at them. She was surprised, however, to note that they were gentiles, but she was sure that they had been sent from Heaven to help pay the debts. Communication with these gentiles was not as smooth as she would have wished, since she barely spoke Lithuanian, but somehow, with hand motions, a sale was transacted and Batya felt satisfied and was glad for the cash in hand.

As she watched the group leave, however, she became suspicious. Something about their smiles made her uneasy — they were almost smirks. And there was something arrogant and hostile, almost, about their demeanor. Did she detect cruelty on their faces, as well? Had they stolen something?

Batya walked over to the place where they had stood and found a sheaf of documents lying on the floor. Just as she was bending down to pick them up, a policeman walked in, snatched the papers away and barked, "What are these?"

Confused and frightened, Batya tried to glance at them. She dared not tug them out of the policeman's hands. "I-I really don't know, m-myself. I saw them lying here on the floor just n-now," she stammered. She stretched her arm to receive them but he refused to relinquish them.

Batya felt threatened and helpless. The officer looked at her with a mysterious smile as he pocketed the papers and stalked out of the store.

Batya stood there, transfixed, for a few moments. She looked at the bright sunlight shining in and tried to calm herself that all was well. What could have been in those papers? And why am I so upset? she asked herself. For the next few moments her attention was diverted by a few regular customers who came in, wanting to be served. She almost forgot the strange incident.

Shortly afterwards, however, the officer returned and thrust an official looking paper at her. She took it — it was a court summons. She was ordered to appear before the judges. The charges against her were: theft.

"Who can possibly accuse me of theft?" she blurted.

"Everything is written down in these documents. Read them and you'll know who is accusing you and who are the witnesses." With these brief words, the officer turned on his heel and stalked out of the store as before.

Who could be accusing me of theft? What could I have stolen? she wondered. She was not well-versed enough in Lithuanian legal jargon to understand the fine points of the summons. "I'll go to Avrohom Yeshaya," she thought. "He is much more familiar with such terminology. In any case, he will surely know what to do."

At home, she stood in front of the door to the Chazon Ish's study and tried to listen. His voice rang out with the sweet melody of Torah study. Batya waited for him to pause, not wanting to interrupt him. She was suddenly reminded of what her husband had said about Yosef Hatzaddik and his minute lack of trust in Hashem. He had asked the royal butler to mention his name before Pharaoh, and for this, he had been punished with an additional two years in prison. Isn't it strange that Yosef was punished for such a minimal effort, when that is what he should have done, in any case?

Her husband had explained at the time that "It seems that not everything which appears as a genuine effort is really just that. Let us examine Yosef's act. The character of the royal butler certainly showed that he only had his own advancement in mind. He would surely not wish to remind the king of his crime. He would surely try to erase all memory of Yosef and would, therefore, not mention him to Pharaoh. In that case, it was clear that Yosef's request was not an act of hishtadlus, and therefore, he should not have asked for that favor."

Reflecting upon this idea, Batya, waiting in front of the door, wondered if she, too, was not being punished for mistaking the gentile customers as her vehicle of Divine help.

Suddenly she noticed that the door had opened and her husband's disciple had left the room. There was a noticeable pause in the learning.

Batya knocked on the open door and then entered. R' Avrohom Yeshaya was surprised to see her there. She handed him the papers to read and waited.

He soon lifted his eyes and looked alarmed. "You have been summoned before a court of justice. You are being accused of having stolen goods in your store. The prosecutor claims you stole an expensive piece of material from his store and even has witnesses to testify. The police confiscated receipts for the stolen goods which bear the name of the true owner and he claims this as proof that you stole the cloth."

He flipped through the other documents. "These are the testimonies of the store owner and the witnesses. Now tell me, Batya, what is this all about?"

She told him what had happened. "But it's all a lie! I never stole anything; you know that. I have receipts for every bolt of cloth displayed in the store!"

R' Avrohom Yeshaya studied the papers again. "The signators here are all gentiles. The court will sit on the case next week. I imagine that the witnesses will have no problem swearing falsely or the judge in accepting their testimony. It is useless to attempt a defense as Jews against gentiles. No one will listen to our side, no less believe it. The only recourse we have at this point is to pray."

For the next few days, the Chazon Ish closeted himself in his study and prayed with all his heart. His wife, Batya, prayed as well. Her mind was constantly on the upcoming trial and her lips continually formed words of prayer.

The accuser walked the streets, secure of victory, a knowing smirk on his face. He was actually looking forward to the courtroom scene. Then, a day before the appointed time, the same officer walked into the store and handed Batya a different paper. A customer in the store helped her with the foreign language. The paper stated:

"The court has dismissed the case."

Batya rushed to inform her husband. "What happened to make them change their mind?" asked the Chazon Ish.

It soon became known to all that the accuser had died very suddenly. It was as if he had dug his own grave . . .

 

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