"Wheat from Heaven": A Story for Shabbos
The Torah portions of last Shabbos and this Shabbos describe how Joseph, who became the viceroy of Pharaoh through Divine Providence, was able to feed the people of the region, including his own family, during a great famine (Genesis 41-47). The following story about a famine in the Land of Israel during the 19th century is therefore especially appropriate for this Shabbos:
There was one winter in the mid-nineteenth century that portended a year of drought in the Holy City, due to the lack of rain. With the coming of spring, the crisis quickly grew to critical proportions for the entire populace. Not only was water measured by the spoonful, but wheat, vegetables, and other basic necessities were hardly attainable. From day to day the situation grew bleaker and bleaker, and even a state of emergency declared by the authorities could not help the hungry children.
The Jews turned to prayer. One night, Rav Yeshaya Bardaky, the noble leader of the Perushim (followers of the Vilna Gaon), organized a midnight vigil by the Western Wall. Men and women wailed and beseeched their Heavenly Father to have mercy on them, and shower them with sustenance.
At the conclusion of their prayers, they started to return homeward. They were quite surprised to find the narrow lanes crowded with mules laden with sacks of wheat, extending all the way to the courtyard of Rav Bardaky. Eagerly, they asked how much the precious grain cost.
The leader of the Arab caravan disregarded their questions. "Where is Bardaky?" he asked. On meeting the Perushim leader, the Arab offered to sell the whole train of wheat which he had brought from far away.
"I am willing," Rav Bardaky announced. "But I don't have cash to pay for it."
The Arab answered, "I am willing to accept a note from the Chacham (Sage), who is known to be trustworthy."
Unhesitatingly, Rav Bardaky wrote an IOU for the entire sum. Then he invited the Arab leader and his companions to be his guests for the night. The leader replied, "Thank you, but we must be off at once." Within minutes, the mules were unloaded, and they disappeared in the dark corridors of the city.
In gratitude to Hashem, the Compassionate One, Rav Bardaky gave part of the wheat to the Moslem and Christian citizens of the city. In that way, he spread the greatness of Hashem's Name throughout the Land.
Days and weeks passed, yet the Arab never returned to claim payment for the wheat. Rav Bardaky inquired in every sector of the city, but without success. The gatekeepers confirmed his suspicions that on the night of the delivery of the wheat, the gates of the city were duly bolted as required by law, and that no caravan of mules had entered the city. For years to come, the people of Jerusalem would speak about the mysterious messengers that brought a gift of life for the suffering residents of the Holy City.
Have a Good and Sweet Shabbos,
Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen (See below)
The above story appears in the book "Where heaven touches earth" - Jewish life in Jerusalem from medieval times to the present, by David Rossoff. It is published by Guardian Press and distributed by Feldheim Publishers: www.feldheim.com . The book is also available from the author: Rossoff@zahav.net.il
Hazon - Our Universal Vision: www.shemayisrael.co.il/publicat/hazon/