B. was born to a Jewish mother and a Muslim sheikh father who served as the chief muezzin on the Temple Mount for years. Her father had arranged for her to marry an abusive Muslim cousin, but just days before the wedding she was miraculously rescued by Yad L’Achim, which continues to assist her.
With G-d’s help she has built a kosher home, with all of her children learning in Torah institutions.
Three years ago, when her son Elchanan (a pseudonym) reached bar mitzvah age, he asked to receive a blessing from Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky in his home. Yad L’Achim quickly made the arrangements and within days the heads of the organization accompanied Elchanan to the home of Rabbi Kanievsky, who received them warmly and gave the bar mitzvah boy a blessing for success.
The Yad L’Achim leaders who escorted him also merited a blessing, but not before Rabbi Kanievsky expressed interest in the organization’s broad range of rescue work and pidyon shvuyim (redeeming captives) activities.
Now, in the wake of the Rabbi Kanievsky’s passing, Elchanan took upon himself to learn in depth a tractate of mishna in his memory, to be completed by the end of the shloshim (initial 30 days of mourning). “I had a special zechus (merit) to receive his bracha (blessing) and I feel like a real bar mazal (lucky person),” he told his mother and Yad L’Achim mentor. “This bracha accompanies me every day and spurs me on to be a better Jew.”
Yad L’Achim stressed that Elchanan’s moving visit reflected a very small part of its close connection to Rabbi Kanievsky. For example, in the past year a special delegation of the organization’s leaders visited the sage in his home to present him with fateful questions relating to pidyon shvuyim.
Only parts of the questions can be revealed, due to security considerations. The first concerned a Jewish woman living with her children in the heart of Hebron, in a neighborhood that was known to be a Hamas stronghold. In the circumstances, a rescue would pose unusual risk to the team going in. On hearing the full picture, Rabbi Kanievsky ruled, “They can do it,” and the operation was given the green light.
The second question involved a Jewish woman, a Holocaust survivor, who was over 100 years old and staying in a Christian monastery. Was it permissible for Yad L’Achim to send a team into a monastery? Rabbi Kanievsky ruled that it was.
Rabbi Kanievsky was also among the first of the Torah leaders to write a letter in a special Torah scroll that the organization raffled off before the Shavuot holiday last year. In addition, only two months ago, he blessed two platefuls of coins – on two separate occasions – to be given to the organization’s donors in his name.
Yad L’Achim added that Rabbi Kanievsky gave a special blessing for success to its partners in the commandment of pidyon shuvyim, saying: “Those who help save children from assimilation will merit – midah knegged midah (measure for measure) – to have nachas (happiness) from their own children.”
Since receiving that blessing, one of the organization’s leaders noted, “We are witness to a growing number of donors seeking to partner with our pidyon shvuyim activities and to merit his brachos (blessings) and the blessed coins that he brought us to distribute to our supporters.”