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What is the Reason? Saving a Life With a Book Print E-mail

What-Is-The-Reason-JudaismI can’t believe I happened on your website after so many years. I don’t know if you remember me, but in 1983, when I was a student in Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, you handed a Jewish book, The Way of God, to me after you lectured, and you said, “I hope this book brings life to you.” When you realized that I was shocked by your words, you said that you know of a rabbi who insisted that the right book at the right time is considered saving a life, and that you would share the story after I read the book. I didn’t open the book for more than ten years, but after a difficult divorce, as I was packing up my stuff, I came across the book and read it. I now have a beautiful observant family because of Rabbi Luzzato and, although I don’t find many Jews, even Rabbis, who live as The Way of God describes, my wife, children, and I constantly strive to use our choices to attach to God. Do you remember the story you promised? I read the book and am calling in a debt even as I thank you for saving my life. D.A.


Each time I open a book by your ancestor, I remember you, and pray that his merit should help you in life. So, yes, I remember you, and I remember the story: Rabbi Chaim Ephraim Zaitchik zt”l, Rosh Yeshiva of Nivardhok in Butash (Russia) was sent by the Soviets to Siberia for the crime of teaching Torah. He was given half a kilogram of bread each day, and some water. One day, he volunteered to fetch the water despite having to carry the heavy buckets through the snow for more than three kilometers, because there was a village next to the well, and he wanted to see if he could find a Jewish family.

He found one house with a Mezuzah, and the door was slightly open. Rav Zaitchik knocked, and when the woman of the house saw him in his torn clothes and broken shoes she went to slam the door shut. “I am a Jew!” he shouted. She stuck her hand out with a piece of bread to get rid of him, but he said, “I don’t want bread. I want a Jewish book, any book!”

Her husband came to the door and said, “I’m not a rabbi. I only have one book that I kept from my father and it is my only Jewish belonging. I can’t give it away!”

“Please, just give a page to me; even just the title page, I need to have something from a sefer!”

The man took out the book and it had two tractates of Talmud bound together, Nedarim and Nazir.

“I can’t rip the book,” the man insisted.

Rav Zaitchik said, “You must give so that your brother Jew can live! This is life and death to me!”

The man tore out tractate Nedarim, and Rav Zaitchik hid it under his shirt and now had a sefer to give life to him.

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