Kaddish After Many Years- Holocaust Memorial Day
Yesterday, we discussed the importance of reciting Kaddish for the benefit of the soul of the deceased. This is based on our steadfast belief that one’s primary life begins only after one passes away. Indeed, our Sages taught (Avot, Chapter 6): “When one departs this world, one is not accompanied by gold, silver, precious stones, or pearls. One is only accompanied by Torah and good deeds.”
The following is an incident that was publicized approximately one year ago. This story was recounted by Hagaon Harav Menashe Yisrael Reisman Shlit”a, who confirmed all the details were accurate and correct. The story was heard from Harav Yitzchak Landau zt”l, who was the personal attendant of the previous Belzer Rebbe, Rav Aharon z”l, and the principal of the Belzer Yeshiva in Jerusalem.
During Tevet of 5750 (1990), Mrs. Tzivya Savitsky passed away without any children. This righteous woman worked as the dormitory counselor in Bet Sanhedria in the Katamon section of Jerusalem (later in Bet Ha’Kerem) in the years after the Holocaust. This institution served as an orphanage for tens of Holocaust survivors who had no living relatives. They would eat, sleep, and live in this home and every morning, they would go to their respective schools. When they returned in the afternoon, they would be served a hot and nutritious lunch.
Mrs. Savitsky’s funeral took place on a cold, wintry Friday. Because of the circumstances, there were not many in attendance. Only her nephews and a few other acquaintances were there.
During the funeral procession, a Jew dressed in traditional Chassidic garb appeared and wished to recite Kaddish, however, the family members, who did not recognize the man, did not allow him to. The Chassid agreed and continued to accompany the procession silently.
During the Shiva, when people came to console the deceased’s sister, this same Chassidic Jew arrived and began to tell his story:
“My name is Yitzchak Landau,” he began, with tears streaming down his face. “I arrived in Israel in the year 5705 (1945) at the age of ten, after the Holocaust and without any living relatives. At some point, I came to Jerusalem. I studied in Talmud Torah Yavneh and I lived in the Bet Sanhedria home.”
“The yearning for my parents tore through my heart but somewhat calmed down when I arrived at Bet Sanhedria, where I was greeted warmly by Mrs. Savitsky. She was devoted to the children as though she were their actual mother. She would cook them meals, hear their stories, calm their fears, and be there for whatever they needed.”
One of the more difficult tasks she took upon herself was to clean the heads of those children whose hair was infested with lice. The children of the Holocaust suffered immensely from lice infestation after years of neglect and Mrs. Savitsky would sit with us for hours on end until she finished the job.”
She took care of me as well, the young orphan, and this made me very emotional. Once, I could not control myself and I began to cry. She asked me, ‘Why are you crying?’ I replied that I was crying for her, as it hurt me to see how much she gave of herself to help us poor orphans.”
“I asked her, ‘How can I ever repay your kindness?’ Her eyes welled with tears. She replied, ‘My dear Yitzchak, I have no children. After my passing, I will have no one to recite Kaddish for me. If you would like to repay me, please recite Kaddish for my soul after my passing.’”
“Many years passed since that day, and I almost forgot all about it. This past Thursday night, I went to sleep and suddenly, Mrs. Savitsky appeared to me in my dream. She sat on the couch and said, ‘Yitzchak, it is time to fulfill your promise!’”
“I woke up from my dream startled. I had not heard about Mrs. Savitsky for many years, and I immediately recounted the dream to my wife.”
“The next morning, on my way to Shacharit, I saw a fresh obituary on the bulletin board and the name on it hit me hard: ‘Tzivya Savitsky!’”
Our Sages taught (Sanhedrin 19b): “One who raises an orphan in one’s home is considered to have bore him.” May these words be in memory of this righteous woman, all other such poor women, and the six million Jews, among them one million sweet, innocent children who suffered through the worst atrocities known to mankind. May Hashem allow us to witness the consolation of Zion, when He will make tunnels under Germany, Poland, and all the other countries, from where the holy victims of the Holocaust will emerge in Eretz Yisrael amid tremendous joy and celebration, Amen!