Dreaming of Moshiach

Friday, November 24, 2006

Chesed for Eternity

Watching the waves froth against the shore and ripple back out to sea, Shmuel and his young wife stood at the dock. They had come a full two hours early. They walked the length of the magnificent vessel, talking nonstop about their upcoming voyage. All the money-gifts from their wedding, as well as all the money the young man had saved for the last few years, were invested in this trip. A fabulous voyage to a new life in a new country. All around them, happiness filled the air.

The Titanic cruise liner's interior consisted of three levels: various degrees of luxury. The couple went into the terminal. Faigy, the lovely young bride, thought about the separation from her family and friends in Romania, and her eyes began to tear. It was the most difficult thing she had ever done. All the relatives from both sides had lavished an abundance of hugs, loving advice, as well as kosher food packages on them. Those hugs would have to last her for a very long time -- perhaps forever...

The British seacraft weighed 46,000 tons gross. This was the colossal craft's maiden voyage. The seas were completely smooth on this chilly spring day. Two thousand and two hundred passengers had already boarded.

Shmuel and Faigy passed through all of the customs and passport controls. Singles, couples and whole families began to go out and board the ship, but Shmuel and Faigy lingered in the bustling area for a few extra minutes, mesmerized by the amazing numbers of people saying their farewells with raw emotions revealed on their faces.

Tears, smiles and laughter were plentiful. Suddenly, Shmuel noticed a commotion by the passport control. From afar, he saw a fellow Jew attempting to argue with the officer on duty. Shmuel pushed his way through the throngs to see if he could be of help. It was a lad of no more than fourteen. Shmuel asked what the problem was and quickly realized that of the three languages his landsman knew, English was not one of them.

They exchanged a few sentences: "My parents sailed to America last November," Yossi, the young boy, explained. "They've been saving money to send for me. Meanwhile, I've been living with an elderly uncle, working and saving money as well." He bowed his head sadly and paused for a moment. "My uncle passed away last week. The shiva ended yesterday and I have nowhere to be. I desperately want to sail on this ship and be reunited with my parents as soon as I can. But I don't know if it is possible..."

Shmuel turned to the official and explained the situation. He did not notice how empty the huge hall had suddenly become. Faigy stood quietly by. Over the roar of the engines, the tooting of the ship's horns and the booming of loudspeakers, she could barely make out the announcement of imminent departure, demanding all passengers to board the ship immediately.

"Shmuel," she said hesitantly, "we must get on the ship now. Can't you hear the whistle? I think it's the last one." "One minute, please. We want Yossi to come with us, don't we?" Shmuel turned, looked at Faigy and said, "We can't leave him stranded here, can we? He is all alone and has nowhere to go!"

Yossi looked up at Shmuel, tremendous gratitude sweeping across his face, but Shmuel didn't notice. Faigy shifted uneasily but remained quiet. The large room had almost completely emptied by now. A brisk sea breeze whistled through the air.

A final blast of the ship's horn. Outside the building, the vessel raised anchor and began to churn out to sea. Hands held high waved goodbye, on shore and at sea. Shouts and noise. Soon a soft quiet settled over those remaining on dock as the ship drifted further and further out to sea.

"You can argue from today till tomorrow, sir, but this passport is not in order. It is not valid and this gentleman will have to take care of it at the embassy." The customs officer was red-faced by now. He removed his spectacles, which were steamed up with perspiration and frustration, turned his back on them all, and went off to a side room, slamming the door behind him with finality.

When the threesome went out through the wide entrance of the now totally empty building, they were met with the sight of a ship dwindling into the horizon, seemingly tiny. They knew how huge it really was. All the well-wishers had already gone and the ground consisted of a few stragglers, a lot of litter and two cleaning men.

Faigy burst into tears. "All of our dreams! All the excitement. We've lost it all!"

Shmuel looked her in the eye with firmness and determination. "Faigy, we were helping a fellow Jew in distress. Everything that God does is good and you must never forget that. We'll go help our new friend get a proper passport and find out what other ships are available. We don't need to travel with frills. Mitzvot [and good deeds] are the only ornaments we need."

Faigy looked at her brave young husband through tear-soaked lashes. Pride swelled in her heart. She straightened herself up and wiped her eyes. She was so blessed to have a husband like Shmuel!

The next day, from their hotel room, the young couple heard the news screamed throughout the city and round the world.

Fredrick Fleet was in the crow's nest as lookout that night and was the first to sight the iceberg shortly after 11:30. He quickly rang the crow's nest bell three times and telephoned the wheelhouse to warn them of the deadly obstacles, but the ship was speeding too quickly to turn and smashed into the iceberg. Water began pouring into the vessel amongst screams and hysteria.

Jack Philips operated the ship's wireless radio. He sat at his station sending out the international distress signal. He stayed at his post, issuing the call for help, until the end. He died that night, Sunday, April 14, 1912, one of the 1,500 people who perished. Seven hundred and five, mostly women and children, survived the freezing North Atlantic Ocean in life rafts to tell the tale when they reached the Carpathia and safety. The Titanic luxury liner sank within three hours of breaking in two.

The young couple were my maternal grandparents, who later moved to Canada to raise five beautiful children, of which my mother was the third.

Thanks to my grandfather's desire to help a fellow Jew, and his faith in God, his grandchildren and great-grandchildren are able to follow in his footsteps, seeing the goodness and kindness within every situation and knowing what is truly important.

by Rifca Goldberg




והיה השם למלך על כל הארץ, ביום ההוא יהיה השם אחד - ושמו אחד ישתבח שמו לעד לנצח נצחים בכל העולמות Blessed is His name for eternity in all worlds אין עוד מלבדו