Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Harav Mordechai Eliyahu, ZT"L - Finding a Body that Wasn't Lost

Harav Hagaon Rav Mordechai Eliyahu, ZY"A, was nifter yesterday. Like thousands and thousands of others, I went to the funeral in Kiryat Moshe (it's actually walking distance). He was a true Gadol and a worthy leader of Klal Yisroel.

Much of the Jewish news media is mourning his passing and writing up tributes to his gadlus. There is an inspiring write-up in today's Arutz Sheva web site. They chose to relate a story about the power of tefillah and the plight of an agunah. Here is the story as they tell it:

When Rabbi Eliyahu first became a dayan in Be’er Sheva, in 1957, his was the only rabbinical court in the entire south, between Eilat and Be’er Sheva. On his first day on the job, he saw a woman standing outside, praying from a small Book of Psalms. She remained outside all day. The next day, the rabbi saw the same thing, and the next day again, and so on. Finally, he asked the court secretary to ask her to come in. He asked her why she stood outside and prayed all day, and she related in all innocence: ‘I came on Aliyah [immigration to Israel] from Morocco by myself, and they sent me to Be’er Sheva. I asked where the closest rabbinical court was, I was told it was here, and so here I am.’

He asked her, “What are you praying for?” and the woman said, “My husband in Morocco was a taxi driver, and a week after we were married, at the end of the Sheva Brachot [the seven days of wedding festivities], he crashed - and his body was never found... After a while, I went to the rabbis to be declared a widow so that I could remarry, but they said that without a body, they could not be certain that he was dead – and so I remained a ‘chained woman’ [aguna, unable to marry]. But when I came to Israel, I had faith that what the rabbinical courts in Morocco could not accomplish [in permitting me to remarry], the courts in Israel would be able to do.”

Rabbi Eliyahu asked, “So why did you remain outside the court? Why didn’t you come in to the dayanim?”

The woman said, “Who are you? I pray to G-d, not to you!”

Rabbi Eliyahu immediately took up her case. He took all her papers and went to the Baba Sali, who told him of his brother, the Baba Haki, a leading rabbi in the Israeli city of Ramle who was familiar with all those engaged in Jewish burials in Morocco. Rabbi Eliyahu traveled to Ramle, where the Baba Haki told him, “There were only two Jewish kavranim [people engaged in burials] in Morocco, and both have since come to Israel. One lives in Dimona and one lives in Kiryat Ata [near Haifa].”

Rabbi Eliyahu said, “I live in the south, so I might as well try Dimona.” He went to the exact address supplied to him by the Baba Haki – only to find that the man’s family was sitting shiva for him; he had died just a few days earlier.

Quite disappointed, Rabbi Eliyahu went in anyway, shared some words of Torah and solace with the mourning family and friends, and explained why he was there. Immediately, a man jumped up and said, “I am the other kavran, and I know that story! I was the one who buried the taxi driver!”

Rabbi Eliyahu asked him to accompany come him to other rabbis, who questioned him and determined that his testimony was acceptable. Rabbi Eliyahu convened the rabbinical court, and the woman was declared “unchained” and permitted to remarry.

“This is the power of prayer,” Rabbi Eliyahu later said, “both hers and mine.”

On the surface, it is a very inspiring story. Nevertheless, something doesn't fit. I posted a comment on the Arutz-7 web site (it hasn't been posted yet) which expresses my bewilderment. here is what I wrote:

Something is strange about the story of the taxi driver. What does it mean that "his body was never found" if one of the official kavranim of Morocco buried him?

This implies that the body was found, a Jewish person buried him and he knew who he was burying. So why was his bride and the other rabannim of Morocco not aware of it when it happened?

There are a few holes in this story.

If this story goes back to 1957, I highly doubt there is anybody around who can fill in the holes and make this story more believable. In the meatime, I have to file it in my story repository under Questionable (if not Implausible).

Aside from this, I wonder how many seconds are left on the Baba Sali watch and...is it running?


Anonymous said...

Aside from this, I wonder how many seconds are left on the Baba Sali watch and...is it running?


Yechezkel said...