Sunday, March 27, 2022

The Grasshopper Revelation!

This is a revelation!

So, everyone's talking about the miracle of Rav Chaim and the grasshopper. Arguments have been raging on this blog, with many people saying that at the end of the day, the fact (as confirmed by Rav Chaim himself) of the locust appearing when he needed to see one is a clear indication of his supernatural status.

But someone just sent me a video of Rebbetzen Kanievsky, where she describes the story very differently indeed!

Rebbetzen Kanievsky said that when Rav Chaim was learning this topic and writing about it, he was very distressed about not understanding how the locust's wings look. He asked his daughters to find a science book (!) which would illustrate it, but they were unsuccessful. Rav Chaim was distressed, because he felt that he couldn't publish his book on the topic without having seen one. Then, during one Shabbos meal, a locust flew in!

Of course, now the story is completely different. It's not that the locust flew in and landed on his Gemara, or even on his windowsill, exactly when he needed to see one. That didn't happen at all. He needed to see one and couldn't find one. He wanted to get a science book, because that's how he figured that he would be able to find out. And in the end, some time later, a locust flew in to his home - as happens on occasion in Israel, especially in homes which don't have air conditioning and have the windows open.

But the really important point here is not that the story turns out to be not remotely significant. It's that a very mundane story was distorted to make it significant, and then Rav Chaim's mumbled agreement was taken as testimony that the distorted version was accurate!

As I wrote last week: The greatness of Rav Chaim was his commitment to Torah and his humility. Not his being a supernatural figure. That was a myth, created and encouraged by those who benefited from it, in various ways.


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52 comments:

  1. I find that these micro-narratives, whatever one's beliefs on the matter, kind of render Judaism petty and almost pedantic. The idea that anything a single man - whatever his intelligence or perceived role - may or may not have thought or encountered, seen through a prism of myth or rationality in the context of Haredi or orthodox navel gazing, is kind of shocking when you meditate on it. I think sectarian orthodoxy lost the plot decades ago. It has nothing to offer the world, it can barely see the forest through the trees and relies too heavily on these bizarre inward-looking fairy-tales to prove what exactly? What function does any of this serve other than the sustenance of a sliver of humanity and a minority of Jews? What function do the detractors or defenders serve? Ugh. I can barely honestly believe normal people even engage in these petty and futile fairy tales.

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    1. Do you feel the same about that other sliver of humanity, the entire Jewish people?

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    2. My issue is with the - frankly - ridiculous narrative around the mystical or otherwise grandiose powers granted to these sectarian 'leaders'. Most Jews of course, do not care about these matters and shrug their shoulders, but then again they do not carry the weight on their shoulders of this dynamic. What value does it bring? Truly?

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  2. Really? They couldn't find a library book with a picture of a locust?
    I can find at least 3 on my shelf. And no one in the Kanievsky family would deign to call one of Israel's universities and ask an expert? Or, since agriculture remains a big business in Israel, call an agronomist?

    I'd prefer to believe it was a miracle.

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    1. you wrote "I'd prefer to believe it was a miracle."

      you should have finished.. "and R Chaim wife is lying..."

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    2. What I meant was that it is extremely disconcerting that in the entire family of a leading Torah scholar, no one hasthe basic library or social skills to be able to come up with a good picture of a locust.

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    3. See Brodsky's comment below. It is very realistic and not disconcerting at all.

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    4. Well, I find it disconcerting that a Talmid Chacham of Rav Kanievsky's stature would refuse to consult an expert when he needed to know some biological (or other empirical) fact to clarify his Torah study.

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    5. Who says he "refused to consult an expert"??? You guys just love making stuff up. The story is that he couldn't find a book with sufficiently detailed illustrations, and a short while later a grasshopper landed on his table. Nothing about "refusing to consult experts".

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    6. Had he consulted an expert, he would have been shown photographs with whatever detail he needed within minutes. That is what reference material in the field looks like.

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    7. Ok, maybe he didn't know that an expert would furnish him with whatever detail he needed within minutes. And maybe he thought it would be easier to find a science book than to find an expert. In any case, nothing about this story indicates he "refused to consult an expert".

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  3. מעשים בכל יום
    Every charedi legend is like this.
    Supernatural til you dig into the details.

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  4. “...He asked his daughters to find a science book (!) which would illustrate it, but they were unsuccessful. Rav Chaim was distressed, because he felt that he couldn't publish his book on the topic without having seen one...”
    You know what a true believer Chareidi would make of this? He would say that Hashem orchestrated this event in that manner so that his humble servant wouldn’t have to resort to a treife science book to discern important elements of grasshopper’s kashrut. You know... the same treife science that asserts that earth is about 4 billion years old.

    “...But the really important point here is not that the story turns out to be not remotely significant. It's that a very mundane story was distorted to make it significant, and then Rav Chaim's mumbled agreement was taken as testimony that the distorted version was accurate...”

    Rav Slifkin, I’d like to pose a question to you and I don’t mean any disrespect in directing it to you. You have shown us how within our lifetimes, in just a few years of this grasshopper event, the incident was distorted way beyond what actually occurred. Yet many thousands believe that distorted Bubbe Meise, although the real story is readily available from Rav CK’s wife. To be perfectly candid, I stopped believing most of the tales in TaNaCh long ago. If the truth of this story can be so corrupted within our lifetimes, what makes you believe that any of supernatural TaNaCh/Talmud tales are true? This is what happens when deliberate ignorance permeates your hashgafa.
    Again, I deeply respect you for your desire to rescue Charedi/Daas Torah from its decent into wilful ignorance but I think you’re 40 years late.
    The demographics are working against you.

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  5. This is a big deal - from the point of view of how, upon deeper investigation, so much of the details are thrown into question. There is probably a great book to be written on how virtually all tales are changed once they start gaining traction as fodder for inspiration to people who thirst for inspiration (even at the cost of accuracy.) People drawn to religion are far more likely to believe and cherish such tales. ALL movements, and ALL religions do this. ALL cults are built this way. Young people, lost people, scared people, depressed or anxious people, "artsy" people, broken people, and the socially awkward are among those who find these stories compelling, believable, and truly important. And there are rabbis who use these stories as tools to control and guide thinking, behavior, beliefs, and life choices. Let them know you understand what is going on, next time they try. It bears discussing.

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    1. From http://nesherhagadol.blogspot.com/2020/05/

      “A few weeks ago, a donor came to Neve—an observant person, the son of a well-known rabbi—and he was looking to see what Neve is all about. We introduced him to six students. One was a stockbroker, one was a dentist, another was an accountant, one was in PR. Six successful women. They told him their stories. He listened and listened, and finally, he couldn’t help himself and he said, ‘Why did you become religious? You had it all.’ One of the women said to him, ‘Don’t you understand the difference between success and fulfillment?’ But he didn’t give up. He said to them, ‘So was it trauma that brought you to religion?’

      “The women were looking around at each other with an expression on their faces that was like, What’s with this guy? So one of them said, ‘I failed driver’s ed twice.’”

      “She was joking?”

      “Of course she was. Her point was that trauma was not what brought her to Neve. Trauma as a path to becoming religious is very rare now. Rabbi Wolbe wrote a sefer after the Six-Day War, and in it he made two points: Miracles rarely produce lasting baalei teshuvah. Miracles didn’t make people religious at Har Sinai, and miracles don’t make people religious today. Miracles don’t work. And trauma doesn’t work.”

      “The students you chose to bring to the donor—they were all professionals, right?”

      “Yes. That’s the kind of student we get at Neve nowadays. And the average age of the Neve student today is post-graduate. The majority have been to college, and they have professional qualifications. They’ve done what was expected of them in their secular culture, and it did not bring them fulfillment.”

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    2. Yup. That's us religious folks. Depressed and Anxious and whatever else you said. How did Lord God Obama phrase it? "Bitter people, who cling to guns or religion or racism to explain their frustrations." Yep, that's us!

      Tuv, ol' boy, you really understand religious people, all five billion of them.

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    3. I didn’t mean it as an ad hominem attack. I’m seeing it more from the point of view of duping the unsuspecting and the naïve.

      Religions construct and defend specific religious beliefs, and, in this case specific “magical” stories (which are often built much like fables, but passed off as a credible recounting of true events.)

      Simultaneously, the stories are designed to be difficult to confirm. They resist interrogation and investigation (if they can’t resist interrogation, they’re of almost no use anyway (like the one debunked on this blog in the past few posts.))

      One of the most dangerous places in the world is to get between a believer and his religious historical beliefs,and stories, he’s surrounded himself with (and has no wish to be disabused of, at all.) I’ve lost friends by trying to have those conversations.

      I meant no offense. I like and respect and admire religious people’s religious commitment loads. I think what I’ve described above is the “soft underbelly” of it all. And it goes for all people, in all religions, cults, and mass social movements. But True Believers are individually almost all earnest, caring, sensitive, dear souls.

      They seek - and have found – “truth.” Just don’t seek to BLOW it for them, or you are OUT.! (Sad but true. Although, sometimes – they are actually looking to leave.)

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    4. @Anonymous: The tale you tell is a partial tale. You should know that such a story registers as incomplete, and a distortion. This is a very common feature of story telling/narrative construction in mass movements, though. Such stories are designed to valorize the women.

      I'm just curious: were the women married with children? Building a morally sound family with a man they respected? Were they yearning, quietly, for a husband and children? Were they sickened by the dates they got, or maybe the many dates they never had? Were they overlooked by all the "good men," back home? Were they nearing thirty, or (much, much harder) 35? Were they one of the dwindling number of women their age they knew back home who had never married? Had their own mothers been parents of more than one child by their age? Did they fear never marrying?

      Dentists, stockbrokers - sure. But you leave a lot out.

      None of us are agitprop two dimensional cardboard cutouts. Which is how the description of these women reads. (I’m guessing it’s how they must read, actually, as far as Neve is concerned.)

      That being said: I'm sure they are great people.

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    5. @Tuv, if it's false then it's false. If it's true then
      "the women [would be] looking around at each other with an expression on their faces that was like, What’s with this guy (you)?"

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    6. Genes make people religious

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    7. עם סגולה is genes
      עם קדוש is the sanctification by the commandments.

      A person that doesn't have the genes cannot be truly religious in terms of Judaism. This religion is simply not for him. The vast majority of Jewish people assimilating rhrought the ages is the genetic selection.

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  6. Then again, there's this version:
    https://www.kikar.co.il/%d7%94%d7%97%d7%92%d7%91-%d7%94%d7%a9%d7%99%d7%a4%d7%95%d7%a6%d7%99%d7%9d-%d7%95%d7%94%d7%95%d7%a8%d7%90%d7%aa-%d7%94%d7%a8%d7%91-%d7%a7%d7%a0%d7%99%d7%99%d7%91.html

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  7. Books with a picture of a locust are available, indeed. The question is where is a book in which the locust wings appear in sufficient quality and details. I suppose such books are much less common, and they were even less available when the rav daughters were in a seminar (i.e. a while ago). In addition, some of them are apparently in places that frum Jews would never enter, universities for example.
    So this version of the story appears to be genuine and reasonable.

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    1. If something is needed to understand Hashem's Torah, how could a frum Jew *not* go get it?

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  8. Maybe Hashem helped RCK in his learning and helped you in your learning as well? What's the big deal?

    It doesn't have to be what the overexcited RCK fans are saying, but nor do you need to insist that Hashem was uninvolved completely. Indeed, due to RCK's incredible dedication to learning, it would make sense that Hashem might help RCK more than most people, but not in some magical extreme version of sod Hashem lireyav.

    Easy peasy.

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    1. The newspaper had the grasshopper story with the addenum that R Kreisworth visited RCK and asked him about it. To which RCK responded, Antverpener Rav, it's okay if the masses make it into such a fuss, but doesn't a Rav like you(r honor) know that simply when a person learns Hashem helps him?

      Like Weaver said.

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    2. The answer you give is incomplete. A more complete answer would be: "maybe Hashem helped. Maybe he didn't. Maybe we make up these ideas because they help religious stay religious. Maybe Hashem is nothing like we say, or maybe he doesn't exist at all. Maybe we like to pretend we know more than we do."

      That would be a type of answer that was not a lie by omission. A complete answer. One that isn't designed to manipulate a person. One that lets them think through the possibilities, arrive at a conclusion not directed by an agenda.

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    3. An even more complete answer would be "Maybe your mother isn't your mother. Maybe your father isn't your father. Maybe nobody you know is real. Maybe you aren't real. Maybe you are but a thought—a vagrant thought, a useless thought, a homeless thought, wandering forlorn among the empty eternities."

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    4. Weaver and Happy

      you both seem 'desperate' to ensure there is a mystical element to this story. Weaver -your line 'if RCK was such a great rabbi then Hashem would help him out more' seems to be grabbing at very thin reeds.

      Why not just let it go? It wasn't a mystical experience. There's no reason to think it was. So it wasn't mystical and it won't be until there is a good reason to think it was.

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    5. @not a fan,

      You seem desperate to ensure that there is no mystical element to this story, nor to anything else in Judaism, nor to anything else in life. Elsewhere you denied the Exodus. At least you get points for consistency.

      I assume this secular materialistic attitude was taught to you in the secular "yeshiva" you attended. You know, the one where you were taught to argue on the Gemara whenever it tickles your fancy. No surprise there.

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    6. "A more complete answer would be: " ... Maybe we make up these ideas because they help religious stay religious.

      Completeness has no end, but to be more complete: Maybe we make up these questions because they help the irreligious and not-overdone-religious stay irreligious and not-overdone-religious

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    7. @happy

      so much hate in your heart man..
      so sad

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  9. Agreed with post. There is are large amount of exaggeration that develop around all public figures, and for various reasons, more than the usual among RCK. It does make it difficult to honor the man for the many things worth honoring, rather than for all the miracle stories. But, this is a perennial problem, and it is not limited just to issues of legacy. In all things Judaism and Orthodox Judaism, there is always bathwater together with the baby. The trick is to focus on the latter and not the former!

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  10. I do remember a grasshopper landing in my bedroom about 65 years ago but I don’t think it is such a common occurrence to detract from the story even if it happened several days later
    Paul Fein MD

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    1. I have no idea what u r saying. Please rephrase more clearly and without double negatives.

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  11. @U's Wife, parts of your late slew of comments--"What a religion!", the truth of Tanach's stories, the "conflict" between Torah and the Talmud, does Hashem prefer Derech Hateva--indicate that you are Orthoprax or non-Orthodox. But all your questions are addressed by Chazal, Rishonim, and Achronim. Read up on them.

    As a start, regarding whether Hashem prefers Derech Hateva, here are links to some of the especially authoritative figures in the Chareidi world (and perhaps in the general Orthodox world too).
    https://www.sefaria.org/Genesis.6.19?ven=The_Contemporary_Torah,_Jewish_Publication_Society,_2006&vhe=Miqra_according_to_the_Masorah&lang=bi&with=Ramban&lang2=en
    http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/search?q=levovitz

    Better yet, shut the computer and run your questions by an LOR with experience in basics/Kiruv or take a course at Aish or somewhere about these questions.

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  12. as a rationalist jew how would one explain Rashi on Leviticus 11:2:3
    זאת teaches us that Moses held each animal and showed it to Israel

    Also of the swarming creatures of the waters he held some of every species and showed them to them.

    So, too, in the case of birds, and similarly as regards the swarming reptiles?

    certainly moses did not have zoologist on hand to bring him these creatures from all parts of the world.

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    1. Every animal listed there lives in that part of the world.

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    2. Don't make a Mishmash. Rashi isn't one of the rationalist Rishonim.

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  13. Semi off topic, someone please tell me R Kanievsky's never said this

    https://photos.app.goo.gl/5r6nZAG4G93BNRew7

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    1. It's a distortion. Apparently, it was RCK's father who said that Bnei Brak need not worry from terror attacks because their Torah study protects. RCK simply reiterated what his father said.
      But we've got here a conflation between שֶׁאֵין תַּלְמִידֵי חֲכָמִים צְרִיכִין שְׁמִירָה שֶׁהַתּוֹרָה שׁוֹמַרְתָּן and צדיק גוזר.

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  14. There are countless stories that have been attested to even while Rav Chaim zt"l was alive at his berachos coming true. Do you belive in that? HE gave advise on many matters that he did not have outside knowledge about and he was right. Im talking about stories that people can tell you first hand. Just incase you think everyone is lying if you dont hear it from them personally.

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    1. This is "moving the goal posts," a fallacy. But, indeed: if it were possible to investigate these other stories (it's not possible) they would probably lose their power. It's because they resist this effort that they are effective. All stories that resist the effort to investigate them are more powerful, and stay powerful. Welcome to the world of mass movements.! You are a natural. Once upon a time, it thrilled me, too.

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    2. You're a natural yourself. Western culture is also a mass movement with various defense mechanisms to ward off uncomfortable information. Everyone, including deflated people, learns how to do it.

      Besides which, I know of two cases (not involving RCK) where shocked westerners conceded that something miraculous happened. Other cases are shown to be fake or meaningless? True but no problem. Enough remains after they are removed.

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  15. One thing we know is that Rav Chaim and Rebbetzin believed that the grasshopper flying in, whenever it was, was Hashgachas Hashem since it happened when Rav Chaim wanted to see it badly. You can argue with them but they believed it was Hashgacha. That is not something which the masses made up.

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    1. Or to put it another way: If a bug flies into our living room we'd shoo it away and not use the opportunity to deepen our Torah understanding.

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  16. Is believing God played a hand in this story inconsistent with being a rationalist? While it might be inconsistent with being a pure rationalist, is it outside the rationalist spectrum?

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  17. The most inspiring miracles are these, which don't violate science, but do suggest hashgacha pratis. It's tempting but ultimately highly subversive to embellish these stories or alter history (like removing women from historical photos) because it suggests that religious Jews are ch'v unreliable transmitters of the mesorah! This mythmaking affects prominent liberal Jews too - as Pesach approaches, I'm reminded of how Prof. Susannah Heschel's early-1980s pro-LGB orange-on-the-seder-plate custom quickly accreted a false but widely-believed pro-feminist origin myth, much to her annoyance.

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    1. Two things to say about the mesorah (sorry so long):

      These points are probably linked, but I will just state them as two points:

      A beis din seeks “truth.” It seeks to find out what happened, and to ascribe blame if warranted.

      It will not accept the testimony of a second hand account of an event. This kind of testimony is called hearsay, and is deemed (by secular courts, too) inherently unreliable.

      Contrast this with the beis-medresh or yeshiva: the content of the mesorah is being “reliably transmitted.”

      But, in at least one other context, the beis din, the whole idea of a second hand “reliable transmission” of a story is not valid.

      So, context matters. What is fit for a classroom, is inconceivable as a valid form of testimony in a court room.

      Second:

      Rabbis (all leaders of movements) are not paid to tell the truth.

      I think of rabbis as something like politicians. A politician will go up to a podium, or stand in front of tv camera, and lie all day, with a straight face.

      Put that same politician under oath at a hearing, and we know, in fact, they will not say the same thing.

      Under oath, there are real penalties for lying. Politicians and lawyers and others recognize the difference.

      Rabbis, like politicians, are paid to be effective in their roles in their service to their group.

      When a politician who spouts extreme rhetoric in the public square is put under oath before a hearing, it is VERY common for his testimony to be at complete odds with his public utterances. He can get into a lot of trouble for lying under oath. The context is very different, legally, and I guess, morally.

      We pay rabbis and politicians and leaders of all types to be effective in the movement, not honest.

      And, we record testimony in beis din to get honesty, not a pre-ordained outcome.

      The mesorah is part of how a movement functions. It is in no way burdened by the same rules as testimony, under oath, with penalties for lying, or otherwise misleading the court. Saying a mesorah is "reliable" could not be recorded in a court. It would be unthinkable. But it is a staple of all religious movements, which could not survive without this kind of rhetoric.

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  18. Another one. Please tell me this is utter nonsense and a total fabrication:

    An Orthodox Jew from New Jersey was involved in a car accident and accidently killed an old non-Jewish man. Although the courts found the Jewish man not guilty, he could not carry the the pains of the guilt that he killed an old man. It gave him no peace and it caused him to lose his appetite and was unable to sleep for weeks.

    He decided to seek counsel from the revered sage, Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky a"h of Bnei Brak, and wrote him a letter asking the Rav what tikun can he do because he accidently killed a non-Jew.

    The Rav wrote him an answer that included one word, "Amalek".

    The Jew did not understand this answer and continued suffering with sleepless nights. At some point he decided to move away from his town to begin a new life. He began searching for a new house and found a house that appealed to him. The owners of the apartment told him that they are eager to get rid of this house because they inherited from their dead father that was killed in a car accident.

    After short investigation, turns out the apartment belonged to the non-Jew who was accidentaly killed by the Jew. In the basement of the house, the Orthodox Jew found materials belonging to the old non-Jew man. He was shocked to find a picture of the old man during his youth proudly wearing an SS uniform, standing next to Hitler, yimach shemo.

    It turned out that this old man was an SS officer in the Nazi army and after the war, he came to the United States and hid his past. The SS Nazi Officer also hid other documents, including all the names of the Jews he personally murdered.

    When he read the names of the Jewish people that were murdered, he found both of his parent's name on this list.

    HaShem avenged their blood.

    It was then that he understood Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky a"h's answer that contained one word, "AMALEK".

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