Guest post by Daniel
A few nights ago I had the privilege to hear the following story from Rav Shemtov. Rav Shemtov is a paragon of Ahavas Yisrael. At our table sat a young man who is beginning to wrap tefillin. Rav Shemtov grasped the young baal teshuva’s hand, kissed it, and beamed at the young man “This hand will put on tefillin every day!”
Rav Shemtov learned this mida from his father, whom I will simply call “Shemtov” since I don’t know his first name. The following is one of many stories from his life.
Shemtov was living in Russia at a time when Jews were being drafted into the army. It was either army or prison. His father took a rope and manually broke his own toe so that he would be “unfit” for the Russian army and would be able to stay with his family.
As Shemtov was walking down the street he saw a Russian police officer escorting his friend, a fellow Jew, off to prison. What could he do? Fight the cop? He would be clobbered, not to mention taken to prison.
Out of nowhere Shemtov jumped at the Russian officer and began hugging him and kissing him, like a long lost friend. At the same time, Shemtov kicked his friend repeatedly until the friend got the idea and ran for his life.
After Shemtov’s friend escaped, he pulled back from the Russian officer. “Hey there old friend!” exclaimed Shemtov. The officer was dazed, “Do I know you?” “Sure you do! Last time we met was in Moscow, don’t you remember! Come on pal!” The officer didn’t buy it. “I know what you just did, you sneaky Jew. That guy was going to prison, but you, you’re in for the worst.”
Shemtov looked the officer in the eyes and said, “Now you don’t want to do that. What’s going to happen? You’ll take me into your headquarters, sit me in front of your superior officer and tell him how this puny little Jew outsmarted you so that you failed your mission? You’ll look like a complete idiot.”
Shemtov pulled out some cash from his pocket, put it in the officers hand and said, “Better you take this money and go enjoy it for yourself.” The officer took the cash and left Shemtov alive.
When Rav Shemtov finished telling us the story he said, “This was my father. He lived the lesson that when another Jew is in need, you don’t think about yourself.”