Lech Lecha 5773 – Surviving the Titanic

And Avraham was 99 years old when he was circumcised on the flesh of his foreskin (Bereshis 17:24)

This week, I’d like to share a story and thought from Rabbi Eliezer Krohn (son of the famous Rabbi Paysach Krohn).

One hundred years ago, there was a woman, Mrs. Aks, who had recently gave birth to a baby boy. Soon after the birth, she and her baby were passengers on the Titanic. Well, we all know the tragic story that the boat “which even G-d can’t sink” hit an iceberg and everyone ran for the lifeboats. Since they never actually thought the lifeboats would be needed, there weren’t enough of them. The Captain decided that women and children would go first. Mrs. Aks, with her 10 month old baby wrapped in her arms, was placed in line for one of the boats when a man came running up and pushed his way to the front. He tried to get onto the lifeboat but was told that women and children go first. Seeing that he was about to die, he started going crazy. He grabbed Mrs. Aks’s baby and threw him overboard.

A few moments later, a depressed Mrs. Aks was placed into the lifeboat and after some time, the small lifeboat was saved by a large ship. A few days later, Mrs. Aks was walking around the large ship when she saw a non-Jewish woman holding a baby. Immediately, she recognized the baby and since the baby was already 10 months old, he recognized his mother. Mrs. Aks asked the woman to give her back her baby, but the woman refused. She stated that G-d gave her this baby. She had just gotten into a lifeboat when this baby fell from Heaven into her arms. Of course, this baby flew into her arms when the crazy man threw the baby overboard. The two women began arguing when finally the Captain of the ship came to settle the matter.

They both presented their side and Mrs. Aks then said that she had proof that this was her baby. She told them to take off the diaper and that they would see the baby boy would have a Bris Milah. At this time in history, it was only common for Jewish babies to be circumcised. They checked and Mrs. Aks was given back her baby.

Rabbi Krohn makes an interesting comment on this story. The Midrash states that before Avraham had his Bris, he discussed with three friends about performing the Bris Milah on himself. Aner told Avraham that he was 99 years old and it would be very painful, therefore, he should not do it. Eshkol told him that if he has a Bris it will make him look different. Mamrei told Avraham to do it and Avraham listened to him.

Let’s look closely at Eshkol’s statement to Avraham. He said if Avraham has a Bris it will make him look different. Well, in the Titanic story above, it was ONLY because the baby had a Bris and looked different that he was saved. The boy was returned to his true mother and raised Jewish only because he was different.

Some people think we need to look like everyone else to be saved. If we only look and behave like everyone else, then we will be protected by others. The exact opposite is the truth. When we look different by performing what Hashem wants, Hashem will make sure we are saved.

Good Shabbos!
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