While learning more about the Rashbam, I stumbled on this short article from a few years ago. It’s entitled, “The Rashbam I Learned Saved My Life.” It’s about a guy named Asher Wasserteil, who grew up in Darmstadt, Germany and experienced Kristallnacht in 1938. He was also a student of a certain Rabbi Eliezer Warhaftig, who must have been a memorable teacher. Here’s what he learned:
“And they approached the man in charge of Joseph’s house and they spoke to him from the entrance of the house.” (Genesis 43:19) The Rashbam explains: “In the entrance, before they went in.” What was the Rashbam stressing with those words?
Rabbi Warhaftig dramatically explained how Joseph’s brothers were afraid for their life and refused to enter the house knowing that inside it would be more dangerous. That’s why they preferred to wait “at the entrance” and that’s why the Rashbam stresses the words “before they went in.”
Seventeen-year-old Asher was out of the house on the night of Kristallnacht, and attempting to find safety he approached a bakery. A kind man invited him in, but as Asher was about to step through the door he remembered the Rashbam’s teaching.
I though perhaps they want to harm me and I remembered the Rashbam as Rabbi Warhaftig dramatically explained to us why Joseph’s brothers did not want to enter his house.
So he backed away just as more people in the bakery came to grab him. Asher managed to escape, thanks to a lesson from an ancient rabbi about an even more ancient story.
I would not wish such a dramatic story on anyone, but perhaps you too have moments when suddenly something you’ve learned, whether Jewish or not, pops up in your mind right in the nick of time. Which teachers are you grateful for, and what lessons do you still hold in your heart?