When he was a young man, Yehoshua Meir Frishwasser of Sassov was drafted into the Austrian Army during the First World War. During this difficult period, his mother would send him packages of kosher food. Once, his tallit katan (sleeveless under garment with tzitzit strands at the four corners) got torn and he wrote to his mother requesting that instead of sending him a parcel of food, she should send him a new under-garment with tzitzit — as there was a limit on the size and weight of the packages, his mother could not send both. Of course she obliged.

...she should send him a new under-garment with tzitzit...

Yehoshua always spent his furloughs in a village near his base where there was a Jewish community and a shul where he could pray and study. A few weeks after he had received his new tzitzit, when he was once more on leave and went again to the village for Shabbat, it was the week of reading the Torah portion "Shelach" which concludes with the commandment to wear tzitzit.

Yehoshua was quite surprised when the Rabbi honored him with being called to the Torah for the concluding maftir blessing, when the passage of tzitzit is reread and then the haftorah. Later, he asked the Rabbi why he had been thus honored. The Rabbi explained that he felt it appropriate, for he had heard about Yehoshua Meir's dedication to the mitzvah of tzitzit. The Rabbi assured him that in this merit he would live long, for in the daily recital of Shema Yisrael, of which the section of tzitzit constitutes the final paragraph, the last verse of the preceding section concludes, "…in order to prolong your days…"

This was very encouraging to Yehoshua, who was concerned lest he be sent to the battlefront. With the Rabbi's blessing (along with a subsequent blessing he received from the Kapichnitzer Rebbe – Ed.) he felt confident that he would survive the war and return home safely, and indeed, he did. He emigrated to England in1939 and was a prominent member of the London Jewish community. And for the rest of his life he was called up for maftir whenever Parashat Shelach was read.


Connection to the Weekly Reading: the concluding section discussing tzitzit

Adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from "Gut Woch " (Mesorah) by Avrohom Barash

Biographical note:
Rabbi Yitzchak-Meir of Kopyczynce (21 Kislev 1862 - 2 Tishrei 1936), the first in the Kapichnitz dynasty, was a direct descendant of Rabbi Avraham-Yehoshua Heshel, the Apter Rebbe, for whom his son and successor was named.

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