Insight by Dr. Joel M. Berman


In Parashat Emor, Hashem commands, “VeLo Yechalelu Et Sheim Kodshi,” “And they shall not desecrate My name” (VaYikra 22:2).

The Gemara (Tamid 32a) asks, “Eizehu Chacham?” “Who is a wise man?”  It answers, “HaRoeh Et HaNolad,” “The person with the ability to see the outcome of any effort.”  Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld was such a person.  Approximately 100 years ago, a Sefer Torah was stolen from the Batei Varsha Synagogue in Me’ah She’arim.  A private investigation was conducted, establishing without a doubt the identity of the thief; a wayward Jew.  Eretz Yisrael was at that time a part of the Turkish Empire.  When I was a young man, I remember meeting and seeing people who survived Turkish incarceration.  The Turks were singularly cruel and brutal.  The committee in charge of the investigation wanted to turn the thief over to the Turkish authorities.  Before doing so, they decided to consult with Rav Sonnenfeld.

Rav Sonnenfeld asked the members of the committee to consider all of the possible scenarios.  “In all likelihood, the thief will sell the Sefer Torah,” he said.  “Until now, the Sefer Torah was used only for Hakafot at Batei Varsha on Simchat Torah.  In its new location, it will in all likelihood be used to read the Parashah.  I think that this is an improvement.  If, however, you turn him over to the Turks, the Chillul Hashem will be unthinkable.  On the other hand we must consider the real possibility that he may continue to steal Sifrei Torah in the future.  I therefore suggest the following: inform him discretely that you know who HE his and what he did.  He’ll never do it again.”

A few weeks later, the Sefer Torah mysteriously reappeared in the Aron at Batei Varsha.  Rabbi Sonnenfeld’s keen ability to see through any project prevented a great Chillul Hashem and fulfilled the Pasuk in Parashat Emor.

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