The American Dream; just the words alone seem to have a magical ring. For over two hundred years, through untold numbers of journeys by land and sea, millions of people left their families behind in Europe and other places and arrived in the United States in the hope of finding the streets “paved with gold,” so that they may strike it rich and live the good life. Or, at the very least, earn enough money to send to their loved ones back home.
For some it was a triumph; for others a dismal and abject failure. But for one individual, it was the difference between life and death for himself and his entire family. In 1927, Reb Boruch Frankel left his wife and three children back in Poland and made the transatlantic journey by steamer to the New York harbor to try to make a living and support his family. It was quite a sacrifice. Reb Boruch was a scion of a great Chassidic lineage, and his roots were firmly planted back in the old country. Yet, he realized that there was greater opportunity in America, and together with a fellow immigrant he met in New York, he started an import business which did rather well.
For three solid years, Reb Boruch and his partner labored in the business and, with Hashem’s grace, they raised more than enough money for their families back home. Soon, they believed, they would head back to the old country and be hailed as champions of industry, the models of industrious success. It was towards the end of his third year in New York when Reb Boruch received the telegram that would change his life. His father had passed away and he was required by Jewish law to sit shivah for seven days. Reb Boruch informed his partner that he would be unavailable for the next week due to his personal loss and his friend assured him that he could manage without him for those few days. Reb Boruch sat shivah in his small apartment on the Lower East Side, and his few acquaintances and associates came to pay their respects. One day, in the middle of the shivah, his partner arrived and sat down opposite the mourner, as per Jewish custom. Reb Boruch was glad to see him and he spoke a bit about his father. At one point in the conversation, the partner excused himself and pulled a paper out of his pocket. He explained that an important matter had come up which required both partners’ signatures. Reb Boruch nodded and without even glancing at the contents of the paper, signed it and handed it back. After a few more minutes, the partner stood up, intoned the customary words of consolation, and left.
After the week of shivah had concluded, Reb Boruch arrived at his office to find the place cleared out and his partner nowhere to be found. It took some time before Reb Boruch was able to learn the entire story: His “partner” had duped him into signing a paper that gave away his entire portion of the business! Knowing that Reb Boruch would not read the fine print on the document during his period of mourning, he came during the shivah and cheated his one-time friend and partner out of his life’s savings! And during those very days that Reb Boruch was unavailable, he sold the entire business and ran away with the money, never to be heard from again. Reb Boruch was left penniless, without enough money even to return to his family in Europe.
Understandably, he was devastated over the situation. He could not understand how somebody could sink so low, and he walked around for days believing that this was the worst thing that could ever have happened. But the tides of destiny were coming in and they held the future salvation of the Frankel family. With no place to go and no means to get there, Reb Boruch was forced to remain in New York. He took a job and earned some money. After two more years, someone suggested that he apply for American citizenship. Reb Boruch did so and in a short time, he became a naturalized American citizen. But he truly longed for home and he missed his family sorely, so after a few more months, Reb Boruch took whatever savings he had accumulated and returned to Poland, to the loving embrace of his family. Years passed and by the summer of 1939, it was clear that war was imminent. The German army was poised to invade Poland, and the situation for millions of Polish Jews was becoming egregious.
Many Jews wished to emigrate from Poland but most had nowhere to go. Boruch Frankel, on the other hand, was an American citizen and thus was able to procure a visa for himself with little difficulty. Securing visas for his family, however, was an entirely different matter. This was a huge deal which could take months, if not years, to complete. Nobody knew the future and nobody wished to wait years. It was decided that his best option was to return to America alone, and from there arrange for his family to escape the impending war in Europe and join him. Upon his arrival in America, he worked day and night until he successfully arranged visas and tickets for his entire family.
His wife and four children were scheduled to depart from the Italian port of Trieste on September 1, 1939, aboard the ocean-liner, Queen Elizabeth. To his chagrin and utter disappointment, he was informed by the shipping company that due to the outbreak of war, the voyage was canceled. His family was stranded in Italy for the time being, but with renewed efforts, Reb Boruch was able to secure them tickets aboard a second ship. With the guiding hand of Providence, the Frankel family set sail on November 1, 1939, on the very last passenger ship leaving Italy. Traveling from Trieste, to Kosice in Czechoslovakia, to Ellis Island in New York, the Frankel family survived the war. And the dishonest partner who stole every penny, forcing Reb Boruch to remain in New York? Who knows... if it wasn’t a Divine messenger sent from on High?
From Heroes Of Faith
Sometimes in life our biggest loss is really our biggest gain!!