It was said about R’ Shaul Katzenellenbogen, zt”l, that he had a photographic memory; the “Angel of Forgetfulness” had no power over him. All his life, whatever he heard, read, or learned was firmly entrenched in his mind. There was only one thing, though, that he could never remember: When someone disparaged him or heaped insults upon his head, he never took it personally and never let it linger. This one thing he immediately forgot!
An amazing story is told of a Torah scholar and his wife who were married for several years but had not merited to have children. They went to many holy places and kivrei tzadikim to pour out their hearts in supplication. They visited many gedolim for blessings on their behalf, all to no avail. Their sorrow and grief had become unbearable.
The scholar had been to R’ Chaim Kanievsky, shlita, on a number of occasions and each time received a blessing. One time, though, the man broke down in the middle of the visit and cried profusely, begging R’ Chaim that he and his wife should be privileged to have children. R’ Chaim sat quietly for a few long moments. Then he told the man to search for a person who is silent when another berates him and ask him for a blessing to have children.
Feeling a bit brighter now, with something to seemingly “hang his hat on,” the man left R’ Chaim’s home very encouraged. He soon realized, however, that it was not as simple as it sounded. Such people are very rare and hard to come by. When a person is under verbal attack, his natural instinct is to lash back, and from there a conflagration of hate usually spreads. Silence is a virtue, yet on a practical level, many – if not most – people are not very “virtuous” in this respect.
The wheels of fate were turning, however, and Hashem’s salvation was not long in coming. Within a few short days, a nasty spat broke out between two prominent families living in the same Bnei Brak neighborhood. The fight erupted, and then quickly spread – as fights generally do – to include neighbors and other friends. Many rabbanim and batei din were retained to try to bring a resolution to the case, but even after all their intervention, bitter feelings lingered.
A short time later, a wedding was celebrated in Bnei Brak. A group of people were sitting around a table enjoying the meal, including one of the principals of the fight. Suddenly, his bitter adversary entered the hall and approached the table. When he saw who was sitting there, he launched into a loud and vitriolic tirade against the man, making sure that no one within a considerable radius could miss his words. It just so happened that one of those “in the vicinity” was the man who had no children. His attention was immediately directed to the scene unfolding nearby and his heart began racing. Could this be the one? It suddenly got very quiet in the hall, except for the loud and angry words of the nasty combatant.
Amazingly, the man being screamed at did not bat an eyelash. He went on sitting there, seeming to enjoy the meal and pretending – because there was no other possible way – not to realize that his enemy was standing inches away, shouting on a decibel-shattering level. The scholar quickly walked over and stood next to the man – as if to provide moral support.
The abuser went on insulting his prey, and although, to the “abusee’s” credit, he had appeared stoic for quite some time, as the insults got louder and more offensive the fellow showed signs of losing his patience. It appeared that he was about to reply in kind. Suddenly, the husband standing at his side turned to face him and practically begged him to be still. This took the man by surprise and he could not understand what business this was to the man who was a total stranger.
“I am pleading with you to overcome your anger, as justified as it may be, and don’t respond to this man,” he begged.
Thankfully, a cool head prevailed and the man did as was requested of him, holding his tongue until the other fellow had said enough and finally walked away. With a sigh of relief, the husband explained what R’ Chaim had told him and asked for a blessing that his wife have a child.
The blessing was given. Not surprisingly, nine months later – almost to the day – his wife had a healthy baby boy!