Klal Yisrael sang a special shirah upon learning of the hidden miracle Hashem performed for them, as they passed through the mountains of Arnon. The Emoriyim lay in ambush, hoping to destroy the nation as they crossed the canyon; but instead, Hashem caused the mountains on both sides to come together, crushing the would-be attackers and saving the Jewish people.
One of the great Kabbalists of Aram Sova (Aleppo, Syria) who immigrated to the Holy Land around the turn of the 20th century, was Chacham Rabbi Aharon Tawil zt”l. The Sephardic Tawil family traces their ancestry back to the great Eli HaKohen, the Kohen Gadol who was cursed by a prophet from Heaven that all his male descendants would die before reaching old age, and they will be placed in positions subservient to prophets from other lineages. Most of the Tawil family were originally “HaCohen” and they died young. They were renamed Tawil many years ago by a great rabbi who blessed them with a longer life expectancy. Tawil means long in Arabic. Chacham Aharon Tawil authored a work anonymously in 1913 called Sefer Yisachar U’Z’vulun, in which he hoped to show the importance of supporting Torah scholars and institutions. It includes words from the holy Zohar, Tikunei Zohar, and midrashim in praise of one who reaches the stature of holding the hand of those studying Torah. Toward the end of his life, he established his residency in Jerusalem and was adored by the community for his scholarship, extreme piety, and modesty. He spent his days and nights in the Kabbalah yeshivah, Shaar HaShamayim, and received support from that institution, as well.
The Chacham was known for his unusually long davening. Long after everyone else in the minyan had finished, Chacham Aharon was still standing ramrod straight, in his customary place, pouring out his heart in prayer. Almost every day, he was the last person to leave the synagogue, as the rest of the congregation had long since finished and left. Somehow, a local Arab vagrant became aware of the tzadik’s practice, and he could not contain his innate sense of hostility toward all Jews; perhaps he felt it was his religious responsibility. In this case, he intended to do harm to the venerable Jewish scholar.
For a few days, he watched and plotted. It was obvious that the Chacham would stand in prayer for a very long time, and the Arab decided to kill the Jew as he stood in his place. He relished the revenge he believed he was taking on behalf of his poor Arab brethren. It shouldn’t be too hard, he reasoned. On most days, the entire synagogue let out and this rabbi was the only one still inside. It would not be too difficult to enter quietly and shoot the rabbi – who didn’t even move a muscle while he stood – with his pistol. Nobody would see him and no one would ever find out who did it.
On the day of action, the Arab hid around the corner, and waited until every last person left the synagogue. He entered a side door cautiously and looked around to make sure there was nobody else there. When he was sure he was alone with the rabbi, he walked quietly to the front of the synagogue and stood a number of rows behind the spot where Chacham Aharon customarily stood. As usual, he was there, standing straight, eyes closed, lips moving quietly, and his mind was completely focused and absorbed with his prayers. He did not hear a thing, nor did he sense any impending danger. The Arab took out his pistol and cocked it. Still, the Chacham did not move as he obviously hadn’t heard a thing.
The wicked Arab raised his hand and held the pistol aloft. He squeezed the trigger and a mighty explosion ensued. The bullet propelled forward – but miraculously, it missed its mark! At the exact moment that the Arab shot his gun, Chacham Aharon began to bow down as he said the words “Modim anachnu lach.” Totally oblivious to the gun being held a few feet from his head, he bent his knees and bowed down, giving thanks to his Creator, as the Sages instituted thousands of years ago. Meanwhile, the Arab fired his weapon and the bullet missed the rabbi’s head by literally millimeters.
Shocked, the Arab could not believe that the rabbi had escaped death in such amazing fashion. But the sound of the explosion had alerted people and others were entering the synagogue to find out what happened. The Arab had no chance to reload and fire again – and he fled, amazed at how the G-d of Israel always looks out for the welfare of His beloved.