“I have a childhood friend from Bat Yam whose cousin is from the area of Yafo. He became entangled – he would cash checks and became entangled with a gang of Arabs. They sought to kill him. He understood that this was a matter of time. Whatever way he might flee, they would find him one day and put an end to things. He fled to Johannesburg, where he was a partner of Eli Asraf. Everyone knows him. The Rav stayed by him there. He is one of the wealthy people in Johannesburg. He was his partner.”
So the story begins of a wealthy Jew who was forced to flee from gangsters from the criminal underworld to South Africa. However, also there his troubles didn’t stop.
A meeting with Rabbi Eliezer Berland shlit”a saved him from death and caused him to do teshuva. The story continues:
“One day he came to Rav Berland with a huge sum of money to give to the Rav for Tzedaka. The Rav took the money and refused with both hands, saying, ‘I don’t want your money. I want your soul.’ He took the money back.
“Several days passed. Just to give an idea of how the houses look in Johannesburg. There is a Jewish neighborhood which is surrounded by security, so that all the robbers who want to get to the houses of the wealthy Jews can’t enter this neighborhood. Even if someone manages to infiltrate – the houses aren’t high there, besides the hotels that are there. There are villas there which are surrounded by an electric fence, so that if the robbers touch them, they are electrocuted on the spot. Inside the house, it’s build cages upon cages.
“I was in the house of Asraf. That’s to say that if you managed to infiltrated to the courtyard, you can’t enter the house. If you broke into the kitchen, you can’t enter straight into the house. You need to break down another door which leads to the corridor. Broke through another one…mamash barred… Everything is always closed because of the thieves there.
“Also they have guards outside the house with weapons. Also inside the house, in the courtyard, they’re always under threat there. I remember when I was in his living room, there was not a drop of air in the living room. Like a cube. Everything surrounded by cameras, with a giant screen which shows what’s happening with all of this. He has no window to look outside.
“This Jew who gave the Rav the money and the Rav didn’t take it from him…after several days he arrived at his house. The normal routine where he comes with his car, the guards outside see him, open the parking space for him. They don’t park the cars outside. Everything is in the house, in the courtyard. When he arrives, he already sees a police car waiting outside. The police approached him, telling him that they want to speak with him inside the house.
“He came inside with two policemen. There they asked him to open up the safe, saying: We want to see. You’re a tax evader. All types of things.
He felt that something wasn’t right and didn’t want to open it. They pulled out their guns and aimed them at the children. Put the pistol at this head.
“His wife began to scream when she saw the gun on one of the children – and they were small children. He wasn’t prepared to open it. He had millions of dollars there, besides collateral which people gave him. He would loan there to gentiles and they would deposit collateral of diamonds. This was many times [more valuable] than the many millions in cash which he had there. It was very hard for him to open it, but the screams of his wife with all the chaos that there was, he simply gave in and opened it.
“They took everything in bags and they told him that he would accompany them to the police station. There they might return it to him. They took him in a police jeep. Inside, there sat two more policemen… They traveled in the forest for at least 25 minutes. In the thick of the forest, they took him out and tossed him. It took him between an hour and two hours to reach the road and there to catch a hitchhike. He arrived at the police station and felt that something was wrong. He wanted the money back.
“By way of the cameras in his house they saw the policemen. It turned out that these weren’t policemen, rather four thieves known to the police who already crossed the border.
“The miracle here was that he was the only one who could testify against them. Also his wife didn’t know that this was a gang of thieves. They thought that they were policemen. They were with police uniforms, a police jeep. They could have given him two bullets and killed him. This was in the middle of the forest and no one would have heard them. Or if there was some kind of delay, he was the only one who could identify them and testify. They would have killed him.
“Instead of this, they toss him and it took him an hour or two to get out of the forest. There could have been a problem at the border, and they could have caught them.
“The great miracle is what Rav Berland said to him: ‘I don’t want your money. I want your soul.’ This was, baruch Hashem, a great miracle with Rav Berland.
“The Rav says a word – everything is exact. Baruch Hashem, since then, after the entire mess that happened, he returned to Israel and checked and found out that his pursuers were already in Heaven. He came back to Israel Chareidi, baruch Hashem, keeping Torah and Mitzvos. Baruch Hashem, another miracle which the Rav made happen.”