Exclusive story: Rescued from fire
The usual quiet of the night was shattered on July 25, 2018, when a number of sirens exploded in the Jerusalem night. According to the news report filed at the time:
“A woman aged 80 and a man aged 30 years old were seriously hurt when a fire broke out at 3am on July 25, 2018, at an apartment on Yosef Mizrachi Street, in the Beit Israel neighborhood of Jerusalem.”
The reporter continued: “The two were rescued from the scene, and taken to hospital in a critical condition. The rescue was undertaken by five teams of fire fighters and members of Hatzola, who forced their way into one of the apartment’s rooms to free the man and woman, who were trapped behind the flames.”
Black smoke fills the sky
Motti Glushtein and Dov Tzinoret were part of the Magen David Adom team who arrived at the scene. They recalled: “We were literally right next to the area, when we got the alert about the fire. Even before we approached the area, we saw flames of fire and black smoke rising from the building. We know the area, and we knew we’d have to deal with narrow roads and difficult approaches. We were concerned about how we could keep the roads open, for the fire trucks and the ambulances.
“From the information we’d read about the building’s occupants, we knew that an elderly lady lived on the ground floor, and that we’d need to rescue her. I took the jack out of my car, and we broke the lock on the apartment, and together with other people who by that time had come to help us, we rescued an elderly woman, aged 82, who was in a very serious condition from smoke inhalation, who needed intensive care.
“She was in an extremely critical condition. The paramedics started treating her, then she was taken away to the Shaarei Tzedek hospital.”
VIDEO OF THE APARTMENT ON FIRE:
“The firefighters made a thorough search of the rest of the apartment, and after a couple of minutes, they brought out a man aged 30 who’d lost consciousness, and who was also in a critical condition. We performed life-saving first-aid on him at the scene, and once we’d established a pulse, he was also rushed to Shaarei Tzedek, also in an extremely critical condition.”
This is the first-hand testimony of two of the first-responders who came to tackle the fire on Yosef Mizrachi street, in the Beit Israel neighborhood of Jerusalem. But there’s an even more amazing tale to be told about what occurred that night.
Teitelbaum’s mesirut nefesh
Shortly before that Wednesday morning, the young man in question, Yaacov Dovid Teitelbaum, an Englishman who was studying at the Mir Yeshiva, had moved to live next to the old woman’s apartment. He’d known the woman for some time, having met her when she worked as the cook for one of the local yeshivas.
When Teitelbaum had seen that the woman’s apartment was ablaze, he didn’t hesitate, and plunged into the fire, to try to rescue his neighbor. The two of them had then been trapped in the apartment for two hours, because the intense heat had melted the door.
Close to death’s door
Yaacov Dovid Teitelbaum had developed a close connection to Rav Eliezer Berland, shlita, from the time when the Rav returned to his home in Jerusalem after his arduous exile and imprisonment. The first time he came to pray with the Rav and the community, at the Beit HaRav, Yaacov had yelled out the shechechiyanu prayer, that the Tzaddik had finally returned to Jerusalem.
That Wednesday morning, another of the Rav’s students, Y.B., who’d been in regular contact with Yaacov Dovid, tried to call him, and discovered that his phone was being answered by a friend, who told him that Yaacov David had been badly injured in the fire, and that he was currently in a critical condition in hospital.
The student asked the friend if they’d done a pidyon nefesh for Yaacov Dovid, and the friend responded that they had done one with Rav Shalom Arush, shlita. Y.B. immediately got in touch with Rav Berland, and explained what had happened to Yaacov Dovid Teitelbaum, and the elderly cook from the Mir yeshiva.
He’ll come through it all!
In the recording, you can hear how the news was broken to the Rav; how he was told that Yaacov Dovid had inhaled a great deal of toxic smoke; and then how in a very surprising way, the Rav announced the sum required for the pidyon, and described how in its merit, the young man would overcome all the blood poisoning and brain damage he’d suffered.
At that point, it was a miracle for Yaacov Dovid to even come through the ordeal alive, let alone to come through without any side-effects of permanent brain damage. One of Yaacov Dovid’s good friend paid the pidyon on his behalf, and immediately afterwards, the Rav gave over his regular weekly shiur on the Ketzot HaChoshen, to a large group of his students.
For life, and not for death
At one point in the class, the Rav’s face suddenly become extremely animated and lit-up, and he started to yell out together with the audience: “For life, and not for death!” The Rav repeated this four times, together with the audience.
While he was giving over the shiur, the Rav spoke about a bochur who entered a fire, but who wasn’t burnt by it, because he was holy and pure. The Rav spoke in an extremely strong and inspiring way – especially for those in the audience who actually knew more of the details of the story we are telling here.
Rabbi Berland yelling out during the shiur:
It seems that the Tzaddik was standing before the Heavenly Beit Din, and was judging Yaacov David to the side of merit, and by doing this, he rescued him from the harsh decree, and redeemed his soul.
Out of immediate danger
As soon as the shiur ended, Y.B. contacted Yaacov David’s brother, who was next to his bedside, to see how he was doing. His brother told him that the immediate danger to his life had now passed, but that there was still a serious worry that he’d sustained permanent brain damage.
By this point, Yaacov David Teitelbaum and the elderly lady had been hooked up to life-support for two weeks, in the intensive care unit. They were heavily sedated, and still in a coma. Rav Berland decided to visit the hospital at this time, when there was still a grave worry that Yaacov Dovid would be left with irreparable, serious brain damage.
The Rav amazes the doctors
Y.B. recounts how he was able to enter the room with the Rav, after telling the nurse in charge of the intensive care unit that a big rabbi had come to pray for the patient. Rav Berland stood around two metres away from the bed, and the minute he started to softly recite some verses of the Tikkun HaKlali, Teitelbaum – who up until this point had been completely comatose – jerked up, and started trying to tear the tubes away.
He pulled out the breathing tubes that he’d been connected to for a fortnight, and sat up – even though his eyes were still closed. The life support machine immediately let out a loud wail, because now it could no longer detect a pulse. The doctors who came to the room immediately gave him an injection to sedate him, and knock him out.
They were amazed at what had just happened, so they turned to Rav Berland and asked him: “HaRav, the woman who was injured in the fire is also here in the hospital.”
The doctors accompanied the Rav to the woman’s bedside, where he recited three chapters of tehillim.
‘The Rav will rescue me’
Y.B. recounted that a week after this visit to the hospital, he got an urgent phone call from Teitelbaum’s brother, who told him that Yaacov Dovid still hadn’t regained consciousness, but was yelling out Rav Berland’s name, and kept repeating:
“HaRav Eliezer Ben Ettia rescue me. HaRav Eliezer Ben Ettia rescue me.”
After this, his brother had heard him call to Moshe Rabbenu, David HaMelech, and other tzaddikim, as well. Y.B. contacted one of the Rav’s attendants, who told the Rav what was happening, and the Rav said that he would come. Amazingly, when Yaacov Dovid was told this, he became much calmer again – even though he was still unconscious.
A little while later, Yaakov Dovid woke up, and returned to complete health, and then decided to return to his family, in England.
How things looked from heaven
Once he’d fully recovered from his clinical death, he told his friend Y.B. how things had looked in Heaven. He said that in Heaven, Rav Eliezer Berland was an angel, and that he received a great amount of respect from all the other tzaddikim.
He also recounted that Rav Berland was responsible for the overseeing all the matters that were occurring in the Heavenly Beit Din.
Yaacov Dovid Teitelbaum was also very closely connected to one of Rav Berland’s older students, who is now a well-known and well-respected Rav in his own right. This student once told Yaacov Dovid how he’d once accompanied the Rav to the Mearat HaMachpela, or tomb of the Patriarchs in Hevron, and how the holy patriarchs had given the Rav a welcome fit for a king.
The student had seen them speaking to the Rav face-to-face, and whispering secrets unknown to any other human being into his ears.
When Y.B. heard this story, he decided to ask Rav Berland directly, if it was true. The Rav responded with his customary modesty:
“Yes, but this has happened to a lot of people.”
A year of my life
In a recent chabura at Shuvu Banim Yeshiva Yaacov Dovid Teitelbaum, who’s now back in the UK, spoke to the yeshiva live on the phone and said:
“I’m giving the Rav a year of my lifespan, in order that Rav Eliezer Berland, shlita, should live a good, long time.” Teitelbaum then went on to request that the Rav’s other followers should also donate a year of their allotted lifespan to the Rav, in order to keep the Rav in the world – and helping the Jewish people – for as long as possible.