How Rav Berland helped someone who owed $1 million to the mafia
Rabbi Don Alberto, who resides in Eilat, has been close to Rav Eliezer Berland for more than 32 years. Two week’s ago, Rav Eliezer Berland, shlita, made a short overnight visit to Eilat, as part of his ongoing efforts to travel around Israel bringing the Jewish people back in teshuva.
Below, Rav Alberto tells the story of how he came close to Rav Berland, and also describes the very deep connection and respect between Rav Dov Kook of Tiveria, Rav Yoshiyahu Pinto, and Rav Berland.
(You can hear the story for yourself in the original Hebrew, HERE.)
Dreaming about the Rav
“Thirty years ago, when I was still just three months into my teshuva process, I was dreaming about Rav Berland all the time. On one of those days, there was a brit (circumcision) in Meah Shearim with the Rav, shlita. Shmuel Pilus, one of the senior students in the yeshiva, got in touch with me and told to come to the brit, to see Rav Berland.
I got there, and I brought a camera with me, so that I could take a picture of the Rav. At that point in time, I’d never seen the Rav before in my life.
“As soon as I saw the Rav, I kind of lost it, a little. They kept telling me to let go of the Rav’s hands, but I just couldn’t. The Rav was sitting on the kisey hakavod (the chair of honor, where the sandek sits), and I was behind him. Suddenly, the mohel came, Rav Frank, z’”l. Rav Frank was arranging things with the baby, and I ran over to stand behind him.
Immediately after the brit had been performed, the baby started crying – but they were very abnormal-sounding cries. This continued until Rav Berland started holding the baby’s legs, and pulling them. In a moment, the infant quieted down. At the moment that I looked to see how the baby was gazing at the Rav, I had the strongest shiver down my spine that I’ve ever experienced.
Meeting the Rav for the first time
Rav Alberto continues:
“I left with the Rav. There were some people there who were arguing with the Rav’s gabbaim (attendants), so while that was going on I had the chance to be alone with the Rav, in one of the corners of the room there. I asked the Rav for a bracha (blessing), and the Rav said to me:
‘You shouldn’t think about any other woman.’
“I really had no idea what the Rav was talking about,” continues Rav Alberto. “Later on, in Uman, there was another occasion when I’d done something that made the Rav happy, and he told me: ‘From this day on, this young man [i.e. Rav Alberto] is going to be very close to me.’
“And since that time, I really have been very close to Rav Berland, especially in the last five years. I have travelled with him to Los Angeles, to Switzerland, and to many other places around the globe. The Rav was calling me every day, and I used to travel up from Eilat, and to join him in trying to bring the people back to God.
The man who owed $1 million to the mafia
“One time, someone came to see the Rav and said to him: ‘HaRav, they want to murder me, because I owe a million dollars on the black market.’ You could clearly see that this man was terrified. The Rav asked him, ‘Who is ‘they’?’ The man replied, ‘I don’t know, I just know that from my conversations with them, that Rav Yoshiyahu Pinto might be able to influence them.’
“So, then I travelled with Rav Berland to Ashdod, to Rav Pinto. His attendant, Mordechai, opened the door, and gave us a warm welcome. Then, he went to Rav Pinto and told him, ‘HaRav, bsorot tovot, good tidings, the Rav Berland is here.’ Rav Pinto came out to see us with great joy, and there was a lot of hugs and kisses.
“Rav Berland began to tell Rav Pinto about the whole story, and Rav Pinto grasped what he was really talking about. He called the people in question, and asked them to come to him. Around 2am, they got there, and they didn’t really understand what was going on. On one side, there was Rav Pinto, and on the other side, there was Rav Berland.
‘You have two options to get your money back’
“Rav Berland said to them, ‘Listen, hevrey, (lit: friends). You have two options in relation to collecting your debt. Option 1, is that I will guarantee that you will be blessed with so much shefa (abundance) that you’ve never seen before in your life. Or, that his debt should be transferred to me, and I will repay the money.’
“The loan sharks got very confused. They kissed the Rav’s hand, then contacted the man who owed them the million dollars and told him: ‘You don’t owe us anything.’
“Around two weeks later, I was by the Rav, when I saw that these two loan sharks had come to visit him. The Rav told me to stay, to sit, and to see what was going to happen next. I saw these two give the Rav an envelope stuffed with cash.
“They said: “HaRav, you have no idea how much shefa has come our way!” After that, I heard from the gabbay that these two were coming to visit the Rav every single week for the next two months.
Tremendous level of bitul
“This incident really showed me how completely Rav Yoshiyahu Pinto, shlita, submitted himself to Rav Berland – no less than Rav Dov Kook of Tiveria. I was with Rav Berland on a number of occasions, when he was visiting Rav Kook in Tiberius, and it’s impossible to describe the amount of reverence Rav Kook showed to Rav Berland.
“I saw Rav Kook give Rav Berland a number of pidyonot of a type I’d never seen before in my life. It’s impossible to understand the level of bitul (nullification, submission) that we’re really talking about.”
 Father of Rav Motta Frank, a leading personality in today’s Breslov scene.