ויותר יעקב לבדו…רש”י – שכח פכים קטנים וחזר עליהם (וישלח לב:כה)
The Torah tells us that Yaakov Avinu brought his family and possessions across Yabok River. When the entire family was on the other side…Rashi writes, “Yaakov remembered that he forgot some small jugs and returned to retrieve them.”
In essence, what was the significance of these small jugs? The Shach zt’’l teaches that these small jugs were filled with wondrous oil, which miraculously refilled itself. Yaakov used this oil to pour over the mizbeach that he built. Later, this oil was used to sanctify the utensils of the Beis HaMikdash, and it was also the same jug of oil found in the Beis HaMikdash, from which the Chanukah miracle occurred.
The Chofetz Chaim zt’’l related the following story based on the great effect of a small deed that initially seemed insignificant and its significant impact.
Czar Nikolai y’’s was hated by his own people because of his cruelty. One governor started a revolution to overthrow his regime. One day, the governor saw that his wagon was being pursued. So while his horses were still running, he jumped off the wagon and ran into a nearby village. His horses and buggy kept forging ahead, and this fooled his pursuers. It took them a few more moments before they realized the governor had escaped.
The governor came to the first home in the village and begged, “Nikolai’s army is after me; I just escaped. Please hide me here.”
The villager asked who he was and what had happened. The governor was on the verge of collapsing and begged to be allowed inside. Finally, the man said, “Do me a favor; the soldiers will soon be here; they will hang you, and I will also be in trouble. Please don’t stay here.”
So the governor sought another home. The Chofetz Chaim said that the owner of the next home was a wise Yid, who didn’t ask questions. When he heard the army was searching for him, he said, “Take off your army clothes and put on my clothing. I will give you a tallis. Stand in a corner and pretend that you are praying.” He did this, and when the soldiers came, they didn’t suspect that the man praying with the tallis was the governor, and they left.
The governor said to the Yid, “You saved my life. I will repay you.” The Yid didn’t believe this would ever happen. What can he give me already, he thought.
The governor overthrew the Czar and became the new Russian president. He didn’t forget the Yid who had helped him, and sent a letter inviting him to the palace. The Yid was very surprised when he received the letter because he hadn’t known that he had saved the governor’s life. When the governor was in his home seeking refuge, he didn’t ask for his name, or any other questions, so he didn’t realize the magnitude of his deed.
The powerful leader of Russia asked him, “Do you remember me?” “No. I don’t,” replied the Yid. “You saved my life. Don’t you remember when you told me to wear your tallis and pray in the corner of your room…” The president gave the Yid many presents, and most importantly, he gave his personal card and said. “If you need something from me, just come to my palace, show your card, and the officers will let you inside.”
The president added: “When you saved me, you thought you saved one person, but you saved an entire country from the oppressive Czar.” The Chofetz Chaim repeated this story to show us that good deeds are far more important than you think.
The story continues after the Chofetz Chaim passed away and was told by Reb Yankele Galinsky zt’’l.
Reb Yankele was learning in Novardok, Russia, and he relates that eighteen yeshiva bochurim were arrested and sent to jail. Reb Chaim Ozer zt’’l said, “Now is the time to take advantage of our connection with the Russian president.” They summoned the Yid, who received the card from the president, and he agreed to go to the president’s palace to plea on behalf of the yeshiva bochurim. He spoke with the president, and the president freed the eighteen men.
Reb Yankel Galinsky concluded, “This Yid first thought that he saved one person, but the governor showed him that he saved the entire Russia. But I say that it wasn’t only the entire Russia that he saved; he also saved eighteen yeshiva bochurim. And one of those eighteen bochurim was Reb Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky, the Steipler Gaon zt’’l.”