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The Far Rockaway Clothing Robbing Victim and Yaakov Avinu

robbery2by Rabbi Yair Hoffman for the Five Towns Jewish Times

The horrifying story of what happened in Far Rockaway, wherein an armed assailant robbed a Jewish man of all his clothing brings to mind a fascinating Midrash cited by the Chida in the name of his grandfather (possibly with a great or more preceding it). He writes it in his Sefer Pnei Dovid in parshas Vayaitzay. The Chida’s ancestor was an acquaintance of the AriZal.

After Yaakov Avinu left Be’er Sheva, Elifaz, his nephew, approached him. Elifaz told him that he was instructed by his father to kill Yaakov Avinu. Yaakov Avinu explained that a poor person is considered like a dead man, and he instructed Elifaz to take all he has. Elifaz also took all of Yaakov Avinu’s clothing as well.

Unclothed and barefoot, Yaakov Avinu could travel no further. Since he was adjacent to a river, he entered the river to hide. He prayed for salvation from Hashem.

A short while later, a horse and rider came by. The rider tied his horse to a tree and entered the river to swim. The rider, unfortunately, drowned in the river. Yaakov Avinu came out of the river and donned the clothing. He then rode off but was very concerned that people might think that he had chalilah, murdered the unfortunate rider. He then went to the Yeshiva of Shaim v’Aiver until the incident would be forgotten. He remained there for fourteen years.

It could be that Yaakov Avinu merited this growth in Torah because of his dedication to Elifaz’s Mitzvah of performing Kivud Av v’Aim.

And so there are two thoughts here. Firstly, hopefully the embarrassment of the unfortunate victim of the Far Rockaway robbery will be somewhat mitigated with the knowledge that the same thing had happened to Yaakov Avinu, according to the Chida’s ancestor.

The second thought is that the robber probably took notice of the victim on account of his dressing nicely l’kavod Shabbos. Hopefully, the victim will merit a growth in Torah, just like Yaakov Avinu experienced!

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