Stories My Grandfather Told Me: Volume 2 - Shemos
Memorable Tales based on the Weekly Sidrah
By Zev Greenwald
Mesorah Publications, Ltd.
So Tzipporah took a sharp stone and cut off the foreskin of her son
For more than sixty years, R Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld was involved in the mitzvah of bris milah and personally helped to bring thousands of Jewish children into the Covenant of Avraham Avinu. R Yosef Chaim observed this mitzvah with great self-sacrifice. Nothing could prevent him from attending a bris -- not bad weather, and not even the outbreaks of violence that made walking in the streets of Jerusalem in those days a genuine risk to his life.
He never refused an invitation to serve as mohel, and his face shone with joy when he had the privilege of performing a bris milah on a Jewish child -- to add another Jew to the Kings legions, he would say.
In the year 5679 a heavy snowstorm engulfed Jerusalem, leaving close to three feet of snow on the ground. The snow began to fall on a Monday, and continued without pause for three whole days. The city was covered in a white blanket. There was no way to distinguish the sidewalk from the street, and there was a real danger of falling into one of the many pits and holes that marked the roads of the city.
On that Wednesday, a bris was to take place in the Meah Shearim neighborhood. R Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld had been asked, before the snow had fallen, to act as mohel at this bris.
There was hardly a soul to be seen on the streets that day. People peering from their windows in the Batei Ungarin section of the city were surprised to see the figure of an old man, laboriously making his way through the wall of snow. With superhuman effort, he was very slowly approaching Meah Shearim from the direction of the Damascus Gate. When the figure passed by their houses, the watchers were astounded to see that it was R Yosef Chaim, then past 70, who was wading through the thick snow. Word rapidly spread from window to window: R Yosef Chaim had arrived from the Old City.
One of his grandchildren related: When I heard the news, I ran to my grandfather and exclaimed, Zaydie, this is pikuach nefesh (danger to life)! Would it have been so bad if they had used a different mohel, one who lives in this area? After all, you had no reason to worry that the mitzvah of bris milah would be put off just because you couldnt come!
Rabbi Yosef Chaim answered, As a matter of fact, because this is a case of pikuach nefesh I was afraid that they might put off the bris. Having invited me to serve as mohel they would wait for me, while other mohalim, reluctant to act in my place, would hesitate to come. Therefore, I got up and starting walking -- and baruch Hashem, I made it here in peace!