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In Merit of Mishloach Manot
by Chen-Li Benjamin

It was 1996. I was 29, and my daughter Shirel Rachel was six months old. I had invited a friend, Aliza, and her 10-year-old son, Adir, from Israel, to spend Purim with us.

Before they arrived from Israel, I told Aliza on the phone, in casual conversation, that maintenance people would be there to work on the bathrooms.

On Taanit Esther, the day before Purim, I got up at 6 a.m. I had bought lots of food to give out for mishloach manot. Our building was full of lonely people and older people; Holocaust survivors; widows and widowers. I figured that bringing them all mishloach manot would be a good mitzvah to do on Purim.

Aliza was in the kitchen making herself a cup of coffee. Adir was asleep on the carpet in my bedroom.

The doorbell rang. Aliza went to the door and asked, “Who’s there?” A man’s voice replied, “Plumber!”

Aliza assumed this was the guy changing the bathrooms, as I had told her. She opened the door.

Too late, I called out, “Don’t open!”

I saw a tall, enormous man wearing a leather jacket. He did not look like a plumber. I knew we were in trouble. Baby Shirel felt my body language; she tensed up and began to screech hysterically.

He came in and closed the door. Aliza began to scream. He hit Aliza with his gun to quiet her down. I knew our building was filled with old people and nobody would come to our rescue.

He took his gun and aimed at my forehead. As he pulled the trigger, I ducked. The bullet flew over my head. Then he handcuffed Aliza.

He dragged me and my baby into my bedroom and returned to the living room. I was afraid for Aliza, who had enraged him already. I called to him, “Leave her alone! I’m the one who lives here!” but he did not respond; in fact, he never responded to anything I said.

He threw the handcuffed, beaten Aliza onto the bed next to my baby, who had still not stopped screaming.

Then he said to me, “Where’s the money? Where’s the jewelry?” and he began opening drawers.

We had a big safe with old stamps in it, which might have been valuable. I had lost the combination. He knew about the safe. He dragged me to it and took my head and banged it against the safe, yelling, “Open it!” But I really did not know the combination. He went to the bed and picked up my baby. He said, “Open the safe by the count of three or I’ll shoot her.”

I said, “Okay, okay, I’m going to open it.” I said this knowing full well I had no way to open it. He threw the baby on the floor.

I began turning the dial and trying to open the safe. He lost patience with my playing with the dial on the safe and threw me down on all fours, like a dog. Holding my head down, he said, “Now I am going to kill you, at the count of three. One…”

I said my last prayers.

Shema Yisrael…

All of a sudden, I felt strong. I got up on my feet. Hashem gave me a tremendous amount of strength. With superhuman strength I pushed this huge man away from me and stood up.

With the gun pressing against my head, he pulled the trigger at point blank range, for the second time. At that moment, I pushed the gun away. Instead of the bullet going into my brain, it went into my elbow. (I only found out later that there was a bullet lodged in my elbow.)

I was not seriously hurt, but I deliberately threw myself down on the floor and played dead. He stood over me, looking at me intently. He wanted to make sure I was dead. I found out later that he was also out of bullets. He only had two.

I said to Adir, “Reach the phone under the bed.” Adir handed me the phone. It was hard for me to see to dial because I was beaten so badly, but I called my rabbi and told him quickly, in Hebrew, “Somebody shot me!” My rabbi called the police and ran over himself. I also called my mother, who was at work nearby.

I started to lose consciousness. My mother, my rabbi and the police all arrived a few minutes later. By then the intruder was gone.

We were taken to the hospital to deal with the bullet in my elbow and all our injuries. After I was discharged, we moved into my mother’s house. I would not live in that apartment again, ever. The police warned me to go into the apartment only with security guards with me. The crime was classified as attempted murder.

Six months after the event, we were still living at my mother’s house. I still suffered from terrible fears and nightmares.

As Rosh Hashanah came near, I wanted to go and get the machzor that my grandfather had given me a year earlier. I went into the apartment with the security guards. I picked up the machzor and that’s when I saw the first bullet that had been aimed straight at me. When I ducked, it entered the machzor. I called the police. They wanted to see it, of course.

A week later I got a call from the detectives. I came down to the station and they handed me back my machzor. They said, “Because you are religious, and you believe in G-d, and you called for G-d to help you – that is why G-d saved you. We are returning this book to you. We suggest you frame it and put it by your door. Whoever walks in to your house, show them the miracle of this bullet.”
 

 


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