23 Apr, 2019

Always Wear Your Letters When Visiting a Tomb

23 Apr, 2019

Written by Brother Mitch Chupak 

I’ve lived near the city of Kfar Saba, just north of Tel Aviv, for many years. During my commute, I drive on a road that passes through many historical sites. One in particular is the Tomb of Benjamin, Son of Jacob. Benjamin is one of the esteemed sons that helped form the 12 tribes of Israel. This site is of great importance; however, in all these years I had never managed the time to go in and visit Benjamin’s resting place.

Oddly enough, Brother Ben Woolf (Leeds, 2015) was visiting me and asked if we could visit the tomb the next morning as we drove past it. Why not?

Brothers Ben Woolf (left) and Mitch Chupak at AEPi's New Year's Eve Party in Tel Aviv.

As the morning approached, it’s a regular day. I woke, prepared my coffee, grabbed whatever t-shirt sat at the top of the drawer – on this occasion it was one of the many AEPi shirts in my collection – and we made our way out to visit the Tomb of Benjamin.

The Tomb of Benjamin located in Kfar Saba, Israel.

We arrived early, shuffling through the many siddurim to find the tehillim prayer (it’s normal practice to say a small blessing for good health, wealth and family success). We eventually found the right book and said our blessings and personal tidings. Once finished, we struggled to find a charity box to give tzedakah (charity) which is another standard practice. Usually there are people asking for donations or a box is present, but there’s nothing there!

As we walked out of the tomb, we noticed some people studying Torah in another building. We approached and explained that we are looking for a tzedakah box to make a small donation.

The righteous men lifted their heads with joy and said that it is with them that the tzedakah goes. So, I pulled a note from my pocket and put it on the table. Immediately, one of the men stood and put his hand to my head as he gave me a blessing in biblical Hebrew. Upon finishing, he looked down at my AEPi shirt and said with confidence and pride;

“Hey, AEPi, the Jewish Fraternity, I’m a Brother! I studied in Boulder, Colorado from 1977 to 1982 and my name is Shmuel David.”

In shock and astonishment, we hugged and praised as we shared in the sentiment of our days in AEPi.

For too long, I’ve failed to visit what is one of the holiest sites in Israel. On the day that I did, I meet an AEPi Brother, one who has chosen to devote himself to the Jewish people by maintaining the site!

This was truly a one in a trillion moment, and although Brother David’s profession or practice is not something all of us would consider or do, it’s a vital part of being Jewish that we respect; guarding our history, heritage and who we are. That is part of what makes me proud to be a Pi.