Three grade school boys accidentally found six stolen Torah scrolls in an abandoned building where they wanted to establish a clubhouse.
The incredible story unfolded Sunday afternoon when nine-year-old Ariel Chaim Erdstein and three friends entered the ruins of a building and were shocked to discover the Torah scrolls, worth more than $250,000. Thieves stole them after breaking into the Chabad Tzemach Tzedek synagogue during the Sabbath a week ago.
“They ran out afraid that the thieves may have been hiding there also,” Ariel’s mother Batya told Arutz Sheva.
However, the first time she found out about the discovery was not from her son – but from the police.
“The boys went straight to the synagogue to tell the rabbi,” Batya said. The rabbis and members of the synagogue have been crying since the heart-breaking discovery of the theft on the morning of the Sabbath.
When the excited boys interrupted a session of Torah learning, the rabbi anticipated what the youngsters were about to say and asked, “You found the Torah scrolls?”
The three boys immediately led the rabbis to the abandoned house and showed them the Torah scrolls, and the police were contacted. Officers took Ariel and his friends to the police station. When Batya received a phone call from a police officer telling her that her child was at the station, she recalled, “My heart sank to my toes.”
Ariel Erdstein (left) with friends. Photo by Batya Erdstein
The Torah scrolls are covered with sheets, apparently placed by the thieves. The picture of the Torah scrolls was taken by Ariel.
Her fears immediately turned to joy when the police officer told her, “Don’t worry. This is good news.”
“I almost ran out the door without my shoes on,” she added. “This is a great miracle.”
A joyous procession to return the Torahs scrolls to the synagogue was held Monday.
Police still are looking for the thieves. One theory is that they were afraid to try to move the Torch scrolls from the abandoned building and sell them or simply wanted to wait longer before doing so. They also may have felt remorse and decided not to proceed with their plan to sell them.
The children are back in school Monday, the Torah scrolls are back in the synagogue, and Ariel’s father Baruch Emanuel, a native of Detroit, has an intriguing story to add to his repertoire as a professional story-teller and entertainer.
“As a family we are always telling the holy stories of the tzaddikim and miracles of simple Jews just trying to be close to HaShem,” Batya told Arutz Sheva. “It seems that we have to go back into Jewish history to connect to what was so holy and worth telling, but I tell my children that in coming to israel and trying to be holy in our own simple ways by doing mitzvoth and loving each other, we too continue to make the stories of the Jewish people”
Batya, originally from San Diego, California, teaches ceramics and runs family clay activities from her Tzfat Pottery Experience studio.
The Erdsteins moved to Israel in 1996 and lived in Jerusalem and Herzliya before settling in Tzfat, one of Israel’s four holy cities. The other holy cites are Jerusalem, Tiberias and Hevron.
By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu