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Story: On Board the Titanic

Published on Sunday May 2nd, 2021

In 1910, Sam Aks, a native of Poland, emigrated to England where he married Leah Rosen. After their marriage, they lived in London for a while and then they decided to leave for America, in hope of better job prospects.

Leah was expecting her first child and so her parents advised her to wait until the baby was born before going on a trip to the sea. At the time, a boat trip took several weeks, which was exhausting for a pregnant woman. Sam decided to head there alone to find a home in America, and Leah would join him with their child after birth. 

A few months later, on April 10, 1912, Leah and her son boarded the famous... Titanic! It was the largest cruise ship ever built at the time, with a capacity of more than 2,000 passengers. Its builders emphasized its strength and boasted even to the point of saying, "G-d himself cannot sink this boat!"

But as everyone knows, 4 days later, on April 14, the Titanic hit an iceberg and was about to sink ... Unfortunately, there was not enough room for everyone in the lifeboats. On board, there was total panic when the boat started to sink. The captain and the crew gave orders to save women and children first.

Leah rushed to the bridge with her baby, little Ephraim Fishel, as she tried to get in the line of those waiting to be saved. It was freezing cold.

People pushed and jostled with all their might to try to get into the canoes until a man succeeded in boarding one of them. When the stewards saw it, they forced him to get out of the canoe, shouting that women and children had to be saved first. Far from being discouraged, the man managed to get on board another canoe, and again, the stewards made him get out by repeating to him firmly that the priority was for the women and the children.

Back on deck, the man was furious. He ended up losing patience and he got into a rage. In a moment of madness, he rushed to Leah screaming:

"You say women and children come first! Well, you'll see!"

Mad with rage, he tore the baby from Leah's arms and threw him overboard...Leah screamed hysterically while calling her child, but there was nothing more to do. It was now Leah's turn to board a boat, but she categorically refuses, shouting:

"I will not go up without my baby!"

The crew tried to make her understand that she must now save her own life and that it was useless to stay aboard the boat that was about to sink. The women around Leah also tried to calm her, but the shock of seeing her baby thrown into the water was too strong. Finally, she rushed into a lifeboat and burst into tears.

The canoes drifted for three hours before a boat named "Carpathia" came to rescue those lucky enough to leave the Titanic. Out of 2,228 passengers, there were only 705 survivors.

Two days later, overcome by grief, Leah walked on the Carpathia Bridge and she saw a woman holding a baby in her arms. When the child made a move towards Leah, she recognized him immediately and began to scream:

"It's my baby, it's him!"

But the woman holding the child was not ready to part with the baby and told Leah:

"No, that is impossible! This child was entrusted to me!" I was aboard one of the canoes when a baby literally fell into my arms. It's a sign from Heaven, and now, I feel responsible for this child. There is no way that you can take him away from me!"

In shock, Leah began to argue violently with the woman. The captain of the Carpathia was then called to decide the question. Leah did not stop crying, while the woman was ready to do anything to keep the baby. Suddenly, Leah had an idea and addressed the captain:

"I can prove it's my child, I'm Jewish, and my son has been circumcised!"

In Europe, at that time, only Jewish children were circumcised. After the Captain checked this, he decided to return the young Ephraim Fishel to his mother. Leah thanked him from the bottom of her heart. A few days later, Carpathia dropped off all the survivors in New York.

Ephraim Fishel Aks finally grew up with his legitimate Jewish family. He got married and had children and grandchildren. He died in 1991 at the age of 80. A few years after this incident, Leah was so grateful to the Carpathian captain and crew that when she had a daughter, she called her Sarah Carpathia Aks. But incredibly, there was some confusion at the hospital secretariat, and the child was registered under the name of Sarah Titanic Aks!

When Hashem asked Avraham to circumcise himself, he consulted three of his friends: Aner, Eshkol, and Mamreh. Aner said to him:

"You are almost 100 years old, why risk your life by inflicting such pain?

Eshkol told him:

"Do you really intend to make an indelible mark on your body that will differentiate you so much from your enemies? It would already be enough to put your life in danger!"

Only Mamreh encouraged Avraham to have faith in Hashem and to fulfill His request.

Is it not remarkable that the mark of circumcision that Eshkol considered a risk of attracting contempt for Avraham, and putting his life in danger, was precisely the one that allowed Ephraim Fishel to find his mother?

Shabbat Shalom!

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