A father and son went to Poland, something that is very common amongst the ultra Orthodox. They visited the graves of the great sages, prayed and asked for salvation. Many people have witnessed miracles on these trips.
The most famous destination is Uman in Ukraine, to the grave of Rabbi Nachman of Breslau. Even though the group belonged to the Breslau sect, this time they went first to Poland where they visited the gravesites of other great rabbis and sages.
It was mid-winter, a time when Poland is covered with snow and the temperatures dip to way below zero. At one am, the father decided that he must travel to the 'tziun' (that is what these gravesites are called) of a sage who was buried on a remote mountaintop.
It was difficult to find a taxi driver who was willing to risk his life on this frozen winter night to drive them through the forlorn countryside but they succeeded.
The ice slick road up to the tziun wound between the side of the mountain and a sheer drop off. The driver was frightened to climb the mountain but he was scared of the drive back even more because even the smallest swerve and they would end up over the side into the dark abyss. But the man pleaded and offered to pay him generously so he agreed.
They arrived at the site. Two ultra orthodox men approached the gravesite with hearts full of prayer. The hour was close to two am when they returned to the cab. The driver began his slow descent from the mountain and on each time would slow the car until they were crawling along.
Despite all his effort, on a very sharp turn the car slid, the driver lost control and in a brief second, the car swerved towards the abyss, front wheels in the air.
The father, who was a large man, frozen in his seat terrified to move or breathe and could barely recite the Shma. It was clear to the three of them that in a few seconds the car would lose its balance and dive into the ravine belong.
Suddenly, out of the darkness, came a large man wearing Russian fur hat. He single handedly lifted the front of the car and put it down safely back on the road.
“Go, go,” he urged the stunned driver who quickly followed the order and drove away from the dangerous place. The father and son were so amazed by what they regarded as a miracle that they couldn’t utter a peep the entire way back.
This story was related to my husband by the son during the Shabbat meal we had together when he returned. He swore that it really did happen. The food was also very good and here is an example.
Grilled cherry tomatoes with olive oil and hyssop
Preparation time: 10 minutes.
Grilling time 2.5 to 3 hours
1 lb. of cherry tomatoes halved
5-6 tbl olive oil
1 large tbl of fresh chopped basil
Chopped black olives
2-3 cloves of garlic crushed
Rinse the tomatoes and cut them in half. Place the halves on an oven tray with the seeded side facing up. Sprinkle with salt and grill in a slow oven for 2.5 to 3 hours until the tomatoes shrivel up but are not completely dry. Transfer them to a bowl.
Mix the olive oil, the basil, the garlic and pour over the tomatoes. Sprinkle with the chopped black olives, salt and pepper to taste. Chill for two hours before serving.
Roasted chicken with sweet potatoes, garlic
Preparation time: 20 minutes.
Baking time: 1 hour 40 minutes
Serves 6 to 8
A whole chicken separated into pieces
4 medium potatoes
4 medium sweet potatoes
Salt and pepper
5-6 garlic cloves chopped
¼ C oil
¼ C water
2 tbl honey
Peel ten potatoes and the sweet potatoes and cut them into large cubes. Place them in a large, deep baking tray and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the chicken pieces on the potatoes. Mix the garlic with the water and oil and drizzle evenly over the chicken.
Use a spoon to drizzle the honey on the chicken and potatoes. Cover the entire dish with aluminum foil and bake for 1.5 hours. Remove the foil and bake for another 20 minutes until the chicken is brown.
Recover with the foil and transfer to the Shabbat warmer or serve immediately.