Sometimes we need a reminder of how powerful acts of chessed can really be. We should always be conscious of the fact that we have no idea how far the reach will be on one small act of chessed. Reb Yaakov Galinsky illustrated this point with a powerful story.
During the time of the Russian Revolution, Czar Nicholas was the most hated man in Russia. A group of revolutionaries decided to depose him. The leader of this group quickly became the most wanted man in Russia. A manhunt was quickly organized to apprehend this villain. One day soldiers spotted him riding horseback and they chased him into a small town. He quickly jumped off his horse and ran into the first house he could find. A Yid answered the door but refused to hide the fugitive for fear of both of them getting caught. He quickly ran to the next house, and another Yid answered the door. He begged the Yid to let him in and hide him. He promised him that if he would, he didn’t know how, but someday he would repay him. The Yid stepped aside, and helped him hide. He told the fugitive to take off his clothing, and change, and then he handed him a talis. He told him to put it on, and he showed him how to make the motions of davening. When the Czar’s army came knocking on the doors, they eventually came to this Yid’s house. Upon entering, the Yid said “we are just a couple of Jews praying.” They saw him wrapped in a talis, and thought nothing of it and left. The fugitive thanked the Yid and reiterated his promise.
Years later, the revolutionaries were able to overthrow the Czar, and this fugitive became a man of great power. One day this Yid received an invitation to the capital. When he arrived he was greeted by non-other than the man he had saved. The fugitive asked “do you recognize me?” He told the Yid who he was and he showered him with wealth, and access to him for anything that he may need.
Here come the ripple effects…In 1921 eighteen Yeshiva bochrim from the Nevardok Yeshiva tried to cross the border illegally. They were caught and they faced a severe prison term r”l. They turned to R’ Chaim Ozer Grodzensky for help. R’ Chaim told them this story and advised them to go to this Yid and ask for his help. The Yid went to the Capital, and asked his friend the President to intervene. The bochrim were saved….One of the 18 bochrim was R Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky, the Steipler.