My father was a man of true kindness and truly exceptional generosity.

The terrible wartime economy left us one year without any money for matzos or other food for Pesach. In order to purchase the basic Pesach necessities, we needed around 3,000 rubles, but things were so bad that there wasn’t even anyone from whom to borrow.

My mother was very worried, and each day she asked my father where we would get money for the holiday. One day, my father told her that he had thought of someone who might be able to lend him 3,000 rubles, and the next day after prayers he would go to him and ask for the money. Hearing this, my mother was reassured and her spirits were lifted.The terrible wartime economy left us without any food for Passover

The next day, after my father returned from the morning prayer, my mother asked him, “Nu, did you borrow the money?”

My father said that he had. My mother was happy and said, “Thank G‑d! Now we will be able to buy what we need for Pesach.” But then, suspiciously, my father added, “With Hashem’s help it will be okay.”

Realizing that something was amiss, my mother asked him again, directly, “Do you have the money?”

This time my father tried to avoid answering, but in the end he had to say the truth: He did borrow the money, but he no longer had it.

Confused, my mother asked, “Was it stolen from you?”

My father replied, “No, it wasn’t stolen. I did borrow all 3,000 rubles that we needed, but on my way home I met a Jewish refugee who told me that he also has three children and no money for the festival, and I gave him the money.”

My mother couldn’t believe her ears. Incredulously, she asked, “Why did you give it all away? You couldn’t give him just half of the money?! What will we do now?!” and she burst into tears.

My father tried to calm her: “Bracha, don’t cry. I will find someone else who will lend me the money. Everybody knows me here, and there’s no doubt I’ll find a way to borrow some more money. But the Jew I met is a stranger. No one knows him here, and no one will lend him money.”

Looking back, I reflect: My father was not acquainted with that Jew from beforehand. There was no way of knowing if he would ever be repaid; it would probably be more accurate to describe the money he gave him as a gift than as a loan! And yet, he gave him the money he had borrowed for his own Pesach needs without hesitation!

That was my father: there were times when he had more compassion for others than he had for himself.

R. Moshe Nissilevitch told me that he remembered the following scene vividly. My father once prayed at a certain minyan in Samarkand, at which someone announced that he was collecting money for an important cause and asked that everyone contribute. Without thinking twice, my father put his hand into his pocket and took out all the money he had with him, and without even counting it, gave it all to charity. R. Moshe was astonished by the simple, unassuming way my father just gave away his money.

I remember that when he would come home with his salary or other earnings, my mother would virtually have to hide the money from him, knowing that it would otherwise soon disappear. Before he left the house, my mother would make sure that his pockets were empty, for otherwise all the money would be disbursed before returning home.

My father especially enjoyed hosting guests. As soon as he heard of a fellow chassid visiting Samarkand, he would jump at the opportunity to invite him over, and quickly turn to preparing a festive meal in his honor in the meantime. Once the meal was ready, he would proceed to ask everyone he saw for the visitor’s whereabouts, and instruct them that should they see him, to notify him that a meal was waiting for him at the Zaltzman home. Almost every Lubavitcher visiting Samarkand would come by our home. In later years they would often use the opportunity to speak with my brother-in-law, R. Eliyahu Mishulovin, whose advice was highly regarded.

My father never complained about his financial difficulties, My father never complainedand he acted as if he were a wealthy man, promising to give even more to charity even when he didn’t have money at hand. He would say, “I don’t have the amount readily available, but I’m planning on earning money from this and that, so I can pledge the money now.”

When my mother would hear of his promises, she would say: “Your future earnings won’t be enough even just to pay off our debts. We must first cover our debts, and only then can we promise money to others!”

My father would respond in jest: “Let them think that I’m rich! What difference does it make? We have a daughter ready to get married—that sort of reputation can only help!”

My cousin Sarah Pil was orphaned from her father at a young age. When she reached marriageable age, my father made sure that anything and everything was taken care of as though she were his own daughter, and he personally arranged a match for her with R. Dovid Mishulovin.

It was difficult to obtain a new tallis1 in those times, but my father wanted to present the young groom with a tallis of his own. Without batting an eyelid, he took his own tallis—a Turkish make of superior quality—and gave it to Dovid. When asked what he would use for himself, my father replied, “I’m not worried about that. I can always borrow!”

My father’s goodness and kindness extended to both Jew and gentile. He once went to work and saw a non-Jewish man at the entrance asking for charity. The poor fellow said that he was starving. While the other workers passed by and ignored him, my father bought him a loaf of bread and a bottle of lemonade, and gave him a few rubles as well. The gentiles he worked with couldn’t get over it. “See what a Jew is!” they said afterwards in amazement. “That poor man is a Russian like us. Yet we all passed by and ignored him, while the only one who responded to his pleas was Zaltzman the Jew!”

The Girl in the Corridor

It was a bitter winter morning in the year 1945, shortly before the end of the war. The biting cold air was under -10° C, and snow had fallen the day before, sparkling on the ground like towering heaps of crystal. I remember that my father returned home from shul that morning earlier than usual and told my mother that when he entered the hallway of the shul, he saw a girl of about nineteen years of age sitting on the ground, crying and trembling from the cold. Her clothes were torn and dirty, and she was whimpering, “I have nothing . . . Where will I go tonight . . . I am starving . . . Have pity on me . . .”

Compassionate Jews entering the shul gave her some kopeks before going in to pray. My father gave her five rubles and went inside, but found himself perturbed and unable to focus on the prayers. At that time, corpses were being found every morning in the streets, perished from the hunger and cold. Who knew what the girl’s fate would be?

He returned to the entranceway and asked her where she was from. The girl said that her entire family—her parents, brothers and sisters—had perished in the Holocaust, and she had been directed to travel to Samarkand.

My father hurried home and told my mother about this girl, adding that it appeared that she was speaking the truth. Who knew what the girl’s fate would be?“We must have mercy and rescue her!” he said.

My mother didn’t think twice. She got dressed immediately and rushed back to shul with my father, taking along some clean clothes and a warm coat for the girl. My mother took her from the shul to the bathhouse, and two hours later she came home with the girl. From that day on, she told her, this would be her house.

The girl spoke a fluent Yiddish with a Polish accent, and she slowly learned how to speak Russian. She lived with us for half a year as a member of the family. Eventually, she found a job and moved into a rented apartment.

Two years later, she came to my parents and told them that she had been offered a proposal for marriage with a Bucharian boy. He was 26, nice-looking, and was of a fine character, but he had a disability: he had been blind since childhood. Since she considered my parents, who had saved her life, as her own, she wanted their advice.

After inquiring about the young man and seeing that she really liked him, they agreed to the match.

They married and established a traditional Jewish home. He supported himself by asking for donations, as he had done until then, and his wife would lead him down the street. When I would walk near him, he could recognize me by my gait, and his wife would also let him know that I was approaching. I always gave him a nice donation. They were blessed with three healthy children, and when people began leaving Samarkand for Eretz Yisrael, they immigrated there as well.