A story I recently heard from a friend.

Zaidy was upstairs in his room, when suddenly he heard an incredible racket. Such a banging and shouting and running and thumping and screaming! He hurried downstairs to find out the reason for the commotion, and saw a group of his grandchildren and their friends running around, wielding sticks and bats, and yelling at the top of their lungs. He grabbed the first boy that passed by him and asked what was going on.

“Zaidy, we saw a rat,” panted the boy, “and we’re trying to catch it and kill it!”

“No!” cried Zaidy, loudly and forcefully. “Stop it! Don’t kill the rat!”

“But Zaidy, rats are very bad, they’re dirty, they’re—”

“I said no! You can’t kill the rat.”

The children stopped charging around and looked at Zaidy in surprise. “But why not?” asked one bold soul.

“Come here, and I’ll tell you a story.

“You know that I am a survivor of the Holocaust. “No!” cried Zaidy. “You can’t kill the rat!”I went through the camps, and I should have died a thousand times during the war. But G‑d had mercy on me, and many times He snatched me from the hands of the angel of death. And sometimes He sent the most unlikely saviors.

“When we were in the concentration camp, we slept in ‘bunks’ in the barracks. But they weren’t bunk beds like you have, comfortable, with nice mattresses. Each bunk was about the size of a double bed—but nine of us slept on that hard board. How did we fit? We all had to lie sideways, stuffed together like sardines, or like spoons in a drawer. There was no room for a person to lie on his back or stomach. And we all had to turn over at the same time . . .

“I slept on the end of the bunk. You might think that that was a good place to have, because you were squashed only on one side. But in the winter, it was the worst place to be. You see, we had no covers. And certainly no heat. So, the only thing that kept us warm was the body heat of our bunkmates. The person on the end of the bunk had no one on one side of him to keep him warm. Often, after a particularly freezing night, people would wake up in the morning and find that the last person on the bunk had frozen to death during the night.

“On one very cold night I was shivering so hard, and I felt that I was freezing to death. All of a sudden, I felt a little bit of warmth on my exposed side. Then another. And another. I looked and saw . . . the rats from the barracks, who were also freezing, had crawled onto the bunk and were lying next to me. They absorbed the heat from my body, and they in turn warmed me. Together we survived.

“So, children, you can’t kill a rat. Because the rats saved my life.”