Napoleon's Coat

Napoleon sought shelter in Mogilev and toward evening one day in late November or early December he met Yoneh Lurie who was praying his mincha (afternoon) prayers. Noting he was a Jew, Napoleon reassuredly approached him for help and assistance for his journey home. The historical record recalls how Napoleon had himself "personally carried out a reconnaissance." Lurie, fearful for his life, went with him seven parsaot until Napoleon was safe.
In appreciation the Emperor removed his coat with its gold and silver adornments and gave it to him as a gift. On his way back to the city some robbers approached Yoneh. When they attempted to rob him of the coat he offered them the gold embroidery and gold buttons in exchange for his being allowed to keep the stripped coat.


In this way he was able to save the coat which was then hidden away for a number of years so as not to arouse any suspicions among the Russians. This coat was later made into a parochet (cover for the Torah ark) with a dedication embroidered on it with a Hebrew inscription, which reads:

As for my prayers, may He who dwells in the East, hear my plea.
Joseph, son of Jacob Aaron Lurie, may his light shine from Mogilev.
And his wife Fruma from Slutzk.
The story of this parochet has been preserved in the personal writings of Yoneh Lurie. It is located in the Hebrew University and National Library as manuscript 2660.

Copyright 2004, Neil Rosenstein