Tallit survives major fire

By Stephanie Brickman, September 10, 2009
David Neville with tallit and tefillin

David Neville with tallit and tefillin

When a fire caused extensive damage to David Neville’s family home in Edinburgh last week, his initial reaction was relief that no one had been injured.

But as the extent of the lost possessions became apparent, Mr Neville began to think about items which had been in the master bedroom — the seat of the blaze.

And he remembered that the tallit and tefillin given to him on his barmitzvah had been in the drawer of a desk which had been almost completely destroyed.

The BBC Scotland drama producer returned to the bedroom more in hope than expectation. “Of three drawers in the desk, only one was left,” he said. “It was just a black charred mass on the floor. But when I lifted it to see what it was, there was a melted plastic bag inside in which were the tallit and tefillin. They were just about the only things in the room untouched by the fire.

“I was amazed. Possessions aren’t that important in life but these are things I use and have had for so long. They’re of huge sentimental value. You might ask if it was divine intervention but the real divine intervention was that nobody was hurt.”

It is believed the fire was caused by sunlight on a mirror on the dressing table being reflected in a focused beam which ignited a bin-bag full of clothes destined for a charity shop. Neither Mr Neville, his wife Michele nor their 16-year-old twin daughters were at home at the time. Their neighbours’ teenage son heard the smoke alarm and called the fire brigade.

Mr Neville, an Edinburgh Hebrew Congregation member, has since been “overwhelmed by the kindness of neighbours, friends and the Jewish community”.

Last updated: 2:04pm, September 10 2009