Wednesday, May 7, 2008


Today was Beis Iyar, the birthday of the Rebbe Maharash. The one story I had in my head the whole day isn't even about him, but as I write, it was in my head the whole day, so you'll just have to deal with it. Oh yes, and as always, excuse me if I mess the story's details up a little.
And now, without further ado...

Bochurim, as I've mentioned in the past, go on Tahalucha. Back in the day when Lubavitch and Satmar were still trying to kill each other the Bochurim would try out Williamsurg, get kicked out faster than a speeding greyhound chasing after a rhinoceros (a rare sight indeed, but one well worth seeing), and go home and tell stories. Well one year a couple of Bochurim went to a Satmar shteeble somewhere in Willy and they were (gasp!) let in to speak. The Rav, who was Satmar himself, was approached afterwards by a fellow Chassid who threatened to turn him in to grand Rabbi himself, Reb Yoel Teitelbaum. His offense? Allowing Lubavitcher's to speak in his Shul. The Rav responded.
It was the middle of World War Two, and I was running from the German advance into Russia. I eventually came to Odessa. It was very dangerous for me to be there, as I had no papers. If the authorities caught me I would be shot as a spy without hope of reprieve. I managed to survive for several months, but then the dreaded day arrived, and I was arrested and brought up to trial immediately. The military judge asked me my name, and thought for a moment. I had little hope, because I knew that the penalty for a judge who didn't rule "correctly" was death, and so even if he had compassion for a poor bochur, would he risk his own life to save another? The judge asked me to tell my story, which I did, explaining that I was a refugee who would never even dream of spying on the Soviets. Again the judge pondered, and then he announced that I was free to go! I was shocked, understandably, and didn't even move until I saw the judge motioning with his finger for me to come up to the bench. I did so, and the judge told me to meet him in his apartment at 8:00 that night. I did so, and the judge told me that he had a story...
I (the judge) was the son of a Lubavitcher Chassid. When I was a young boy my father took me to the Rebbe in Lubavitch to get a Brocha. The Rebbe told me, "When you grow up, you're going to be a judge for the army. If a bochur ever comes before you, and he says that he's innocent of spying, then let him free, no matter what the cost to you." My father, realizing that the Rebbe was saying that his son would frie out, began to beg the Rebbe for a Brocha that I should be a Chassid. The Rebbe responded by repeating his instructions and making sure that I understood them.
Years went by, and I forgot the Rebbe's words. I grew up, left the religion of my fathers', joined the army, and eventually became a judge. Until today I had not remembered the words of the Rebbe, but then you appeared before me. I knew then that this was what the Rebbe was talking about so many years ago. I decided that I had to free you, no matter what it might cost me.
(The Rav in Willy continued) I don't know what happened to that judge. What I do know is that, after many miracles, I made it safely to America. Now tell me, if the Lubavitcher Rebbe had the Mesiras Nefesh to put his Chassid's Judaism, not to mention his life, on the line, in order to save me, then I shouldn't his allow his Chassidim to speak in my Shul?

Nice story, no? In other news, a big thanks, once again (do I use this phrase too much? Is it a symptom of repetition?), to Chaim Rubin for the link on his excellent (really, truly) blog. Scroll down a little for the part about me.
And that, my friends, is what they, in the business, call a wrap. Personally I prefer bread, but that's besides the point. Oh, did I miss the point totally with that whole wrap thing? You mean it's not talking about food? Heavens to Betsy!


Anonymous said...

top left and back
genius, wouldn't you say?

Yosef HaKohein said...

Great story.

However I must comment on your statement: "Back in the day when Lubavitch and Satmar were still trying to kill each other the Bochurim would try out Williamsburg, get kicked out faster than a speeding greyhound chasing after a rhinoceros"

As someone who was in charge of organizing the Tahaluchos in these years, I claim authority on this subject.

The fact is that the Rebbe instituted and insisted that Chasidim go to Williamsburg, until the big physical fight in 1977 when the Rebbe said enough. So it was not a case of some bochrim trying out willy, it was a direct order from the Rebbe.

Just like a guy said...

I bow before you're superior knowledge, Yosef. This past Shavuos I went to the Chabad House in Willy for Tahalucha, and walking through the neighborhood was quite an experience. Fifteen blocks or more packed with Chassidim (coming out of Maariv), and then us, a couple of Lubavitchers saying "Good Yom Tov" to everyone we passed. Most of them answered without thinking, and then did a double-take when they realized who was talking to them. As you can imagine, it was a lot of fun.