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What’s the Lesson?

Friday, 26 October, 2018 - 12:48 pm

The summer of 1938, a year before World War II, my grandfather, obm, Zaida Shmuel arrived in Warsaw, Poland. Two years earlier, after spending three years in prison and the Gulog in Siberia-Soviet Union for his involvement in maintaining and organizing the underground Chedorim (religious schools) and other Jewish communal activities, my grandfather, grandmother and all children under twenty were allowed out of Russia.

The previous Lubavicher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson, obm, who was residing then in Poland, arranged through his high level government contacts, for a group of imprisoned Polish Communists to be sent off in exchange for my grandparents and part of their family.

My grandparents and family came back to the city of Rakishok, Lithuania, where my grandfather had been the chief Rabbi before the First World War.  After being in Lithuania for two years, the Rebbe requested that my grandfather visit America, as his personal emissary to continue the development of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement on these shores, and to raise charitable funds for the Rebbe’s Holy work in Europe and beyond (especially providing religious and other needs for the Soviet Jews). The plan was for my grandfather to return to Europe after about 6-8 months, but with the fever of War in the air, the Rebbe asked him to stay in America.

Visit in Warsaw

Although, between the wars, Lithuania and Poland did not have formal diplomatic relations (over the issue of Vilna), arrangements were made for my grandfather to be allowed into Poland, on his way to America, to spend Shabbos with the Rebbe, obm. My grandfather had not seen the Rebbe for over 10 years. (The Rebbe left Russia after his imprisonment by the Communists in the Fall of 1927). During these 10 years, the Rebbe suffered a series of strokes and was now wheelchair bound.

My grandfather, who was exceptionally close with the previous Rebbe, was emotional and excited at having the honored opportunity of seeing the Rebbe. The Rebbe’s family prepared my grandfather that upon seeing the Rebbe he should “control” his reactions, seeing the Rebbe’s medical condition. In addition, they asked him to minimize the discussion of the plight of Russian Jewry.

“But a Brief Moment”

My grandfather would share with great emotion the following exchange, in thatYichodus (private audience). As we know, the situation for world Jewry at that time (summer 1938), in Europe, and especially in the Soviet Union and Germany was ominous and dire. So, my grandfather, in an attempt to lift the Rebbe’s spirits, said the following, quoting from the Prophet Isaiah 54:7, “The prophet says when the Messiah will come we will look back on the whole Golus (Exile) as it being but a brief moment that G-d has forsaken us.”

The Rebbe turned in his wheelchair and said the following, “yoh ah rega, ah bittera rega.” (Yes, a brief moment, but a bitter moment).

Advocate for Whom?

“Now the people of Sodom were wicked and sinful to Hashem, exceedingly.” – Genesis 13:13

“Wicked with their bodies, sinful with their property, and to Hashem exceedingly they know their master yet intend to rebel against Him.” – Talmud Sanhedrin 109a

The Sodomites were not much nicer to their own. In fact, the Midrash tells two tales of moral women who dared extend a helping hand to beggars and were put to death:

“Two maidens of Sodom met at the well, where they had both gone to drink and fill up their water jugs. One girl asked her friend, “Why is your face so pale?” Her friend answered, “We have nothing to eat at home, and are dying of starvation.” Her compassionate friend filled her own jug with flour, and exchanged it for her friend’s jug of water. When the Sodomites found out about her act, they burnt her to death.”

It was announced in Sodom, “Whoever will give bread to a poor person will be burnt at the stake.”

These and many other similar hideous acts of cruelty by the Sodomites and their neighbors of Gomorrah had aroused G‑d’s anger.”

The above is only a taste of the immoral, abusive and hateful nature of the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Father Abraham

In this week’s Parsha, Vayeira, chapter 15, verse 17 onwards, G‑d informed Abraham of his intention to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham pleaded, in fact “he spoke strongly with G-d” (Rashi) to save the cities for the sake of the righteous who might be living there.

Only when G‑d had promised him that if there were even ten righteous inhabitants in Sodom, He would save the entire city for their sake, did Abraham plead no more.

But Why? They were horrible people! Even Abraham did not impact them as he did with “thousands and myriads” (RamBam) of others.

What’s the lesson for us? Torah, Lesson (Zohar)

Should we have been advocates in stopping the bombing and destruction of German towns because of the few righteous who saved Jews?

Should we be advocates for those who we all agree are immoral, vile, destructive and plainly hateful, because potentially they may have children who are upright and righteous?

What do you think?

To Be Continued.

Have a good Shabbos.
Rabbi Levitin

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