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Shabbos Chazon - Tish'ah B'Av Reflections

Ever since the Holy Temple was destroyed, almost two thousand years ago, Jews have been in exile among the nations. We have been compared to "a sheep among seventy wolves" that is in constant danger of extinction. Throughout the ages, Jews have contemplated what the best method is to exist among our enemies. Many argued that if we would abandon the Torah's strict directives, which make us so different from them, the Gentiles would respect us and leave us alone. This method has been proven erroneous, time and time again; most recently in Germany where Jews assimilated en masse, only to be slaughtered by the Nazis during the terrible Holocaust.

The following moving story, recorded in Aleynu Lishabeach, demonstrates that when a Jew is stubbornly and sincerely devout, he can sometimes impress even the hardest criminal and gain his admiration and protection.

Rabbi Ya'akov Galinsky shlita was a young man when he was sent to Siberia for the crime of being a Jew. His captors were convinced that he knew of organized Torah study groups, a terrible sin in their perverted minds, and tortured him mercilessly in order to persuade him to reveal the identities of the participants. Loyal to Hashem and to His People, Reb Yankeleh would not say a word.

Once, when he was especially obstinate in his refusal to cooperate with his evil overseers, he was sentenced to forty days in the dungeon. As meager as the regular daily portions were, the dungeon's menu was even worse. Furthermore, the rule was that twice a week the government did not supply any food at all, although there was no objection to others bringing the prisoner food, if anyone had enough to spare from his own inadequate supply.

On of the days that Reb Yankel was not given food by the authorities was Yom Kippur. Although it did not really matter all day, since he was fasting anyway, the question was how would he break his fast at night? Rabbi Yosef Rot zt"l, who later founded the Beis Dovid Institutions in Bnei Brak, was the messenger of mercy who left the Yom Kippur services to bring food to the cell in the early afternoon when the guards would allow him to do so.

Of course, Reb Yankel had no intention of touching the precious food until the evening. The main guard of the dungeon was a murderer who was "in charge" of all of the prisoners who were no better than he. When he noticed that Reb Yankeleh did not touch the food which had been brought to him, he asked him why. Reb Yankel explained that the Torah forbade him from eating anything until the evening. "Don't you realize," asked the guard, "that if you don't gobble down that food fast, the other prisoners will take it from you within a few moments?" Reb Yankel replied that be that as it may, he would not touch the food until the day was over.

Rather than scoff at the foolish Jew, the guard was impressed with his courage and devotion. He immediately ordered his henchmen to spread the word among the prisoners that anyone who dared to touch the food of the Jew would pay for his action with his life. After such an announcement, no one even thought of taking the priceless food, and every bit of it was there when the long fast day was over.

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Jerusalem, Israel