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"Avraham came forward and said, 'Will You also destroy the righteous along with the wicked?" (Bereishis 18:23). The true leaders of Israel have always done their best to protect their flock from harm. The extraordinary thing about Avraham our Patriarch is that he even pleaded with Hashem to save the wicked people of Sedom who were the complete antithesis of him.

During World War II, many Jewish leaders found themselves in the position of having to make a choice: how could they help their communities better; by staying with them and encouraging them or by escaping and trying to save them while in neutral countries. Different Rabbis made different decisions; but they were all for the benefit of the people.

In Barechi Nafshi, Rabbi Zilberstein tells one of many stories of these brave, selfless men.

The Jews of Warsaw were all in the Ghetto. No one knew what the future held for them. One day, the head of the Juddenratt called three great Rabbis to his office; Rabbi Menachem Zemba, Rabbi Shim'on Shtuckheimer and Rabbi Dovid Shapiro. He told them that he had received very bad news. All of the Jews in the Ghetto would soon be transferred to Auschwitz to be gassed to death. However, he told them, he had made tremendous efforts to save the three Rabbis and their families; and he had been successful. They could leave Poland immediately and travel to wherever they desired.

Surprisingly, the Rabbis did not "jump for joy," but, rather, they replied that they would like to confer privately for a little while. This in itself surprised the chief to no end; and he gave them a room where they could discuss the offer. When they returned with their decision a little while later, though, he was totally shocked and impressed with the integrity of these remarkable men.

They explained that in these terrible times, there really was no need for Rabbis. No one was coming with Halachic questions any more. Everyone was busy trying to find a means of escape. Nevertheless, if the people were to see that their leaders abandoned them in their hour of need, and fled to safety, it would break their spirits completely and they would give up all hope and efforts to at least try to stay alive. Therefore, the Rabbis opted to remain with their followers and accept whatever Hashem had planned for them.

Rabbi Menachem Zemba ztvk"l and Rabbi Shtuckheimer ztvk"l both were killed along with the millions of other martyrs. Only Rabbi Shaipro managed to survive.

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Jerusalem, Israel