#515 (s5768-04 / 21 Tishrei 5768)
"By Your Blood You Shall Live"
the 1930s until he passed away after Sukkot in 1995 at nearly 100 years of age,
the Ribnitzer Rebbe fasted on all days when it is permitted to do so under
"By Your Blood You Shall Live"
Rabbi Chaim Zanvil Abramowitz, the Ribnitzer Rebbe,
was born in the mid 1890s in the town of Barashan, Romania. By 1973, when he left
Russia, he was the last Rebbe, rabbinical authority, and spiritual leader of a
bygone era. After leaving Russia he settled in Eretz Yisrael, where he
lived in the Sanhedria section of Jerusalem. A number of years later he moved
to the USA, where he lived in Miami, Los Angeles, and Brooklyn before eventually
settling in Spring Valley, NY.
in the USSR, the Ribnitzer Rebbe lived as a pious G-d fearing Jew and inspirational
leader as if the communists and Stalin did not exist. He did not forgo anything
-- not even immersing daily in the waters of the mikva - which often
involved chopping ice on a frozen river -- or praying with a minyan.
He continued to spread Torah, to perform circumcisions and kosher slaughtering,
and to encourage Jews to send their children to underground Torah schools. He
was interrogated, jailed and even placed in front of a firing squad, but he
always seemed to miraculously escape and return to his "counterrevolutionary"
the 1930s until the end of his life, the Ribnitzer Rebbe fasted on all days when
it is permitted to do so under Jewish law.
As a mohel circumciser,
the Ribnitzer Rebbe performed thousands of circumcisions on Jewish children under
the communist regime. As one of the only mohelim who was not intimidated
by the government, he would travel all over the country in order to bring another
Jewish child into the covenant of Abraham.
Rabbi Mendel Futerfas,
a distinguished Lubavitcher chasid [a survivor of 14 years of Siberian exile,
a maintainer of the Chabad underground Torah school network in those days, and
himself the hero of many extraordinary chasidic stories -ed], related that the
Ribnitzer was once approached by the wife of a Russian general, who wished the
Rebbe to come clandestinely and circumcise her son. Her husband, a sworn communist,
obstinately refused to allow the child to be circumcised, lest his career in the
army be jeopardized. During World War II, when her husband was called to the front,
she sent a message asking the Rebbe to come.
"I accompanied the Rebbe
on the trip as sandak," R. Mendel related, "and when we arrived
at the house we were whisked into the cellar, where the child was ready and waiting.
The Rebbe performed the procedure, but the child began bleeding profusely. Neither
salve nor medicine was able to stop the bleeding.
"The child began
to turn yellow and shudder. Upon seeing this, the mother became hysterical and
began screaming, 'Is this the reward I get for my sacrifice bringing my son to
be entered into the covenant of our patriarch Abraham?' The baby lost consciousness,
whereupon the horrified mother also lost consciousness.
"I was terrified,"
Rav Mendel went on. "We could have been killed if something happened to this
child, and even worse, imagine the chillul Hashem, the disgrace of G-d's
name in the world, that would have come about if the child died while undergoing
"I looked at the Ribnitzer Rebbe's face at that
moment, and it seemed to be aflame. His head was thrown back and his hands were
raised to the Heavens in intense prayer. As he said the words bedamayich chayi,
'By your blood shall you live,' the child, who had been completely still and showed
no signs of life, awoke, and his bleeding stopped!
"I could not believe
my eyes and exclaimed, 'The Rebbe is performing miracles!' Turning to me, the
Rebbe responded calmly, 'Eliyahu HaNavi, Elijah the prophet, who is also the angel
present at every circumcision, is here -- this took place under his jurisdiction.'"
by Yerachmiel Tilles from an article in Hamodia (Magazine Section) by Avrohom
Birnbaum, Wikipedia, and oral transmissions from elder Chasidim.]
Rabbi Chaim Zanvil Abramowitz (1890's* - 24 Tishrei, 1995), the Ribnitzer
Rebbe, was a main disciple of Rabbi Avrohom Matisyohu of Shtefanesht, grandson
of the "holy Rhyzhiner." The Ribnitzer was aacknowledged by all Jews
across the spectrum as a renowned performer of miracles. After emigrating from
Russia in 1973, he subsequently lived in Jerusalem and Spring Valley, NY. It
is known that from the 1930s until the end of his life he fasted on all days
when it is permitted to do so under Jewish law.
* According to Modia; 1902 according
to Wikipedia, 1893 according to Mordechai (Ben David) Werdiger, who was a close
follower and occasional attendant during the years in Brooklyn.
Yrachmiel Tilles is co-founder and associate director of Ascent-of-Safed,
and editor of Ascent Quarterly and the AscentOfSafed.com and KabbalaOnline.org
websites. He has hundreds of published stories to his credit.
page soft-covered booklet containing eleven of his most popular stories may be
ordered on our store
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