Weekly Chasidic Story #1015 (s5777-34/ 26 Iyar 5777)

To Sign or Not to Sign?

"Are you insane?" screamed the Stalinist commandant at Rabbi Gedaliah-Moshe Goldman of Zivhil. "I am granting you freedom! How can you waste such an opportunity?"

Connections: Seasonal--Iyar 26 -- yesod of yesod (this year: Monday, May 22] is the 72nd yahrzeit of Rabbi Shlomo ("Reb Shlom'ke") Goodman of Zivhil.


To Sign or Not to Sign?

During the Stalinist era, Rabbi Gedaliah-Moshe Goldman (subsequently to succeed his father "Reb Shlomke," as the next Rebbe of the Zivhil dynasty,) was imprisoned in a Siberian labor camp for eight miserable years. It was an oppressive, back-breaking experience; the only comforting thought the prisoners had was that their sentences were limited, not for life.

Nevertheless, he almost died there. Once, he was confined in a pit for a week, without food, and he said that he almost died. Rats were biting at his feet. Miraculously, a roll of bread fell directly into his mouth, and that saved his life. He said that if the bread would have fallen to the ground, he wouldn't have had the strength to bend down and pick it up.

One Shabbat in 1936, the commandant summoned both the Rebbe and another Jew, a frail, older man, to his office. He told them, "You are both free to go. All you have to do is sign these papers and you may leave."

Rabbi Gedaliah Moshe reached for the papers, but then stopped. How could he write on Shabbat? True, it was a release, but could he desecrate the holy Shabbat? After all, as bad as it was, it was not clearly life-threatening. He reasoned that he was young enough (less than 50) and strong, and even if he would be detained there for a few more years, he would survive.

He turned to the officer and said, "I am sorry, sir. While I appreciate your kind gesture, I cannot desecrate my Shabbat, and I can't sign the papers today."

The commandant was incredulous. "Are you insane?" he screamed. "I am granting you freedom! How can you waste such an opportunity?!"

The Rebbe replied calmly, "I understand and appreciate your kindness, sir, but it is my Sabbath, my day of rest, and I may not write."

With a disgusted look on his face, the commandant said disdainfully, "If you do not sign, you will rot in this place."

He then pushed the papers towards the old Jew and said, "Now, you at least can sign and then you can leave."

The man thought to himself, "If the Rabbi won't sign, how can I?" So he announced, "I am afraid that I cannot sign either, sir. Today is Shabbat and the same law applies to me."

The commandant took his papers back and said, "If that is your choice, neither of you will ever leave here. You two are both crazy!"

Suddenly, Rabbi Gedaliah Moshe shouted out, "Wait! Please let him go free! I will sign the papers for him!"

The commandant was perplexed. He said, "I don't understand. You just told me that you can't write on Saturdays, your Sabbath. Yet you are willing to sign his papers, but not your own? Why are his papers different from yours?"

The Rebbe explained, "There is a major difference. I am much younger and stronger than him, and I can survive here. This man, on the other hand, is old and weak, and he will not make it if he stays here much longer. Therefore, if he is not prepared to sign, I will sign for him in order to save his life! One may violate Shabbos in order to save the life of another."

The commandant was so impressed by this act of selflessness that he allowed them both to leave without demanding their signatures!

Source: Compiled by Rabbi Yehuda Winzelberg as heard from Rabbi Yissachar Frand for "Torah U'Tefilah: A Collection of Inspiring Insights", and reprinted in the weekly mailing, "Shabbos Stories for the Parsha." Adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from two separate renditions by Rabbi Winzelberg.

Biographical note:
Rabbi Gedaliah-Moshe Goldman [5647 - 24 Cheshvan 5709 (1887 - Oct. 1948 C.E.)], a direct paternal descendant of Rabbi Yechiel-Michil of Zolochov, an important student of the Baal Shem Tov, joined his father, Rabbi Shlomo ("Reb Shlom'ke") Goodman (? - 26 Iyar 1945), in the Holy Land in 1937, after eight years in Siberian exile. He succeeded him as Rebbe of of Zivhil for only a few years until his own passing.

"Rabbi Gedaliah-Moshe was buried in the Givat Ram section of Jerusalem in the Sheikh Badr cemetery shortly after modern Israel's War of Independence. A number of years ago, a family member in London had a dream. In it she saw Rabbi Gedaliah-Moshe, who asked her to publicize that he would intercede in Heaven for those who would come to visit and pray at his tomb on a Monday, on Thursday of the same week, and again on the following Monday. They should pray that their requests be answered in the merit of the Zivhil Rebbe and in the merit of visiting his grave - which until that time was not visited often. Today his grave is visited regularly by hundreds of people" (http://littmann613.blogspot.co.il), and miraculous results are often reported. Dancing on the Monday-Thursday-Monday has also become part of the tradition.

Connection: Iyar 26 -- yesod of yesod (this year: Monday, May 22] is the 72nd yahrzeit of Rabbi Shlomo ("Reb Shlom'ke") Goodman of Zivhil.

Yerachmiel Tilles is co-founder and associate director of Ascent-of-Safed, and chief editor of this website (and of KabbalaOnline.org). He has hundreds of published stories to his credit, and many have been translated into other languages. He tells them live at Ascent nearly every Saturday night.

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