#515 (s5768-04 / 21 Tishrei 5768)

"By Your Blood You Shall Live"

From 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 Jewish law.

"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.

While 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" activities.

From 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 brit milah!

"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.'"

[Adapted 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.

Rabbi Menachem-Mendel ("Reb Mendel") Futerfas (1906 - 4 Tammuz 1995), was a near legendary Lubavitcher chasid, even for those who knew him personally. In 1947 he was arrested for administrating networks of underground yeshivas and Jewish schools, and for facilitating the repatriation of thousands of Soviet Jews to Poland after WWII, and sentenced to 8 years in Soviet prisons and labor camps, which he went through without compromising any religious observances, despite the cruel pressure to do so. After another six years in Siberian exile he was allowed to emigrate to England, thanks to an appeal for family repatriation made by prime minister Harold Wilson during his summit meeting in Moscow with Chairman Nikita Khrushchev. In 1973 settled in Kfar Chabad, Israel, where for twenty years he was a major influence on three generations of chasidim.

Yerachmiel 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.

A 48 page soft-covered booklet containing eleven of his most popular stories may be ordered on our store site.

back to Top   back to Index   Stories home page
Redesign and implementation - By WEB-ACTION