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Be Not Silent

Thursday, the 20th of Av, marked 61 years since the passing of R. Levi Yitzchak Schneerson, the father of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. R. Levi Yitzchak was a true Jewish hero. He served as the Chief Rabbi of Yekaterinoslav in Russia, and took a strong stance against communist suppression of Judaism.

In 1939, R. Levi Yitzchak fought a fierce battle with the communist authorities for permission to bake special kosher-for-Passover matzos. The communist officials insisted that he compromise in his halachic standards, but R. Levi Yitzchak refused to put his rabbinic stamp of approval on matzos that were not baked according to his specifications. The clash ended abruptly with R. Levi Yitzchak's arrest on the 9th of Nissan, 1939.

In a false trial staged by the Soviets, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak was found guilty of anti-Soviet propaganda and sentenced to five years of exile in the village of Chi'li, in the Central Asian region of the Soviet Union. In exile, he suffered terribly from cold, starvation and illness, and passed away in 1944 in the city of Alma Ata.

Rabbi Levi Yitzchak's brave spirit left an indelible mark on his eldest son, R. Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the future Lubavitcher Rebbe.  Among many other things, the Rebbe is famous for his strong stance against any territorial compromise in Israel. During his years of leadership, the Rebbe firmly and fearlessly advocated this position, never backing down in face of opposition. The Rebbe credits his father for instilling in him the strength of character to stand strong against verbal attacks and political pressure:

"I was once asked how it is that I am never affected by people who call me names or insult me. My answer is that this is how I was brought up. I won't say that it doesn't bother me at all, but it does not affect me to the extent that it will make me change my stance. My stance, which is clearly stated in the Code of Jewish Law, is that when lives are in danger, it is forbidden to remain silent!

“I was raised on this principle. I was my father’s firstborn, and he was the Chief Rabbi in Yekaterinaslov. At that time, the need often arose to respond to various criticisms or arguments. Since I was the firstborn son and I was fluent in Russian, the task fell to me.  From those experiences, I became accustomed not to expect titles of honor. This was how I was raised, and how I continue to educate others – not to remain silent when lives are in danger, not to be impressed by what others will say about me, and not even to consider the decree of the nations of the world.”

Let us follow the example of the Lubavitcher Rebbe and his illustrious father, R. Levi Yitzchak. When Jewish lives are in danger, we must not be silent. Regardless of what the nations of the world say, the entire land of Israel is G-d's gift to the Jewish people. Even talk of relinquishing territory leads to increased terror, G-d forbid. My G-d help the government of Israel to make the wise choice and follow the Rebbe's counsel, to keep Israel's borders intact and secure.

(Based on an address of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, 20 Av 1979)

 

 


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