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A Pravednik in our time part 2

However, he was then left without any choice but to assume the position of rav of the city and district He worked hard at his job from morning to night, supervising the local shechita for two hours a day and then giving shiurim in the shul Then he received visitors in his house, and became involved in all the community questions and problems that arose. He maintained this routine until 1926, when the Communists liquidated anything that had any connection to Jewish religion All the synagogues were closed down, and R' Ben Tzion had to continue his now illegal work of maintaining Jewish religious life in secrecy. As R' Yitzchak writes in his memoirs.

Only Hashem knows how he managed to make a living during that difficult time I don’t know of any other father whose son owes him as much as I owe my father. He taught me alef-beis, Tanach, Shulchan Aruch, Mishna, and Gemara. I still don't understand how it could be that I never attended any school, not even for an hour. Given the totalitarian regimes strict enforcement of the compulsory education laws, and its intrusion into every aspect of people's private lives, this was nothing less than miraculous.

Rabbi Zilber's father refused to let his son's precious Jewish neshama get caught up in the tangled web of Communism and atheism that were rampant in the national schools Nonetheless, the Zilbers knew that they wouldn't let their son miss out on the secular studies that his contemporaries were getting, so they hired tutors to teach him math, physics, and the Russian language in keeping with the required curriculum, to such a degree that he eventually became a university math professor The father also taught his son what he knew of these subjects, and R` Yitzchak wondered how his father had acquired so much secular knowledge, but didn't think it fitting to ask such a question of a talmid chacham like his father.His father was also insistent that his son come to shul with him every day, and was careful to train him in all the mitzvos.

For example, on the first night of Succos when R' Yitzchak was about eight, father and son scoured the city for a succa in which to eat the first meal of the festival It was simply impossible to make a succa in their government-issued lodgings, and anyone in shul to admit to having a succa ran the great danger of being reported by the ever-present spies Father and son trudged around the city for four hours in a driving rain until finally, after midnight, they found a place where they could fulfill the requirement to eat a meal in the succa on the first night, even in the rain R' Yitzchak well remembered the three-room apartment he grew up in This may not sound so exceptional until one realizes that their family lived in only one small room, with another family in a second  room,  and  a Yevsektsia youth group occupying the living room (The infamous "Yevsektsia" was the Jewish section of the Communist Party, whose function was to eradicate any remnants of Jewish religious observance in the Soviet Union. The Chofetz Chaim said that even though their members were Jewish by birth, they were among the spiritual descendants of Amalek in our time) R Yitzchak also remembered frozen water and potatoes in the unheated apartment, and learning Torah with his father until late at night, wrapped up in all the overcoats they had.


Prophetic Purim

From the time he was fifteen year old, R` Yitzchak said Torah shiurim throughout the city, in spite of the severe prohibitions against doing so After the Second World War, he got caught and was sentenced to a Siberian prison camp There, with superhuman dedication in the face of totally inhuman conditions. R' Yitzchak managed to keep Shabbos.

Purim, 1953, came out motzei Shabbos and I put together a group of about fifteen Jews and told them the Purim story One of the prisoners. Izaak ben Meron, got very upset with me (he wasn’t a young man and was serving a ten-year sentence), to the point that he nearly started beating me with his fists.

 "What do we need with your stories about things that happened two thousand years ago? Just tell me. where's your Cod today! Don’t you know what's about to happen to the Jews in the Soviet Union? It's not enough that the Nazis killed six million, now Stalin's plotting to kill another three million. Don't you know that they're about to frame the Jewish doctors and hang them in Red Square? Don't you know that the trains are already waiting to ship the Jews out to Varchviansk, where it gets down to sixty or seventy degrees below zero in the winter Still more are being sent to Chabrobsk, to freeze to death in unheated barracks''.True, things are hard, but don't be so quick to give up. Haman got orders sent out to 127 countries Hashem will help us still"

He started to show me that Stalin had always succeeded in whatever he wanted to do, be it killing three million middle-class Russians, stealing all their property, putting millions of men into slavery, etc. etc., and I answered that even if Stalin had gotten his way with everyone else, he wouldn't succeed against the Jews Stalin is still flesh and blood.

from "Mishpacha"

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