The Human Side of the Story

For the week ending 23 May 2009 / 28 Iyyar 5769

"I Am Your Brother!"

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
Library Library Library

"Have a cigarette," said the Russian officer to each of the Jews brought to him for interrogation.

This was an unusual offer coming from a Russian officer to people that had been arrested following the end of World War II on suspicion of being Nazi officers masquerading as Jews to escape their Soviet hunters.

But his offer was refused by each member of this group who were arrested while desperately looking for a haven after experiencing the horrors of the Holocaust.

The officer was outraged by this refusal of such a generous offer and threatened to punish them if they persisted in their refusal.

When they reiterated their refusal he asked what they did want.

"Two loaves of bread" was the reply.

The officer then locked the door to his office and turned to the group declaring, "I am your brother, a fellow Jew!"

He then explained that he suddenly realized that their refusal to smoke was because it was Shabbat and that their request for two loaves was in order to honor that special day. Thus was he convinced that they were Jews and not disguised Nazis. He also revealed that he was a descendant of the great Chassidic leader Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev who was famous for always praising the merits of the Jewish people to Heaven. Now that he saw Jews ready to risk punishment for observing Shabbat he felt that he could follow in the path of his ancestor and praise Jews to Heaven.

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