Tuesday, July 29, 2008

"Lehisha'er Yehudi"(To Remain a Jew)

That's the title of the latest book that I read . The book was written originally in Russian and later translated to Hebrew. The author, Rabbi Yitzchak Zilber zt"l, was born in Latvia in 1917 and lived most of his life in the Soviet Union. In 1970, he along with his family received permission to immigrate to Israel after years of being "refuse-niks". Rabbi Zilber passed away about four years ago.

Most of the book deals with the efforts of himself and his family to observe the Torah in spite of the anti-religious oppression of the Soviet regime. Against all odds they never desecrated the Sabbath and never ate non-kosher food. Throughout the book the reader is exposed to countless miracles that the author experienced that enabled him to "remain a Jew". Rabbi Zilber's story is one of faith and self-sacrifice. This is the winning combination that makes miracles happen.

Rabbi Zilber was not a tzaddik only for himself. He spent much of his time helping other Jews learn and observe Torah. He became the unofficial rabbi of the Russian Jews that emigrated to Israel. The effort that he exerted to disseminate Torah among them is mind boggling.

"Lehisha'er Yehudi" is an inspiring book. If Rabbi Zilber and his family were able to observe Torah so diligently in Communist U.S.S.R., in spite of the danger involved, what does that say to those of us that live in countries where one is free to observe Judaism as he pleases? Does this not obligate us to try harder to be better Jews?

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