Photo Credit:
Rabbi Yosef Mendelevich arriving in Israel after 11 years in Russian prison

{This Haggada is based on an an episode in his latest book Miktzei Hashamayim” (From the Edge of the Heavens)

The promise of the “Brit Bein Habetarim”-“The Covenant Between the Parts” that Hashem would take us out from slavery also stood us in good stead even in the most difficult situations when it seemed that there was no hope of Geula, of deliverance.

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In the Soviet Union the Jews had no hope of leaving Russia.

When I was a young man I went to a government office to obtain a permit to emigrate to Israel. I knew they wouldn’t give me an Aliya permit since no Jew was permitted to go to Eretz Israel. Nevertheless, I decided to go and demand the right of Aliya. For I remembered a verse from the Torah ” “יצעקו בני ישראל וישמע “ה” And the cry of the Children of Israel has reached Hashem and He has heard.” For me, going to the government office was like a cry – “Let us leave!”

I knew that because of this demand they would fire me from the university and I would lose my place of work. And I didn’t regret it for a moment.

When I came before this official and requested him to permit me to emigrate to Israel, he laughed at me and said: “Young man, do you think that we don’t understand that when you get to Israel they will conscript you to the Jewish army and you will fight against our Arab brothers. We don’t send reinforcements to our enemies. Better that you should complete your university studies and will be an expert. Then you will build our state for us, and here you will die. You will never see Israel during your lifetime. And now get out of here. Don’t disturb me in my work.” When I left his office I remembered that this was Pharoah’s reaction to Moshe Rabeinu when he came to ask to leave Egypt to serve Hashem: “Go and build Egypt, and forget about your Elokim.”

And I remembered that, despite the opposition of Pharaoh, Hashem ” took us out of Egypt with a mighty hand.”

My friends and I felt that we would be ‘the long arm’ of Hashem.

And so the idea was born – we would buy tickets for a plane flying inside Russia, and when we were in the air we would try to change the flight course and reach the free world. We had a Jewish pilot who promised that he could fly the plane to freedom.

(We can tell in greater detail about the plan to hijack the plane)

Those same young men already arrested on the airfield. They are being led with handcuffs to the KGB jail. This picture symbolizes the failure of our plan. It appears that we fell into a trap and did not succeed, but “the Holy One Blessed be He saved us from their hand.”

Jews reciting Tehillim all over the world. Demonstrations, There is one poster which they used during the demonstrations: Pushing Leonid Brezhnev to the wall???

It has to be shown how, through pressure of the Jews, the Russian government retreated and Am Israel leaves with an upraised hand.??

2. Holachmo Aniyo –This is the bread of affliction

We see how I receive in the prison office several broken Matzot which my sisters sent me from Israel.

I ask, “why did you break the Matzot?” and they reply: “We saw that on every piece of Matzo there are lines and it is written there in code. So we broke them in order that you should not be able to read the coded letter.”

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In his soon to be released new book, "From the Ends of the Heavens," Rabbi Mendelevich movingly and inspiringly tells how he developed and maintained his Judaism despite the terribly harsh conditions in the KGB prison camps. (Rabbi Mendelevich's articles in The Jewish Press are translated by David Herman)