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August 28, 2015 / 13 Elul, 5775
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Nicholas Tries To Russify The Jews


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“If Mordechai had not studied the languages of the nations the entire history of the Jewish people would have been different. The king would have been killed and Esther would not have been queen. Consequently, she would not have been in a position to save the Jewish people. It was only through a Jew speaking a foreign language that the Jewish people were saved.”

The Reply

Dr. Lilienthal paused and smiled in triumph. From the onlookers, however, there suddenly rose Reb Avraham Efron, a scholar and leader of the community.

“Forgive me, dear doctor,” he said, “but I think you have erred. On the contrary, from this very story we can see the exact opposite. For had Bigsan and Seresh known Jews spoke foreign languages they would never have been so careless about allowing Mordechai to hear what they were saying.

“It is precisely because they knew Jews did not speak a foreign tongue, that they speak openly and because of this fact – that most Jews did not speak a foreign language – the redemption eventually came to the Jewish people.”

Final Attempt

Dr. Lilienthal, in desperation, made one final attempt. He went to Volozhin to see Rabi Yitzchak, the son of the Gaon, Reb Chaim. Rabi Yitzchak was recognized as the outstanding scholar of his time and if Lilienthal could persuade him to back the schools then his mission would be a success.

Arriving several days before Yom Kippur, he was received graciously by Rabi Yitzchak and was told to remain as a guest. During the few days he was there he spoke earnestly and ceaselessly to Rabi Yitzchak about the schools. Finally, Erev Yom Kippur arrived and the entire town of Volozhin gathered in the synagogue to hear their beloved Rabi Yitzchak give the usual exhortation to repent and do good.

Rabi Yitzchak entered the shul, accompanied by a clean-shaven stranger, and he immediately rose to speak.

“In the Mishnah in Yoma we are told about the preparations of the Kohen Gadol for the atonement service. We are told that the elders took the Kohen Gadol and made him swear he would not follow the practices of the Saducees and deviate in the slightest from the service.

“He would swear and weep because he was suspected and they would weep because they suspected him.

“Consider, my people,” said Rabbi Yitzchak, “how strange this story is. We are told that one who suspects a righteous person is stricken physically and that to embarrass a person publicly is the greatest of sins. Yet, here – the elders of Israel cast doubts on the Kohen Gadol himself, in the Beis HaMikdash itself, on the holiest day of the year. How is this possible?

“The answer is: An individual Jew must always be considered innocent by us. A private individual dare not be suspected without concrete proof. However, one who comes and speaks for the people and who claims to do good for them – he is different.

“With such a person one must search and inspect and not take his word. His responsibility is grave and we must make sure he is worthy. We must never trust a public official merely because of his title.”

And Rabi Yitzchak sat down to the puzzlement of most of the congregation. Dr. Lilienthal, however, understood perfectly well to whom Rabi Yitzchak was referring. He knew that his plan would never succeed.

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