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The Terrible Decree

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Rav Yaakov Of Karlin

         Similarly, the Rav Yaakov (author of Mishkenos Yaakov) one of the leading students of Rav Chaim of Volozhin, heard that some of the communal heads of the town of Karlin where he served as rav had agreed to the kidnapping of the children. He immediately called in the leaders and pleaded with them to change their ways.

        Nevertheless, one Shabbos morning, a woman suddenly burst into the synagogue and, interrupting the services, cried out:

         “My brothers! My only son has been arrested – along with other boys – and is being held in the community house to be taken into the army. Save him, I beg of you!”

         Greatly moved by the pitiful woman, the congregation crowded around the benches of the east wall, where the leaders of the community sat.

         “Have mercy,” they cried. “Free the poor children!”

         One of the leaders, however, arose in great wrath and exclaimed:

         “Eject this woman immediately. She has disrupted the services and insulted the community leaders!”

         The shammas, acting under orders, seized the poor woman and removed her from the shul. The congregation grew silent as Rav Yaakov rose, strode to the Aron and removed one of the scrolls. Rolling it until he reached Parashas Ki Tetzei he began to read the mitzvah concerning one who finds eggs in a nest and a bird sitting on them:

         “You shall surely send away the mother, and the children you may take for yourself in order that it shall be good for you and you shall lengthen your days.”

The Opposite

         Having finished, he then turned to the communal leader and exclaimed:

         “You have done the exact opposite of this verse. You first took the son and afterward you gave orders to send away the mother.

         “I am convinced that the Holy One, blessed be He, will also give you the opposite reward and you will not live many more days.”

         The congregation heard his words and, without hesitation, ran to the communal hall where they broke in and freed the captive children.

         Not all the children were, of course, as fortunate. One of these tragic, yet significant stories concerning these children tells of a special visit of the Czar to one of the camps. The commander had all the Jewish children lined up near the riverbank, and the Russian Orthodox priests prepared to have them undergo the rites of baptism. As the command was given for the children to immerse themselves they cried:

         “We shall do and we shall hear!”

         They then threw themselves into the river – and remained there. Before the startled soldiers could remove them, the martyred children had drowned to sanctify Hashem’s Name.

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