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Thursday, November 02, 2006


A Taste of Captivity

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For a person to be a captive, he doesn’t necessarily need to be imprisoned in a prison or a dungeon. In fact, sometimes a person can even be a captive in the king’s palace, as indeed happened to Sarah Imeinu [our mother] in this week’s parsha:

“…vatukach haIsha beis Pharaoh – and the woman [Sarah] was taken to Pharaoh’s palace [home]” – Breishis 12:15.

And again, later on: “…vayishlach Avimelech, melech Gerar, vayikach es Sarah – and Avimelech, king of Gerar, sent for and took Sarah.” – Breishis, 20:2

It seems to me that Sarah Imeinu was the first captive to be mentioned in our Holy Torah. It is no wonder, then, that she appears to explain the reasoning for ‘a taste of captivity,’ in the story below.


Rebbe Yosef Yitzchak of Lubavitch being escorted by the police [upon arrival in America]

Today, 11 MarCheshvan, is the 209th yahrzeit of Rebbe Menachem Nachum, founder of the Chernobyl Chassidic dynasty. He was a student of the Baal Shem Tov and the Maggid of Mezritch, and one of the pioneers of the Chassidic movement.
As a young man, he mastered nigleh, the Oral tradition contained in the Talmud and Halachic codes, but showed a predilection for nistar, the esoteric tradition of Kabbalah, delving into the hidden and mystical meaning of the Scriptures as propounded by Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, known as the Arizal HaKadosh.
With advent of Chassidus, Rebbe Nachum traveled to Medzibuzh to meet the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Chassidus, the new movement of religious revival; Rebbe Nachum became his devoted disciple. After the Baal Shem Tov's passing, Rebbe Nachum accepted the Maggid of Mezritch as his mentor. Since Rebbe Nachum was a gifted orator he was assigned the task of propagating the ideas of Chassidus. With his saintly demeanor and spellbinding rhetoric he captivated his audiences, inspiring them to follow the ways of Chassidus, of approaching G-d through joyful and fervent prayer and enthusiastic observance of mitzvos. Although a poor man himself, he distributed his last penny to the needy.
Rebbe Nachum's book Me'or Einayim ("Light of the Eyes"), comprising insights on the weekly portions of the Torah, reflects his proclivity to Kabbalah. It has gained widespread acceptance as one of the major works of Chassidic ideology. He was succeeded by his son, Rebbe Mordechai of Chernobyl.

The following story has been excerpted from Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh’s website, The Inner Dimension.

Rebbe Menachem Nachum of Chernobyl dedicated much of his life's work to redeeming imprisoned Jews. In those days, if a Jew could not pay his debts to the local landlord, he was often thrown mercilessly into a dungeon or pit, sometimes with his entire family.

Rebbe Nachum raised money to redeem these unfortunate Jews, saving them from sure death. Our Sages say that there are two commandments that are called "great mitzvos." The first is the commandment to procreate, and the second is the commandment to redeem imprisoned Jews. When one redeems a Jew, thereby saving his life, it is as if he given birth to his soul.

It came to pass that Rebbe Nachum was also imprisoned. Daily he would bribe the prison warden to let him out of the pit for a short time to pray and to immerse in the mikveh. One day, Rebbe Nachum did not bribe the warden. He explained that he did not need to do so, for he would be released from prison on that very day.

When asked how he knew that he would be released, he related that on that night Sarah had come to him in a dream. Rebbe Nachum asked Sarah what he did to deserve being thrown into a pit. Sarah answered that because Rebbe Nachum had devoted his life to redeeming captives, it was necessary for him to experience a taste of captivity so that he could consummately understand the situation and subsequently devote himself to this mitzva in an even more rectified manner. When a person understands why G-d has involved him in a certain situation, this releases him from the situation. Thus, as soon as Rebbe Nachum understood the reason for his imprisonment, he knew that he would be released on that very day.

Another version of this story can be found here.

Zechuso yagein Aleinu - May the Chernobler's merits protect us!

Nice post, but that picture is not when the Rebbe is being led to prison. He was jailed by the NKVD, YVSEKTZIA, and those are NYPD badges. That picture is the Rebbe being escorted off the ship from Europe, upon his arrival to the US.
fantastic post
and here's about some young prisoners
Look at their innocent faces!
Great post, Yitz!
Dovid - thanks for the correction, and for stopping by.
Batya - your always on target!
ASJ - glad you enjoyed!
And to Jewish Blogmeister, thanks for the link.
Good Shabbos to one and all!
Please check out the most coolest Yeshiva Blog in Cyberspace!
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