A Mighty Spirit of Strength The Ribnitzer Rebbe - Jewish Outlook

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A Mighty Spirit of Strength The Ribnitzer Rebbe

No KGB agent dared to arrest him

A few years ago, it was our privilege to become close to a great and heroic soul, a mighty spirit of strength called the Ribnitzer Rebbe, from the city of Ribnitz in Moldavia. His life story could fill many volumes. He lived during the dark times of Stalin’s regime of absolute control and brainwashing in Russia. For fifty years his silent power defied all the relentless persecutions against Jewish religious observance. No KGB agent dared to arrest him, even though he was known as the spiritual leader of his community and was often leading them in prayer. How can one do justice when trying to describe such a giant?

It took much Divine Intervention to protect him from being arrested.

He was known to immerse in the large Dniester River, 310 times and often as much as 620 times each day. Even during that region’s fierce winter of sometimes 30°C below zero, he would trudge a mile through the snow, descend an icy cliff, and carve a hole with an axe through the ice. This ice was at times so thick that trucks could drive over it across that large river. Yet the Rebbe would immerse himself just as he had done in the summer months. The more frozen the water, the more powerful was his focus and self-surrender to the Almighty One.

In those dark days of Stalin’s regime of terror, people were loudly professing their loyalty and adherence to Communism and their rejection of all that has anything to do with spirit and religion. Yet the Ribnitzer Rebbe was secretly loved and revered. KGB officials were afraid of him. Many in the Jewish community knew in their heart what a powerful, compassionate and extraordinary person he was. Many knew that when they would bring their problems to him, he would silently help them resolve even the greatest difficulties. Many years later some of these same people moved to Israel, the USA and other parts of the world. They shared many stories of miracles that occurred through the awesome, compassionate presence of the Rebbe.

During the German invasion of Russia of World War II, the Rebbe was living with the Jewish Community of Ribnitz – the Mayor of the town had been following German orders and had confined all the Jews into a small ghetto.

German soldiers were of course, abusing the Jewish population. This story was related to me by the Rebbe’s wife, Rebbetzin Freda:

Some people had witnessed a 10 year old girl being kidnapped by a few soldiers and being taken by jeep deep into the forest. They returned without the girl. When the Rebbe heard this he went at night looking for her. Following his inner guidance and praying, he found her deep in the forest, almost unconscious. He talked to her, comforted her and carried her in his arms, all the long way back to her family. She lived to tell the story many years later to Rebbetzin Freda, the Rebbe’s second wife during her last visit in Israel.

Here is another inexplicable story:

Thousands of lives saved in a few minutes of communication

“You are ordered to dig a large pit. Everyone has to get to work at it.” This was the commanding order given to the Jewish Community. Most people in the Community knew that this pit was designed to be their grave. They had heard this had been the fate of countless Jews in Europe and Russia. They were defenseless and could only pray for a miracle. In the meantime, the Rebbe had collected from his people all the

jewelry and gold they had left to offer. He placed them in a velvet bag. When the Nazi commander appeared on the scene with his troops to do his job of ‘getting rid’ of the Jews, the Rebbe stood in front of him with a smile.

“A guten Geburtstag, Herr Shultz,” (Happy

Birthday, Mr. Schultz) he announced. The commander was startled:

“How do you know it is my Birthday, and how do you know my name?”

The Rebbe just smiled. He handed the bag of jewelry to the commander as a birthday gift. There was a woman there, accompanying the commander. She spoke:

“Please do not kill this man. He is special.”

The commander and the Tzaddik’s eyes met for a moment. The commander announced:

“I will not kill him.”

Then the Rebbe spoke:

“If you are not going to kill me, I am also requesting that you spare my Jewish community here as well.”

The commander answered:

“Your request is granted. I like your people. They are nice and pleasant.” (!!)

He peered inside the bag and told the Rebbe: “Keep your jewelry. Your people will need bread during this war.”

And then he added: “I would also like you all to refill this pit you were ordered to dig. Turn it instead into a public park to commemorate this day.”

Who was this Commander? What had happened to him? Only moments before he was going to have everyone shot dead!

The Rebbe was connected on High. His community had prayed and connected with the Supreme Master of the Universe alongside with their beloved Rebbe. They were closely bonded with him.

Later years

In the late seventies, the Rebbe managed to escape from Russia and move to Monsey, New York. In the following years he was invited a number of times to Los Angeles to visit. Joshua and I were privileged to meet him there and to bask in his radiance. Joshua was able to give him some medical attention as well as being his occasional chauffeur. At times the Rebbe asked him to drive him at night along the coast to admire the reflection of the moon over the Pacific Ocean. The Rebbe had a romantic soul.

Joshua and I were privileged to become close to his wife, Rebbetzin Frayda Milka, a highly intelligent, creative, compassionate and gifted woman. She was married sixteen years to this great holy man until he left this world at 105 years of age. The Rebbetzin told us:

“These were the happiest, most fulfilling years of my life. The love between us was so healing and wonderful. The Rebbe was so gentle, so kind. He had a keen sense of humor and extraordinary powers from Above. He gave me the freedom to be myself and do what I wanted. It was always encouraging and uplifting to be in his presence. When we got married, I wanted to share my life story with him. He told me: “You don’t need to tell me. I was with you all your life. When you cried, I was crying with you. When you experienced joy I was happy with you. We have been together before you were born for a very long time.”

How they chose to bond their lives together in marriage is in itself an astounding sequel of events framed in miracles. However, the Rebbetzin asked me not to reveal these specific incidents, relating to this, for these events are hard to believe.

There was over a 50-year age difference between them! We were privileged to watch the Rebbetzin, wholeheartedly taking care of and welcoming a constant stream of visitors and activities around her holy husband. She felt it was a blessing and privilege for her to be able to attend to this saintly man, and she enthusiastically devoted herself to his work with people.

She is a gifted writer and poet and has composed the lyries of many famous songs produced by Mordechai Ben avid. She has collected hundreds of personal testimonies of miracles from people who knew the Rebbe while in Russia, the United

States and Israel. The Rebbetzin saved many moving photographs; a few of these show people weeping as they poured out their hearts, whenever they  remembered  their  personal  experiences with the Rebbe and the soul-healing strengh radiating from him…



Our last encounter

In 1996, Joshua and I went to visit the Rebbe in Monsey, New York, when he was past 100 years of age. Several people were there, eagerly hoping to speak to him. Because the Rebbe was not well at that time and could not receive each person individually, I was ushered in among a group of ladies waiting to receive a general blessing for all of us. The Rebbe was seated at the other end of a large, dimly lit, living room and I didn’t expect much from that encounter.

However, as he was sending his blessings to us, his steady gaze focused on me, penetrating deep into my soul. I felt embarrassed, unworthy to receive this unfathomable contact. It was a request, a yearning call to me, a plea that I may remain connected to the Infinite Creator always. It was a promise of lasting support and friendship for as long as I would care to remember. This eye contact pierced through the thick veils of my earthly consciousness and sent me a lifeline, lifting me into the dimensions of the Infinite One for a timeless moment.

Even today as I look at his photograph, that same message of lasting support often shines forth from his eyes in this mysterious connection with transcendent, powerful, lasting realms.




Daily Torah Quote

Joke of the day

The Ropshitzer Rebbe returned home after giving his sermon in the synagogue. His wife asked him, “How was the sermon?” He answered, “I had a fifty percent success. I taught the importance of the rich giving charity to the poor, and I was able to convince the poor to be willing to receive it.”