Weekly Chasidic Story #761 (s5772-40 / 5 Tammuz 5772)

Death-March Water

Rabbi Yekusiel-Yehuda Halberstram, Rebbe of Sanz/Klausenberg, was part of a work force of 3,000 Jews that the Germans took from the death camp Birkinau in 1944 to clean the ruins of the Warsaw Ghetto.

Connection: Seasonal - The 18th yahrzeit of the Klausenburg/Sanz Rebbe, on Erev Shabbat


Death-March Water

The holy Rebbe of Klausenberg; Rabbi Yekusiel-Yehuda Halberstram, lost his wife, all his eleven children and over 250 members of his family during the Holocaust to the Nazis, but miraculously he was not killed. In fact he not only survived the camps, throughout the ocean of torture, disease and death he against all odds, remained a beacon of light and optimism for all those around him.

One of those who he inspired was a Jew named Rabbi Aba Halperin. He too survived the holocaust and lived to tell the world how he personally saw the Rebbe save thousands of Jews from certain death.

He and the Rebbe were two of a work force of 3,000 Jews that the Germans took from the death camp Birkinau in 1944 to clean the ruins of the Warsaw Ghetto. The work was backbreaking, almost non-stop and they were guarded closely lest they try to rest. Escape was out of the question.

Then, early one blisteringly hot summer morning, the Germans told all the workers to line up in rows of three and begin marching; they had to move fast.

The Russians were closing in on Warsaw and the Germans didn't want to leave behind any evidence for them.

The heat was unbearable, the Jews could barely stand no less walk but it made no difference to the Germans. Making progress and marching in line were their only interests. They had enough ammo and cold cruelty to kill everyone. Dogs and Nazis were barking everywhere.

Anyone that stepped out of line, even one step, was immediately shot. It was especially awful when they passed a river or a brook. The thirst was so intense that the sight of water simply drove some people crazy and, unable to hold themselves back, instinctively made a move toward the water and were instantly riddled with bullets before everyone.

The Rebbe ordered all those around him to pass the word to all the Jews that no one was to step out of line for any reason and promised that there would be water.

But when the second morning of marching arrived and water didn't arrive, the complaints, moaning and thirst became unbearable. Everyone felt it was better to die quickly from a gunshot then slowly and painfully from thirst. It was simply impossible to not to break ranks.

The Rebbe said to pass the word that if everyone stays in line he promises that in the evening he personally will provide water for each and every Jew.

Near sunset the Nazis told everyone to lie down in the road to sleep. It was impossible to march at night because it would be too easy for people to escape in the darkness, but there was no water.

The people that the Rebbe told to spread the word came to him and demanded the miracle. "Where is the water? People are dying! You said that we would have water!"

The Rebbe answered, "Each of you has a spoon, right? (the Germans gave each Jew a crude spoon to eat the 'soup' when apportioned). "Tell each person to take his spoon and dig in the ground where he is and they will find water."

The road was totally dry surrounded by open fields and there was no trace of water as far as the eye could see. It was totally impossible that there would be water in this wasteland.

But each person lay on their sides, took out their spoons and listlessly scraped the dirt where they were, and lo and behold, a miracle!! Each one found water! Everyone's spoons filled with water! They were saved!

[Note from YT: When I heard this story for the first time-in my own house!-on a Saturday night in early 5739 (Autumn 1978), the teller, a nephew of one of the other survivors of the group, related in the name of his uncle that the Klausenburger said, "My friends, you have merited to partake of water from Miriam's Well!"]

Years later in Israel when the Rebbe spoke at the grand opening of the Klausenburg Synagogue in Tel Aviv he told this story and then pointed to Rabbi Aba Halperin and added to the crowd, "And if you don't believe me you can ask Rabbi Aba - he was there."

Source: Supplemented from the rendition of Rabbi Tuvia Bolton, which he translated and adapted from Sha'ah Tovah weekly magazine #309.

Connection: This Friday, 9 Tammuz, is the 18th yahrzeit of the Klausenburg/Sanz Rebbe above. And this week we read the section about Miriam's well!

Biographical note:
Rabbi Yekusiel Yehudah Halberstam (January 10, 1905 - 9 Tammuz 1994) the Klausenberger Rebbe, also became the post-war Rebbe of the Sanz Chassidim. One of the foremost Chasidic leaders of his generation, he is best known for his revitalization of the study of Talmud through "Mifal HaShas" and the building of a hospital, Laniado in Netanya, that functions at the highest standards of Jewish law and medical practice.



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