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Home Shabbat Shabbat Stories The Steipler in the Russian Army

The Steipler in the Russian Army


The Steipler in the Russian Army

During World War One, Russian soldiers burst into the yeshiva of the Steipler Rav and took him with them by force. Then they recruited him into the Russian army.

When he was in the army, he would encounter new difficulties each week regarding Shabbos observance in all its details and finer points, and would constantly search for means to avoid such situations.

Immediately after the morning roll call on the Steipler’s first Shabbos in the army, he asked his commanding officer to release him from all work on Shabbos. The officer who was startled by the Steipler’s so-called brashness took him aside and began to beat him.

“Do you think that you are in kindergarten or at home?” the officer fumed. “Here you do what you are told without questions.”

In the end, the officer agreed to let the Steipler keep Shabbos. However, the condition was that the Steipler would have to march down two long rows of soldiers, each one being permitted to beat the Steipler harshly.

The Steipler agreed to the terms, and the gloating officer immediately assembled tens of Kazak soldiers who eagerly volunteered for the task.

Years later, the Steipler related: “Despite the terrible pain I suffered as  I passed between the blood thirsty soldiers, the feeling of mesirat nefesh (dedication) for keeping the sacred Shabbos caused me the greatest spiritual satisfaction I  have ever experienced in my life.”

One of the   Shabbos nights on which the Steipler’s turn as guard of the camp occurred, was particularly cold. Those who guarded the camp on such nights were required to wear thick fur coats in order to protect themselves from the freezing temperatures. At the end of a shift, the guard who had been on duty would pass the coat to the one following him.

When the Steipler arrived for his shift, he discovered that the previous guard has left his post and had hung his fur coat on a tree beside the gate. However, since our sages ruled that it is forbidden to use a tree on Shabbos, or to remove something from it, the Steipler was in a predicament.

“True, it is life-endangering to remain a whole night in this freezing weather without a coat,” the Steipler reasoned. “But being fifteen minutes without a coat is not life-endangering.”

As a result, he did not fetch the coat, and remained without it for fifteen minutes. When that time passed, he told himself that he could survive another fifteen minutes without a coat.  In that manner fifteen minutes and then fifteen more minutes elapsed. The wind shrieked. The frost penetrated his bones; but he still didn’t fetch the coat, saying that he could manage yet another fifteen minutes.

Many hours passed until his shift ended, but the Steipler still hadn't fetched the coat. When it was over, he returned to his bunk, happy that he had been able to avoid Shabbos desecration.


לכבוד שבת קודש


בבקשה להתפלל לרפואת: הרב דוד בן מרגלית שליט"א, יגאל שלמה בן שושנה מהין ובני משפחתו, בבקשה להתפלל לזרע בר קיימא בקרוב לנופית הודיה בת רחל ודויד שלמה בן שושנה ולזרע בר קימא בקרוב למירב המזל בת גאולה ונועם בן לאה וחזרה בתשובה לעידן בן שולמית ושי שלומי בן שולמית ודינה תרצה בת ורדה רגינה ולבשורות טובות ישועות ונחמות לכל עם ישראל

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