Shabbos – pikuach nefesh:


Horav Yissachar Frand, Shlita, tells the story of the Z'vilerRebbe, Horav Gedaliah Moshe Goldman, who was interred in a Siberian labor camp during World War II. It was a miserable, back-breaking experience, but at least the one solace was that it was not a Nazi extermination camp. One Shabbos, the commandant summoned both the Rebbe and another Jew, a frail, old man, to his office. "You are both free to go. All you have to do is sign these papers and go," he said.

Rav Gedaliah Moshe reached for the papers and stopped. How could he write on Shabbos? True, it was a release, but could he desecrate the holy Shabbos? After all, as bad as it was, it was not life-threatening. He was young and strong. Even if he would be detained there for a few more years, he would survive.

"No, I am sorry, sir. While I appreciate your kind gesture, I cannot desecrate my Shabbos," the Rebbe replied.

"Are you insane?" the commandant screamed. " I am granting you freedom. How can you waste such an opportunity?"

"I understand and appreciate your kindness, but it is my day of rest. I may not write."

"If you do not sign, you will rot in this place," the commandant responded with disgust. He then pushed the papers to the old Jew and said, "Okay, now, you sign the release papers."

"I am afraid that I cannot sign either. The same law applies to me," the old man said.

"You two are both insane," the commandant said in disgust and retrieved the papers.

"Wait!" said Rav Gedaliah Moshe. "I will sign his papers. Let him go free."

"I do not understand. You just told me that you cannot write on Shabbos. Yet, you are willing to sign his papers. Have you taken total leave of your senses? Why are his papers different from yours?"

"There is a major difference," the Rebbe explained. "I am young and strong. I can survive here. He, on the other hand, is old and weak. He will not make it. Therefore, if he is not prepared to sign, I will sign for him."

The commandant was so impressed by this act of selflessness that he allowed them both to leave without demanding their signatures.

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