Beis Moshiach/Nechama Bar
The month of Nissan had arrived. Preparations were being made for the upcoming Holiday of Freedom. Diligent women worked to clean their homes of the final crumbs of chametz while their husbands were busy baking matzos.
Near the town, a battalion of Russian soldiers was camped, which included some Jews. They too yearned to feel the freedom of the holiday but unfortunately, their commander announced that over Pesach they would be staying in Smolensk which had no Jews. How would they be able to celebrate Pesach properly?
Since, at this time, they were camped so close to Lubavitch, the Jewish soldiers decided to ask the Tzemach Tzedek what to do. One of the soldiers volunteered to go to the Rebbe.
“Rebbe, we long to celebrate Pesach with a Jewish family, to eat the matza and maror and recite the Hagada and sing the Pesach songs. But what shall we do when our commander said we will be in Smolensk? That city has no Jews. What will be? How can we celebrate Pesach while surrounded by Russian gentiles?
The Rebbe looked at the soldier and said, “Listen to my advice. Have one of you go to the commander and tell him that his plan to go via Smolensk is not worthwhile. Smolensk is isolated from other towns by a distance of a full day’s walk and while you will be on the road there and back there will be no place to buy food and no place to sleep. It would be better to continue via White Russia where the towns are close to one another and you will be able to purchase what you need and find a place to sleep.”
The Rebbe added, “As for you, I have a personal request. During the first days of the holiday, the battalion will be in Shklov. Go to the shul there like all the Jews. You will be invited for the Seder, as well as to eat and sleep. Agree to join them but after the meal go to sleep in the green beis medrash. On the last days of the holiday you will be in Mohilov. There too, do not agree to sleep in your host’s home but go to the hekdesh (where the poor people sleep).”
The Jewish soldier left the Rebbe in high spirits and told his Jewish friends what the Rebbe said. They were encouraged by the Rebbe’s blessing but at the same time they wondered how they, lowly soldiers, could dare to approach the commander and make recommendations? He surely would not view this favorably. But Pesach was approaching and they had no other choice.
With hesitant steps and fluttering hearts the Jew soldiers went to the commander and told him what the Rebbe said. The commander was astonished by the wise advice and asked, “How do you know the map of Russia so well when you are simple soldiers and do not live in the area?”
The Jewish soldiers told him the source of the advice and the very next day the battalion moved toward White Russia, just as the Rebbe said to do. On Erev Pesach they camped in Shklov, of course. The commander was willing to let the Jews go celebrate Pesach with their brethren.
They went to the shul with happy hearts. After the davening the local Jews, who were very hospitable, invited them to join them. Each soldier went with his host.
At the end of the Seder, the host asked our soldier, “Why are you leaving? I invited you to sleep here too!”
“I remember that and it would be wonderful to stay in your house but I must sleep in the green beis medrash,” he said, as the Rebbe requested of him.
The man walked toward the green beis medrash but could not fall asleep. In a corner of the room he noticed an old man who kept on groaning.
“What’s the matter, Reb Yid?” asked the soldier with concern.
The old man did not want to talk at first, but after the soldier begged him, he said, “My first wife died and a few weeks ago I married a young woman. We lived in peace for a few weeks until … a group of musicians came to town. Oy … my wife became friendly with one of those irresponsible musicians and one day, when I returned home, I found it empty! My wife went off with the musician and took everything I owned.”
The old man cried and found it hard to continue talking. “Since then, I live in poverty. I am old and cannot look for work.”
The soldier felt so bad for the old man and said, “Describe how the woman and the musician look. Who knows, maybe I will meet them one day and I can help you regain your dignity.”
It seemed as though just talking about it had relieved the old man a little bit. He described them in detail and he felt hopeful again.
The first days of Pesach passed pleasantly and then it came time to advance to Mohilov, as the Rebbe had prophesied.
Here too, on the last days of Pesach, the Jewish soldiers were free to celebrate with their brethren. They davened joyously in the local shul and like in every Jewish town, they were invited to stay with local people.
The soldiers dispersed to various families to eat and sleep, all except one soldier. He agreed to eat with his hosts but not to sleep. Instead, he went to the hekdesh, as the Rebbe had instructed.
In the middle of the night he suddenly heard a loud noise. He woke up and saw a large group of musicians. He gazed upon them, one by one, hoping he would find the man he was looking for. Oh! There was a couple who looked just as the old man had described, the ones who had emptied his house.
Before dawn, the soldier ran to the house of the rav, woke him up, and quickly told him the story.
The rav lost no time but hurried to the chief of police and within minutes the couple was arrested and everything they had taken from the old man was taken from them.
That Pesach was one of true freedom, freedom for the Jewish soldiers and freedom also for the old man who was saved thanks to the prophetic vision of the Rebbe.