complete silence in the truck

Thursday, 15 March, 2018 - 7:27 pm

There was complete silence in the truck on its way to the border, on that dark winter night in Czernowitz, 1948. In the back were Moshe Greenberg, three of his friends and the two smugglers. In front was a young, brave and strong-willed woman called Chasha Wishedski.

Stalin was ruling with the full force of his tyrannical regime. The few mitzvah observers who were still left prayed for the geulah every day, and at the same time searched for ways to get out of the massive jailhouse known as the Soviet Union.

The boys were learning in an underground Chabad yeshiva in Czernowitz when they received a coded message that there was a way to cross the border into neighboring Rumania, and from there it would be relatively easy to escape to the free world: a world free from the eye of the secret police, free of beatings and exiles, free of oppression of Judaism and of oppression in general. The chassidim discussed the issue seriously and decided to give priority to the unmarried men. They had not yet established their homes, and outside all the opportunities were open to them. The boys were happy to have the opportunity to escape.

So they were sitting silently in the truck. Moshe Greenberg and his friends in back, and Chasha Wishedski in front. She was in her thirties and had several children, but she refused to send the four boys off without accompanying them. They were not her sons, not even family members, but they were innocent yeshiva boys – temimim – and she was caring for them like a mother. They were wearing warm coats and shoes, items that only she knew how to obtain in the black market. She wouldn’t send them alone. I imagine her looking at my eight-year-old father. She probably kissed him, gave him one last courageous and pained look – would it be the last? Who knows? But she was not a hysterical type. You don’t buy bread or butter in the black market with hysteria. She most probably took leave from her husband with a “Zei gezunt”, while he sat in the kitchen and said Tehillim pleadingly – and then went out into the darkness.

At the border she handed the young men over to the smugglers, stayed a short while longer, and managed to return home without being caught. They, on the other hand, were caught. The smugglers were playing a double game and the boys were sent to camps for long years of torture and suffering.

My brave and devoted Bobbe died long ago; Rav Moshe Greenberg died too, but their spirit hasn’t died. Their spirit of devotion and faith is alive and well; their grandchildren and great-grandchildren are continuing in their path and are thus perpetuating their lives. Today is Thursday and I am taking off from Basel to participate in the wedding of their descendants. Chasha (Chasi) Wishedski, the daughter of my dear brother Shlomo, and my Bobbe’s great-granddaughter, will stand under the chuppah tonight at the side of Mendy Greenberg, Rav Moshe’s grandson. In a few hours they will be joined together and she will be called Chasha Greenberg. I’m not sure that this is something that their ancestors could have dreamt about on that scary dark night in that truck. But I am sure that they knew that their way is a long one, which had begun thousands of years before Stalin and would continue after him.

Mazel Tov, Chasi and Mendy; mazel tov to my brother, mazel tov to my father and mother, and mazel tov to you too, my brave Bobbe up there. Continue to work hard for us. Look – it pays off. And anyway, who can stand up to you?


Shabbat Shalom,

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