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Thursday
Sep132012

THE TRAVELS 
OF TWO SHOFARS

PART I

Rabbi Levi Yitzchok Schneersohn zt”l, the father of the Rebbe, had two precious shofars. They came into his possession as an inheritance from his holy ancestors.

Every Rosh HaShana, he would stand on the bima in the center of the large shul in Yekaterinoslav and remove the black shofar from its bag and blow it. This shofar was referred to as the “black shofar” and it was from the Rebbe Maharash.

After Reb Levi Yitzchok was arrested and exiled to Kazakhstan, the shofar remained with his wife, Rebbetzin Chana a”h. It was most surprising that this shofar had been overlooked by the evil ones when they conducted a thorough search of his home. The Rebbetzin quickly entrusted the precious shofar to the Chassid Rabbi Yehuda Gurary, who also lived in Yekaterinoslav, with the hopes of recovering it in better days.

Eventually, Rebbetzin Chana joined her husband in exile. She knew that her husband would be there for a number of years and would need a shofar for Rosh HaShana. She retrieved the shofar from the son of R’ Gurary and took it to Chili.

PART II

Years passed. Rabbi Yaakov Yosef Raskin, who together with his sons had greatly assisted R’ Levi Yitzchok and Rebbetzin Chana, left Russia. Before he left, he asked the Rebbetzin, with whom he was close, to give him the shofar so he could take it out of Russia and it would not fall into the wrong hands.

The Rebbetzin gave him the black shofar that had remained in her possession after her husband died. R’ Raskin had the shofar for six years and he blew it every year until Elul 5710/1950.

One day, R’ Dovber Chaskind went to R’ Yaakov Yosef and told him that he came as an emissary of the Rebbe Rayatz’s son-in-law. The future Rebbe had heard that he had his father’s black shofar, and since he was his father’s inheritor, he wanted the shofar.

R’ Yaakov Yosef did not hesitate, although it was hard for him to give up something so precious. However, he asked for something in exchange, for an item that belonged to the Rebbe Rayatz.

The Rebbe gave him a handkerchief that the Rebbe Rayatz had used, and said that since he was a baal tokeia, he could cover the shofar with this handkerchief.

A year later, R’ Raskin wrote a letter to Rebbetzin Chana in which he expressed his emotion over the usage of this shofar:

“I was delighted to read what my son Dovid wrote to me, that on Rosh HaShana, this year, they blew the black shofar of the Rebbe Maharash, which I took from your esteemed honor in Alma Ata eight years ago. I blew it for six years every Rosh HaShana and enabled others to fulfill their obligation.

“Last year, when I received a letter from their son who asked me for it [the shofar], I’ll admit the truth and won’t deny that it was very hard for me to part with it, but I could not refuse the Rebbe’s request.

“Now that I heard that they blew it on Rosh HaShana by the Rebbe, I was very happy that this took place through me, for I brought it from Russia to here and guarded it like the pupil of my eye, and it finally came into the possession of their son.

“The small white shofar of the Tzemach Tzedek is surely with R’ Tzvi Rabinowitz, may Hashem have mercy on him and all of Anash in Russia …”

PART III

What was the story of the other shofar, the white one?

When R’ Levi Yitzchok was in exile in Alma Ata, there was a simple man there together with him by the name of Chaim Ber. After R’ Levi Yitzchok passed away, this Jew moved to Chernovitz where he lived till his final day.

During the last Elul of his life, Chaim Ber called for the Chassid R’ Yosef Nimotin, who was also there with him. He told him that he had never used the shofar, but that year he wanted to hear the t’kios from this holy shofar that had come from the Tzemach Tzedek. R’ Yosef refused since he was afraid to blow it.

On the morning of Rosh HaShana, R’ Yosef went to Chaim Ber’s house to visit him. The shofar was already on the table. R’ Chaim Ber asked his friend once again to blow it, but R’ Yosef said he wanted to blow the shofar he was used to blowing.

“Did you go to the mikva today?” asked R’ Chaim Ber, seemingly off topic. R’ Yosef said he had. “So blow this shofar for me,” he begged, until he finally blew the shofar.

R’ Yosef was about to leave the house when Chaim Ber called him once again. “Please take the shofar to your home,” he asked.

R’ Yosef was surprised by this request, for he knew how Chaim Ber guarded the shofar like a treasure. Nevertheless, he did what he asked.

Chaim Ber had apparently felt that his days were numbered and that the shofar needed to be under greater care.

R’ Yosef Nimotin was arrested at some later point and after a short trial he was exiled to a labor camp for six years. His wife gave the shofar to his friend, R’ Hillel Lieberov, who kept it throughout R’ Yosef’s incarceration.

This holy shofar underwent other tribulations. After R’ Yosef was released, he began davening at the shul of the Iranian Jews. It was the first Rosh HaShana, when R’ Yosef stood in his place, ready to pour out his heart to Hashem on the Day of Judgment. He was standing there when a hand suddenly and quickly placed the shofar in front of him. R’ Yosef caught a glimpse of the back of Hillel Lieberov as he disappeared out the door. R’ Yosef took the shofar and immediately recognized it as the holy shofar.

His hands shook with emotion. He had not expected the shofar to end up in his hands again and at such a significant time, shortly before the blowing of the shofar.

He wondered what made his friend rush to return the shofar and in such a fashion. They later met and R’ Hillel told him the following story.

On Rosh HaShana morning, R’ Hillel had taken the shofar with him on his way to shul. He intended on blowing it with the intention of arousing mercy on himself and his family. He knew quite well how much mercy the Jewish people needed on this fateful day, when the communists persecuted every Jew who maintained his Jewishness.

When he arrived at shul, he noticed that the shofar wasn’t there. At first, he thought his eyes were deceiving him and he began searching his bag, but he soon saw, to his consternation, that it was gone! His heart skipped a beat. He was beside himself. He realized he must have lost it somewhere, on his way from home to shul, but it wasn’t likely that he would find it.

Nevertheless, he retraced his steps. Who knows? Maybe the z’chus of the holy shofar would stand by him. Brokenheartedly, he rushed along as he scanned the streets for the shofar. Maybe it was in the middle of the street and maybe it had been pushed aside by the feet of passersby.

Then, he saw it! It wasn’t far from the trolley tracks. A trolley was approaching and his heart froze. Just a few inches separated the shofar from the wheels. Miraculously, it did not run over the shofar and shatter it.

“At that moment, I realized the shofar was not supposed to be in my possession,” said R’ Hillel, “which is why I rushed to bring it to you.”

More time passed, and it was 5706/1946 when hundreds of Chassidishe families were able to leave Russia. R’ Simcha Gorodetzky asked R’ Yosef Nimotin to entrust the shofar with him so he could bring it to the Rebbe. This was no simple shlichus since the shofar was likely to fall into the hands of the border guards, but the miracles continued. R’ Simcha was able to cross the border and he gave the shofar to the Rebbe, who would take it with him to the bima on Rosh HaShana.

(Toldos Levi Yitzchok)

 

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