The Jewish Eye
The Ger Tzedek of Vilna: Avrohom Ben Avrohom – A Dream Come True
In a great testament to his holiness, the ashes of the martyr Avrohom Ben Avrohom the “Ger Tzedek”, formerly Graf Valentin Pototski, were buried in the old Vilna cemetery next to the Vilna Gaon. Whether or not the two ever met and what their relationship was remains unclear. However it is related from the Chofetz Chaim that the Vilna Gaon did send Avrohom Ben Avrohom a message in jail offering to have him released through mystical intervention.
Valentin Pototski was born to a noble Polish family in the first half of the 18th century. While in Paris studying in university he somehow became attached to Judaism. Since Europe was still under the jurisdiction of the Church’s inquisition, Graf Pototski traveled to Holland, a country that was beyond the long arm of the inquisition, to convert and place himself “Tachas Kanfei HaShechina”.
Upon his return to Vilna he lived incognito and spent his days locked away in the Bais Medrash learning Torah as he was sustained by the generous women tzidkonios, who always made sure he had what to eat. One day while learning he scolded a young boy who was disturbing those trying to daven and learn. So angry became this child’s father that he reported Avrohom Ben Avrohom to the “authorities” who promptly arrested him.
Despite the pleas of his family and the church, Avrohom Ben Avrohom staunchly backed his current beliefs and refused to retract, brazenly declaring that the Jewish faith and religion was the ultimate truth and that he was willing to suffer any repercussions that his beliefs entailed. After a prolonged period in jail he was handed over to the inquisition. Many efforts were made to “reform” him but to no avail. He was ultimately sentenced to burn at the stake.
The date of his burning was set for the second day of Shavuos, 7 Sivan 5509/1749. The Vilna Gaon was said to have sent a message to him in jail encouraging him to stay strong and offering to help him escape using “Sheimos HaKedoshim”. Avrohom Ben Avrohom refused saying that ever since he became a Yehudi his dream was to die “Al Kiddush Hashem” and as he came closer to realizing his dream he was not about to give it up.
Although it was dangerous for a Jew to be present at the time Avrohom Ben Avrohom was burned in the center of Vilna, nevertheless Lazer Zhishkes was not only able to manage to be there to witness it, he even succeeded in bribing an official who salvaged some of the ashes. These ashes were buried in the Vilna cemetery.
When asked what he would like to do to the person who snitched on him to the authorities, Avrohom Ben Avrohom said, “If I have any zechus in the Olam HaEmes, I will not rest and I will not be silent until I successfully bring the person whoreported me to the authoritiesto Olam Haba. For he was the one who helped me obtain the great fortune of being burned Al Kiddush Hashem”. Yehi Zichro Boruch!
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