The Jewish Eye
Among My People I Will Remain
In 1942, the Germans had begun raiding the Warsaw ghetto and sending the Jews to concentration camps. During the first raid, the Germans, with the eager help of Ukrainian soldiers, surrounded the building where Rabbi Tzvi Michelson one of the oldest rabbanim of Warsaw lived, and barked in their megaphone that everyone inside the building must exit immediately. All the Jews in the building went outside except for Rabbi Michelson. His reasoning was that those who remained inside would eventually be found and shot by the Germans. They would then throw their bodies onto the street. It was possible that other Jews would find these bodies, put them on the cart that collected the dead in the ghetto, and bury them in a halachically correct way. On the other hand, those who turned themselves over to the Germans would be hauled off to a concentration camp. They would die there also after much suffering. To make matters worse, the rabbi had heard that they would be cremated instead of buried. He preferred the first option.
Rabbi Michelson decided to remain where he was and prepare himself for his death. He put on his tefillin and wrapped himself in his tallis. Eventually, the Germans, and a Jewish ghetto policeman broke down the door, and stormed into Rabbi Micheson's room. Suddenly, they stopped in their tracks. The sight of Rabbi Michelson with his flowing white beard, clad in his white tallis, standing before them was an awesome sight. The ghetto policeman (who survived the war) heard one of the Germans whisper to himself, "Why it's Moses himself!" Unbelievably, the Germans turned around and left the room, without harming Rabbi Michelson.
The Rav was left alone in the room. He could hear the shouts and moans from outside. He was able to see the Jews being pushed into the trucks from his window. He started having second thoughts. He knew that the Germans would eventually kill him, but he would die alone. Was it right to separate himself from the community in order to merit a proper burial? After a moment's thought, Rav Michelson decided to join his brethren heading for Treblinka. He left the room, went down the stairs, and walked into the courtyard. He joined the Jews on their final journey to Treblinka, and was able to serve as a source as strength for his fellow Jews. He never merited a proper burial, but he merited to live as a compassionate Jew among his brothers until the very end.
(Source: The Unconquerable Spirit)
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