The Jewish Eye
The Tzaddik Who Sent His Wife And Children To Siberia
Rav Dovid Mintzberg was thirty-two years old when he was chosen to fulfill the position of the mashgiach of Yeshivas Chachmei Lublin. This position was formerly filled by the renowned R' Meir Shapiro, who passed away in his prime. R' Mintzberg was known for his genius and tziddkus, and was gifted in public speaking and education.
When the Germans arrived, R' Mintzberg and his family moved to Rutki-Kossaki, a town that was still under Russian control. For the time being, they were out of physical danger, but life under the Communists posed a new spiritual danger. The Communists' official policy was atheism, and practicing or learning about religion was strictly forbidden by law. The Russians insisted that all refugees had to become Russian citizens. R' Mintzberg was wary of the spiritual danger this would pose, and decided to refuse this ultimatum, despite his awareness of the possible ramifications.
One Friday night, while R' Mintzberg was learning in shul, Russian soldiers banged on the door and threatened the family with immediate exile to Siberia if they continued to refuse Russian citizenship. Exile to Siberia was often the equivalent of a death sentence; many people who were sent there did not survive. Rebbitzen Mintzberg sent someone to consult her husband; included in her question was also a warning. Rebbitzen Mintzberg wanted to make sure that her husband did not return home; at least he would be spared from being exiled. She made this decision despite its frightening implication for her; she would endure this ordeal alone. In addition, she carried the weighty responsibility of caring for her seven daughters, the oldest of who was only twelve, in a foreign and hostile land.
Rav Mintzberg wanted to join his family, but a good friend refused to allow him to leave the shul and fall in the hands of the Communists. However, he did manage to send a message to his wife that they should agree to be exiled to Siberia, even on Shabbos. Rebbitzen Mintzberg and her daughters were exiled to Siberia, bereft of their husband and father, and all of their worldly possessions.
R' Mintzberg remained alone in Poland. Eventually he sent for his son, who had been studying in Vilna. The Haskalah movement had been influencing many youngsters and R' Minzberg was afraid of his son's spiritual safety in Vilna. He preferred that his son join him in Poland, despite the physical danger, where he could protect him from negative spiritual influences.
When the fate of the Jews became clear, R' Mintzberg passed up an opportunity to try to save his life when partisans in the surrounding forest requested that he join them. R' Mintzberg preferred to remain with his community, and help prepare them for their death. During Elul, the Jews were forced to dig a mass grave. R' Mintzberg and his son's lasts words were "Shema Yisrael" as they were shot into the pit.
Rebbitzen Mintzberg and her daughters survived their ordeal in Siberia, and were able to leave Russia after the war was over. R' Mintzberg's decision had saved their lives.
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