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You Don’t Lose from Keeping the Halacha

Rabbi Feinstein's advice saved the lives of all Luban's Jews when they listened to the young Rabbi's ruling instead of to their hearts

| 19.07.17 | 14:21
You Don’t Lose from Keeping the Halacha
Approximately 80 years ago when Rabbi Moses Feinstein still lived in Luban, Russia and was its rabbi, there was a Jewish informer that made his fellow Jews suffer greatly. People would disappear for treatment and come back broken from the secret police or not come back at all. This wretched person brought a lot of grief to his Jewish brothers.

This man reached old age and died. Before dying he wrote a letter to the burial society of how he regrets his life in this world and wants a penitence for what he did. As a penitence for his actions he asked the burial society to bury him face down and through the embarrassment of being buried in that way he would get some penitence for his evil ways.

The burial society came to Rabbi Feinstein and asked him what to do. “Jewish law forbids treating the body of the deceased with a lack of respect and it’s forbidden to bury anyone face down. But this is what the man asked for so what do we do?” Rabbi Feinstein answered that “after death according to Jewish law a person doesn’t own his body and cannot leave orders about his body for after death. Therefore I say you need to listen to Jewish law and bury this man in the way permitted by Jewish law, face up like any other Jew.”

The burial society said: “But he begged us! He wants a forgiveness and penitence for his soul! Why shouldn’t we accede to his request?” Rabbi Feinstein answered: “It’s our job to follow the law and my job as rabbi is to make sure that the law is indeed kept. He must be buried according to Jewish law. As for his sins, he will be judged in heaven and he will get forgiveness according to his judgment. It is none of our concern.”

The burial society listened to Rabbi Feinstein and buried the man according to Jewish law face up. A few days later the cemetery watchman saw a government employee walking around the cemetery and he went over to him to see if he could help him. The employee said that he was there to inspect the grave of the informer that was recently buried there. The watchman showed him where the grave was and then a crew of people came to open the grave. The employee looked at the open grave a few moments and then had the workers re-cover the plot with dirt again.

The watchman asked what they were looking for. They answered that they received a letter from this man before he died with the following words: “since I know the people of my town hate me because I was loyal to you and informed on them they are liable to bury me face down like a donkey instead of like every other Jew and you should come and check to see if it isn’t so.” So we came and we saw he was mistaken,” the government employee said.

The cemetery watchman told the story over when he came to the synagogue that evening. The whole village heard how they were saved from the wrath of the government by keeping the Jewish laws of burial with no other considerations. Only through the steadfastness of Rabbi Feinstein to stick to the Jewish law were the Jewish townsfolk saved from the great pain of a cruel government happy to torment them.