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True Believers

True Believers

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Reb Mendel Futerfas related:

“Once I was imprisoned in Russia on the night of Kol Nidrei, and observed the entire Yom Kippur within the walls of my cell. For the evening and morning prayers I succeeded somehow in saying the prayers by heart.

However, I only remembered a small part of the liturgical poems of musaf with difficulty, and it happened that I remembered ‘All are true believers.’ In the middle of reciting it, I was given pause by the thought “Is it really true that ‘all are true believers’? What of the evil communist regime? And the members of the ‘Jewish section’ of the party who actively uproot Torah: should they be called ‘believers’?”

Two weeks later they transferred me to a concentration camp, and there they squeezed me into a hall, where about sixty beds were crammed in tiers on the surrounding walls.

All the criminal offenders snatched the best places, and I was pushed into a corner. I tried to hide from these hoodlums, and since it was Shabbat night, I closed my eyes and immersed myself in the Shabbat prayers. After several minutes a mustached Uzbek with a powerful physique and a scarred face approached me and asked, “You are praying now, aren’t you?” I nodded.

“You should know that I am also a Jew! This year, for the first time in my life I fasted on Yom Kippur in prison, and I even prayed! Actually I don’t know a word of Hebrew, for even my father received a communist education, and I did not see a trace of Judaism in my father’s house; however, my grandfather taught me in my childhood to say Modeh ani.

Believe me, Mendel, I fasted all day, with my lips murmuring constantly: "Modeh ani . . . modeh ani . . .’“

“This was an answer from Heaven,” concluded Reb Mendel, “to my question concerning “All are true believers.”

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