After the death of Stalin, the persecution of Jews subsided, and we felt emboldened enough to once again arrange a secret minyan from time to time. A Torah we had, but with it came a new set of complications. Generally, we were hesitant to hold gatherings of any sort for too long in the one place, but transporting the scroll from house to house presented a serious problem. It was a large, weighty Torah, and every time we shifted its location, we were afraid that people would notice and report our actions to the authorities. In addition, Halacha does not permit transporting a Torah from one placeA Torah we had, but with it came a new set of complications to another without reading from it at least three times. Therefore, we would hold Shabbos services in a single house for two weeks in a row, despite the enhanced danger from prying neighbors.

In an attempt at simplifying the transfer of the Torah, we shortened its wooden rollers so that they wouldn’t protrude as much. On occasion, we would drape the Torah with a blanket to give it the appearance of a child.

Once, we arranged to hold a minyan in the home of R. Refael Chudaitov. He went to the Torah’s location, wrapped the scroll in a blanket, and took a taxi home. When he got out of the car a gentile neighbor on the street noticed the package he was carrying and instinctively assumed it was a child. However, after noticing the wooden rollers jutting out just so from the blanket, she became suspicious, and determined that it was a murdered child, its severed legs dangling from the coverlet.

This took place a short while prior to Pesach and the woman had been told that Jews use the blood of gentile children in their matzos for the holiday. Something clicked in her superstition-addled mind and she immediately called the police to arrest the Jew who had undoubtedly just mercilessly slain a gentile child in cold blood.

R. Refael was completely oblivious to all of the action occurring just outside his window. He entered his house and gingerly placed the Torah in the cabinet. A few minutes later a group of men dressed in plainclothes arrived at the house, along with the woman who had reported sighting a Jew clutching “the body of a dead baby.” In the courtyard they encountered R. Refael’s son, Moshiach, and they asked him where the old man who had just entered the courtyard had gone. Moshiach, who understood they had come to arrest his father, rushed home to warn his father to flee.

The two undercover policemen, along with the woman, entered the house, immediately following Moshiach. Rafael was standing in the entranceway and the woman identified him at once, exclaiming: “That’s the man!”

They began to search the house. Paralyzing fear and apprehension clutched the hearts of R. Refael and his family. Refael asked the uninvited guests what they were hunting for, but the men did not reply and continued to wreak havoc as they rummaged about the home.

Suddenly, the woman noticed a familiar package in the cupboard, and pointed it out to the policemen. The men approached the cupboard, cautiously unraveled the blanket, and discovered a Torah scroll!

"Why did you scare my father so much?!"

All at once the tension dissipated, and they asked Refael what the scroll was for. Refael explained that since it was the day of his father's passing, it was customary for Jews to read from the Torah. Since he was an elderly man, the policemen resolved not to bother with him and turned to go.

When Moshiach noted their hesitation he began to howl: “Why did you make this fuss? Why did you scare my father so much? I am going to call the mayor, whom I know quite well, and they will dismiss you from your jobs!”

The policemen began to defend their actions, saying that they had done nothing wrong intentionally and had only come because the woman had called. They asked the family’s pardon and left immediately.