Gedalia Moshe Goldman, who later became the Grand Rebbe of Zvhil, and Chaim Shaul Bruk, a renowned Chabad mashpia (mentor), were serving time together in a Soviet prison camp. Their "heinous" crime? Observing and spreading Judaism under the Communist regime.

One Shabbat, the sadistic commandant of the camp called Gedalia Moshe into his office. "I have here the papers for your release," he said as he waved some papers in the air, "and if you sign them now you will be a free man."

"But it is Shabbat," replied Gedalia Moshe. "I cannot and will not sign on Shabbat."

The commandant – who, of course, knew that Gedalia Moshe wouldn't transgress the Shabbat – shouted, "If you don't sign the papers now you will remain here another eight years!"

"Nevertheless, I will not sign and desecrate the Shabbat."

"Very well," sneered the commandant. "Don't sign. You will be in this prison for eight more years. And we'll see how your G‑d will help you…"

"If you don't sign the papers now you will remain here another eight years!""If my G‑d wants to help me, He'll do it without you. And if He wants me to be in this prison eight more years, I will be here eight more years even if you would decide to let me go," replied Gedalia Moshe calmly. "It has nothing to do with you."

The already enraged commandant saw red. He whipped his pistol out of its holster, pointed it at Gedalia Moshe's heart, and screamed "Let's see who will help you now!"

He cocked the gun…

And his daughter walked into the office. She saw her father pointing the gun at Gedalia Moshe and said in a bored voice, "Father, it's a waste of a bullet…"

Slowly the commandant lowered the gun. "Don't think it was your G‑d that saved you!" he shouted at Gedalia Moshe who was standing there serenely. "If it hadn't been for my daughter you would be dead meat by now!"

Chaim Shaul Bruk
Chaim Shaul Bruk

He turned to an aide and yelled to him, "Bring in the other Jew trouble-maker, Chaim Shaul!"

A few moments passed, and Chaim Shaul was standing in the office next to Gedalia Moshe. The commandant made him the same offer as he had to Gedalia Moshe: "Sign these papers and you can go free."

"Of course I can't sign the papers," replied Chaim Shaul, "It's Shabbat, and I don't violate the Shabbat."

"You will remain here another eight years."

"I will not write on Shabbat."

Suddenly Gedalia Moshe said, "Give me the papers. I will sign for him."

The commandant was dumbfounded. "What? You said you wouldn't write on Shabbat! You're going to be here for another eight years! And now you'll sign for him?"

"Of course I wouldn't sign on Shabbat to gain my freedom," Gedalia Moshe replied. "But this is different. I'm strong, and I can withstand the conditions in this prison another eight years. But Chaim Shaul is weaker, and he cannot stand this place any longer. It would be dangerous for him to remain here another eight years. Give me the papers and let me sign..."

Both men were freed from prison within the next few days.

For after all, it wasn't the commandant who was in control.