The Rebbe once recounted this story of his father, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneersohn, who was the head rabbi of the city of Yekatrinoslav (known today as Dnepropetrovsk): Yekatrinoslav was the breadbasket of the Soviet Union, and every year, when Passover came near, people would come from all over the country to buy flour for baking their Passover matzahs.

He was asked to certify that the flour was kosher

When the Soviet government nationalized the mill, they well knew that the Jews would not buy flour without the supervision of a recognized rabbi, so Rabbi Levi Yitzchak was asked to certify that the flour was kosher.

“I’ll give the certification,” Rabbi Levi Yitzchak told them, “but it will be your responsibility to fulfill the halachic requirements: to ensure that the wheat won’t come into contact with water, to hire supervisors to ensure that the wheat and the flour are kosher for Passover, and to grant them complete freedom of action.”

“These demands are completely unacceptable!” the officials responded in anger. “When water is mixed into the wheat while grinding, the volume of the wheat increases substantially. Grinding dry wheat will cause a loss of thousands of rubles! You can’t think that we’ll agree to religious demands that will cost the government thousands of rubles!”

Rabbi Levi Yitzchak replied firmly, “According to the Constitution and my own conscience, I won’t be able to tell anyone that the flour you grind is kosher for Passover when it’s not.”

In the end, he traveled to Moscow, where he met with senior officials and explained his stance to them. Unbelievably, they agreed and told all the mill supervisors in the Ukraine to comply with Rabbi Schneersohn’s kashrut supervisors, in spite of the high cost it would entail.

Unbelievably, they agreed

So, because Rabbi Levi Yitzchak held firmly to the principles of Torah and Judaism, the Soviet government guaranteed that the Jews of Ukraine were able to buy flour that was kosher for Passover.

Editor’s note: Years after the principled stand of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak, he was imprisoned by the Soviets for teaching Judaism, which they considered treason. He was sent into exile in Kazakhstan, where he lived in inhuman conditions. He passed away in the city of Alma-Ata on the 20th of Av, after years of suffering and self-sacrifice for the sake of Judaism, Torah and mitzvahs.