This one happened more than six months before I was born. I didn’t even know about until some forty years later when I read the book, Voices in the Silence. Written by S.Z. Sonnenfeld it tells the captivating story of Basyah Barg. Born in the Soviet Union she and her parents managed to keep the commandments of the Torah despite the ever present dangers. The book is fascinating and, for me, the most fascinating section is about Stalin’s Final Solution.
His plan was simple. He’d round up all the Jews still left in his country and ship them to the desolate Republic of Birobiszahn. Surrounded by mountains on all side no Jew would be able to escape, especially if the roads were closed and railways shut down. Slowly all the Jews would starve to death. The date of the transports were set to begin on March 6th, 1953, just a few days after Purim. The Jews of the Soviet Union were in dire need of a Purim miracle. And they got one!
On February 28th, Purim night, long after the few Jews who were able had heard the Megillah reading, Stalin was embroiled in a stormy cabinet meeting. He demanded that every member of the Poliburo sign the order for the expulsion of the Jews but some weren’t willing to do so. This caused Stalin to rave like a madman. According to Basyah Barg there are two visons of his death.
One is simply that he died of a stroke brought on by his rage. The other is that in the midst of his fury Lazar Kaganovitch, the renegade Jew, shot Stalin in the head. Whichever version is true doesn’t really matter. What matters is that the Jews were saved even without an Esther or Mordechai.
When we hear the Megillah we learn how King Ahasuerus discovered that at an earlier time Mordechai had saved his life. Wishing to reward him the king asked Haman what should be done for a man the king desires to honor. Haman, sure that the king wanted to honor him, suggested putting the honoree on the king’s horse, dressed in the king’s robes and leading him through the city announcing to one and all that this is the man the king desires to honor. How disappointed and angry Haman was when the king instructed him to be the one to lead Mordechai through the streets.
And how does Mordechai feel when he finishes his impressive ride? According to some of our sages he was troubled. He’d thought he might be able to use the fact that he’d once saved Ahasuerus as a bargaining chip for the lives of the Jews. Now that the king had repaid him he had no credit. Mordechai gathered the children of Shushan and instructed them to pray, for it was clear that they only had their Father in Heaven to rely on.
So it continues until today. Stalin, like Haman, met his death violently just as so many of our enemies. Leaders come and leaders go. They make laws and proclamations but it’s only our Father in Heaven who allows their edicts to be realized. Let’s pray that He will continue to abolish all the evil decrees and continue to make many miracles for us.