His Story is Ours

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rabbi-lipschutz-shalom-rubashkin-smallBy Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

I’m sorry for writing about Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin again, but I can’t help it. His tale haunts me.
I have a painting in my house of an old Sephardic woman. Painted in 1963 by a famous Israeli artist named Weintraub, I bought it for $200. It was dusty and banged up and lying in a pile of junk in the back of a store, but the minute I laid eyes on it, I knew that it had to be mine. The lady was talking to me from under the dust and grime which had accumulated on the sorrowful painting that the storekeeper had purchased as part of an estate.

What is so great about this painting and what attracted me to it is that when you study the woman portrayed in it, you sense in her the tale of the Jewish exile. You can almost hear her telling her tale of woe: how she was driven from her native land and brought to the Promised Land where she was forced to live in a tent city. Her children were educated by the state in a language and fashion totally unfamiliar to her. Yet, she attempts to maintain her dignity and pride. And if you look carefully, you can note the hints of a smile on her lips.

This well-executed portrait tells the tale of an era much as a couple of stanzas of well-written poetry so potently because the author is able to illuminate and portray a detailed, complicated story in but a few words.

We have been highlighting the plight of Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin for some two years now, portraying it as a man fighting for his life. We were accused of being hyperbolic and, at times, I wondered if perhaps I was overplaying the drama. Maybe some secret journalistic juices which I never knew I possessed had gotten the better of me and caused me to exaggerate what was transpiring in the heartland of America. But on Friday, when government prosecutors recommended that Sholom Mordechai be sentenced to life in prison – yes, life in prison – for his bank fraud conviction, the veneer of justice was peeled off. No longer can anyone claim that the government is simply carrying out their mandate of pursuing equal justice under the law. Now it has become blatantly obvious for all to see that there is something sinister at work here.

In our Pesach edition, we published a painstakingly researched article documenting the way in which the Rubashkin case was prosecuted and the way he has been treated since his conviction. It appears as if the tale of Rubashkin is a microcosm of the tale of the Jewish people.

A simple, G-d-fearing man gave up his rabbinic position to move to an area of this country which had never had Jewish residents in order to assist his father in providing affordable kosher meat to the citizens of this land. Successful beyond anyone’s imagination, he aroused the ire of unions and radical vegetarians who marked him for destruction. Though he was an exemplary citizen, providing employment for an entire town, dispensing charity to people from all walks of life, supporting religious and educational institutions, and contributing immeasurably to the betterment of mankind, once the fix was in and the word from the bosses came down, he could do no right. The man who was regarded as a heroic figure and revered by people of all religions in town was vilified to such an extent that representatives of a country known for its pursuit of justice and fairness dedicated themselves to locking him in jail for the remainder of his life.

A nationwide media storm convicted him of crimes against humanity and cruelty to animals long before he even went to trial. In fact, those charges were never heard in a court of law. They didn’t have to be. He was convicted in the court of public opinion. Charges unrelated to what had caused his downfall were brought, and he was convicted in a case which will be pointed to for years to come as a travesty. Deemed a flight risk, because he would flee to that far off country of the Jews which embraces all Jewish crooks and swindlers, he sits in a country lockup dressed in a bright orange uniform, is housed in a small room with a pillow-less bed fit for a murderer, and is treated like one of the worst predators to ever walk the lily white streets of Iowa.

Yet, he maintains his belief and refuses to be broken. His relationship with G-d remains steadfast and he prays and studies holy books from that awful place as he awaits his redemption.
My friends, that is the story of the Jewish people in exile. His story is our story. His tale is our tale. His pain is our pain. And it’s no exaggeration. Wherever we have gone, we have been buffeted about. In whichever country we have found ourselves over the past two thousand years, we have done our best to be model citizens, to support ourselves and to help others. We have sought to cause no harm to anyone and we have brought wealth, education and health to whichever exile we landed in. Yet, we have been accused of poisoning the wells, murdering babies, demanding pounds of Christian flesh as loan repayment, and every other crime imaginable.

Without comprehension, we were pushed beyond the pale of settlement, crucified, imprisoned, and taxed into poverty. We were unable to work or go to school. Our sin? We were Jews. We believed in a Higher Authority. We hewed to an ancient honor code and moral system. We looked different. We acted different. We spoke different. We dressed different. Yes, we were different.

It made no difference to anyone how much we paid in taxes. It was never enough. We were never patriotic enough. Never clean enough. Never good enough. We were always suspect. We were always despised. We were always, dare I say, dirty Jews.

We have risen to unprecedented levels in this country and thought that here it would be different. Here we would always be accepted. Here we would always be tolerated. In this land of opportunity, anti-Semitism wouldn’t rear its ugly head so obviously. In this malchus shel chessed, we thought that we would forever be given a fair chance.

This week, many Jews will celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut, the holiday of Israel’s independence. Zionists believed that if there would be a Jewish state which would act as a civilized, honorable country, the scourge of anti-Semitism would come to an end. No longer would we be treated as a pariah nation. No longer would we be judged by a double standard.

The Jewish state would herald the dawning of a new era in which all of mankind would once and for all recognize that all Jews want is to be treated like everyone else – no better, no worse. Having a Jewish state would demonstrate to the world that Jews really are capable of belonging to the brotherhood of nations. Yidden would be welcomed to the group and never again would we fear pogroms, blood libels, trumped-up legal cases, and mass annihilation.

This past Sunday, most of the Jewish world commemorated the awful Holocaust that took place during the period of World War II. Yom Hashoah speakers in synagogues, schools, and various public gatherings, who believe that we are in control, all thundered that “never again” will Jewish people stand defenseless, waiting in vain for an apathetic world to rise to their defense. Never again will Jews be marched off like sheep to death camps. Never again will desperate Jews go begging at the shores of foreign nations to be let in. Now that the Jewish people have a state and armed forces at their disposal, they will stand proud and tall and defend themselves against all comers. As if it’s up to them.

Yet, at the same times as they uttered their slogans, the enlightened nations of the world played word games with the militant Islamic regime of Iran. The Iranians continue with impunity in their mad rush towards procuring nuclear weapons with which it promises to wipe Israel and the people living there off the face of the earth. At the same time as Yom Hashoah gatherings take place, Jews were taught once again that as many times as they scream never again, they are still powerless to stem the rising tide of international state-sponsored anti-Semitism. Jews are impotent as they flail about in a desperate losing battle to stop the Iranian nuclear march.

As Israel celebrates its Independence Day, it is confronted by an American president who makes no secret of his animosity towards the state. The posture of the administration towards its strongest ally in the volatile Mid-East is troubling to lovers of peace and democracy the world over. The Israeli head of state just recently suffered unprecedented humiliation at the hands of the American president over Israel’s right to build homes for civilian Jews in the eternal capital of the Jewish people. Enemies are coddled, friends are threatened, and Jews wonder what is going on.

“What have we done to bring this upon us?” they ask. “What does he want from Israel?” they wonder. “How can this be taking place in the modern era?” they ponder.

It is an age-old question, as old as the anti-Jewish canards we all thought were things of the past. Apparently not. What can we do about it? Where do we go from here?

In this, as well, the Rubashkin saga has a lesson for us. Sholom Mordechai maintains his bitachon. As a true eved Hashem, he knows that all that transpires is for a greater purpose, which we do not yet understand. Yidden of all types demonstrate true achdus as they stand by him. Our appeal to write letters to him brings him writings from Jews of all ages from around the world, who pen letters of chizuk which warm the heart and move the people who read them to tears. The mail delivers checks of all amounts for the Pidyon Shvuyim Fund, from Jews rich and poor, with nothing more in common than Jewish compassion.

People who will never meet him, who daven a different nusach than he does, pour their hearts out in tefillah for Sholom Mordechai ben Rivkah.

Thus, not only does all this assist him in ways we can perceive and feel, but the achdus generated by the care and compassion rises above and evokes Heavenly mercy on behalf of a righteous man who spent his life helping others prior to his legal battles. It will no doubt lead to his eventual freedom.

This is the secret of Jewish survival throughout the ages. The way we cling to emunas avoseinu, the fact that we stubbornly refused to surrender in the face of overwhelming adversity, the fact that we maintained our emunah and bitachon in the darkest days of golus – all this is our lifeblood.

The Chofetz Chaim writes that if the mitzvah of gemilus chassodim would spread among our people, the world would fill with chessed and all tragedy would disappear from the world. He says that while in Mitzrayim, all of Klal Yisroel, rich and poor, looked for ways in which they could do chessed with each other and this was one of the things that led to their redemption from slavery.

It is comforting to see how even in a shaky economy, people continue to contribute to institutions of Torah and chessed. Untold amounts were distributed by maos chittim funds in every town and city where Jews reside to those unable to afford the myriad expenses of Yom Tov.

The forces of Torah strengthen from day to day as yeshivos burst at their seams and more bochurim and yungeleit than ever before in Jewish history dedicate their lives to aliyah in Torah.

The Rubashkin case portrays our tribulations in golus, but it also hints that we may very well be on our way out of here. The way Yidden have risen to the challenge and performed so many acts of chessed and achdus has created major zechuyos for all of us and has hastened the day of our redemption.

May it happen speedily, in our day. Amen.

{Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. If the anti-semitism was so deep-rooted as you like to portray it, the prosecutors would’nt have to go after someone who commited bank fraud. You should use your (somewhat) fiery pen to lash out at your own silly ideas instead of trying to fix everyone elses business.

  2. Thank you R’ Pinny for writing this beautiful article.
    This tale haunts me as well, and I have spend many nights up just talking to Hashem to help this man.
    This IS pure anti-semitism, and to No.1 out there, you should study the facts before you lash out. Your post pains me. Your brother is in trouble. It is your job to try to help him. If it was you in trouble, would you want Rabbi Lipschutz to help you? The answer I am sure is YES.
    What Rabbi Lipschutz and his editors have done, is simply educate their readers about what REALLY has taken place in this unjust american justice system. Why should the public believe the goyishe newspapers who always try to portray the frum yid as bad?
    Trust me, there has been plenty of research done, and the editors know their facts.
    Remember too, tommorrow it could cholila be any of us, even YOU. Then, shoyn ain mohl you would scream anti-semitism!

  3. Thank you reb Pinchos for an outstanding article. We can not forget for one moment we are in golus and Reb Sholom Mordechai ben Rivkah is a Korbon Tzibur but a korbon only helps if we all do teshuva and in that zechus hashem in his ultimite kindess will have rachmonus on us and take us out of this bitter golus.

    To #1 ‘Too True to Post’ I really think that one could not include you in a minyan. The true sign of a yid is ‘BAISHONIM & RACHMONIM’ I am sorry to say that you are neither.

  4. I am sorry that somebody would think my comment to be insensitive. First of all I have contributed and encouraged others to contribute to his legal defense. I do have rachmanus and I daven for him constantly.
    That being said, it is very sad that so called “people of stature” have become self-appointed shluchei tzibbur to accuse and villify the judicial system as being rabidly anti-semitic.
    As any Torah-true jew with a good chinuch should know, it is within our best interest to focus on bettering ourselves (i.e. learning, davening, weeding out illegal behavior from our midst, pidyon shevuyim, you name it… etc.) rather then screaming foul everytime a jew with a beard and peyos is prosecuted for his fraudulent activities.
    I am in pain that a fellow yid sits in prison, and that people are so callous towards common sense ethics.

  5. I have asked myself,”why was I quick to believe the charges against S.M. Rubashkin?” I realized that unfortunately, I’ve been exposed to so many who are not erlich, why should I think that he would be any different? It is very sad that we are so used to chillul Hashem that it doesn’t surprise us and we are then choshed bekeshairim.

  6. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    Thank you for speaking out.

    You epitomize the saying, Bimkom she’en anashim – hishtadel lihiyos ish!!!

  7. We all must join and fight for a fair sentence in synch with what everyone else in this country gets for violations comparable to those R’ Shalom committed. Not a day longer. If this turns into an American version of the Beilis trial, or another Pollard affair, we should go out in the streets to demonstrate.

  8. Rabbi Lipschutz:

    You asked: “What can we do about it? Where do we go from here?” And in your last paragraph you hinted at the answer: “The Rubashkin case portrays our tribulations in golus, but it also hints that we may very well be on our way out of here.” Unfortunately, you didn’t take your answer to its logical conclusion.

    Commenter no. 5 also only hinted at an answer: “if we all do teshuva, in that zechus Hashem in his ultimate kindness will have rachmonus on us and take us out of this bitter golus.”
    But again, the writer stops short and fails to draw the ultimate and logical conclusion.

    What is the correct conclusion? Simple: the final Geula has already started: Hashem sounded the great shofar on the day in 1967 when the Har HaBayis was back in Jewish hands after 2000 years and is calling diaspora Jews to come home.

    As I pointed out in another comment on Matzav.com just yesterday, the Malbim wrote: “…I have many proofs from the simple meanings of the Scriptural text that the redemption will unfold gradually…and that the resettlement of Eretz Yisrael will PRECEDE the coming of Moshiach.” [cited by Rav Yechiel Weitzman in “The Ishmaelite Exile,” Jerusalem Pub., p. 183] Thus, those who claim that Jews shouldn’t leave golus-America en masse because Moshiach has not yet arrived are just using this as an excuse, and an erroneous one at that.

    And on a number of occasions I have also cited the Chazon Ish zt”l, who told a ben Torah who came to say goodbye before returning to the States: “We are trying to devise methods to get bnei Torah to SETTLE HERE in Eretz Yisrael and you are involved in finding ways to be able to leave?!” (Peer Hador, vol. II, p. 42)

    And finally, I’ve oft quoted the words of the Rav of Yerushalayim, Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld zt”l: “Because of our sins were we exiled from our country and distanced from our Land. This we have done VOLUNTARILY. Many times have I directed that the religious Jews in the diaspora be instructed that anyone who has the ability to come to Eretz Yisrael and doesn’t, will have to account for his FAILURE in Haolam Haba.” [Ha’ish Al Hachoma, vol. II, p. 149]

    And so it is that Yidden CHOOSE to remain in golus VOLUNTARILY (as per Rav Yosef Chaim), and will continue to do so no matter how bad things get here…no matter how many powerful messages the Ribbono Shel Olam sends that we no longer belong here and that it’s time to go home! In 1933 the Jews of Germany were just as complacent; but they did not have the Bracha of Eretz Yisrael calling to them with open arms. They did not have a Nefesh B’Nefesh helping to make Aliayh almost effortless today, by comparison to Rav Yosef Chaim’s time.

    What will it take to shake American Jews out of their complacent rationalizations and excuses for staying in their too comfortable golus? The leadership needs to become as brave as Rav Yosef Chaim and the Chazon Ish and lead Klal Yisrael out of golus NOW! Rabbi Lipschutz, you are one of those leaders who can step forward with the message: “Jews of America, pack your bags. It’s time to go home.”

  9. How can you compare this to “pogroms, blood libels, trumped-up legal cases, and mass annihilation”. Nobody is accusing us of “poisoning the wells, murdering babies, demanding pounds of Christian flesh as loan repayment, and every other crime imaginable”.

    And you write: “This is no exaggeration”!

  10. I feel very sorry for you because you are not willing to see the emes of what R. Lipschutz’s words. From your comments, I see a Jew who lacks self-esteem and will hide his head in the sand rather than fight for another yid in trouble. You claim that you feel pain for Rubashkin. After your self-righteous comment I doubt it very much.

  11. There is nothing at all self-righteous about #1’s comment. He is merely pointing out that we have better avenues to achieve our goals then constantly screaming “anti-semitism”.


  13. To #1…are you sure you are jewish?..Maybe in body…but certainly not in spirit!!!! You can contribute as much as you want,daven and plead, but YOUR WORDS,speak much louder than you actually hear yourself….!
    You don’t need to answer this post….it is obvious where your loyalties lie…and where your heart really is….your writing says it all!!!

  14. to: too true to post

    I agree that we need not take up the defense of a Jew just because he has beard and payos.
    But why can’t you understand that this is not just a jew with beard and payos cought in a crime; 1. it’s not poshut that they would prosecute anyone else for this crime; 2. he is entitled to fair and equal treatment from the justice system; 3. the system that treated him unequally needs to be taken to task – can you cite one other case where the life sentence has been sought for this kind of offense?!

  15. #12:
    Actually we can be compared in certain ways to Nazi Germany.
    Yes, America is wonderful and peaceful to us and we can never take it for granted.
    However I cannot say with conviction that they all love us. If they did why were Jews allowed to go to slaughter during WWII and America closed its doors? I believe that many goyim in America if they would have their chance chas v’sholom would not be as friendly and peaceful as you believe. Just as during WWII the friendly German and Polish neighbors suddenly turned on us.
    Especially goyim who live in the outlying cities who don’t have contact with Jews, don’t really know what we are about, so they may rely on the propaganda against us.
    The Torah doesn’t warn us Eisav Soneh es Yaakov for no reason. It is a principle in which Hashem created the world and didn’t stop in our generation.
    Look at our administration who thinks Israel is evil when its citizens need to build more housing for overcrowded cities, yet keeps quiet when Iran is openly building nuclear warfare with potential to blow up the world chas v’sholom. Is that not a (bit) biased?

  16. This is a very sad and unfair case, but I DON’T believe this is a case of anti-semitism.
    If you study the history of Judge Linda Reid, you will see that she has a history of being a devil. That is also why the prosecution will push it’s luck because they know that in the majority of the cases presented, she sides with the prosecution.
    This is also a factor in why bail wasn’t granted.

  17. It is incumbent upon each and every person who has a telephone and/or email to get on the phone or on the computer and email or call:
    202-514-3465. speak nicely, calmly and with respect. We are an Am Kodosh; let us not forget that.
    Email: [email protected]
    Fax: 202-514-2504.
    I thank the Yated for providing these numbers.

    Always Remember: If you were in Sholom’s shoes, you would expect your brothers and sister to give you at least 60 seconds of their precious time, wouldn’t you? Then you do the same for him!

    Do it now. Don’t procrastinate. Every phone call counts, every email counts and every fax counts. Daven, daven and daven some more. Get your children and granchildren to sit down with a Tehilim for 5 minutes.

  18. How on earth would I be in his shoes? That’s ridiculous.

    I saw the people laughing on other websites about Rabbi Weiss’s wife almost dying, saying she’s being punished. She’s their sister, did they care? She’s as much their sister as Rubashkin is their brother. Sorry, I think you have plenty of “brothers and sisters” on which to expend your energy, innocent people who have done nothing but good who are in trouble for one reason or another. How about helping them, Bubby.

  19. T0#22. Ignorant and insensitive people laughing(!!!) about Mrs. Weiss need to be educated. Saying that, how does that factor in with the Rubashkin case? If people didn’t daven and cry for Sholom Mordechai, would that make them more sensitive to Mrs. Weiss?
    I am always wary of pulling the anti-Semitism card. I have supported SMR from day one and considered his treatment unfair and politically motivated. But after everything that has transpired, comparing his treatment to others that have committed similar or worse acts, I do see the evil hand of anti-Semitism.


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