By: Rabbi Sholom D. Avtzon
The twenty-two year saga of the Schapiro brothers of Slavita tugged at the hearts of all Russian Jewry. Their famed mesirus nefesh - refusing to take one step without a yarmulke on their head while being beaten brutally by hundreds of hostile soldiers - was legendary throughout the country.
This incredible act of self sacrifice inspired hundreds of thousands of Jews to remain firm and faithful to Hashem and not to surrender to the Czar`s demands that they reject their Jewish values and way of life.
Their story is not only uplifting but illuminating, even in our present times. Just as they survived, and indeed prevailed, over the powerful Czar, so too every Jew possesses the inner - and sometimes unknown - strength to overcome any and all tribulations, as difficult as they may appear. This enduring power was symbolized by the Sefer Torah that was written and brought to them, piece by piece, in prison. For generations it was called the Sefer Torah of Mesirus Nefesh, and it is now known as the Rebbe`s Sefer Torah.
Their phenomenal life-story is a most welcome addition to the Early Chassidic Personalities series.