The following story illustrates the real self sacrifice that R’ Bentzion Pil had for another Yid with whom he was not familiar.

In[1] 1935 the communist police arrested ninety people in Charkov, among them R’ Bentzion Pil. In the group court case, R’ Bentzion was sentenced to seven years imprisonment.

In that group there was an unfamiliar Yid who had committed more serious crimes for which he was sentenced to death. When R’ Bentzion heard of the terrible sentence, he decided to take advantage of a loophole in the system which states that when a group of people are judged together, one of the group can ask for a retrial. This R’ Bentzion did, hoping to get a less severe sentence for the other Yid.

The trick worked -but only partially. The other Yid was resentenced, this time to ten years of imprisonment instead of death, however, to get back at R’ Bentzion for asking for a retrial, they gave him a longer sentence of ten years imprisonment. This not only meant another 3 years longer in prison, it meant something a lot worse.

The Russian law was that if a sentence was for less than ten years, then two thirds of the sentence can be forgiven for good behavior. But if the sentence was for 10 years or more this privilege did not exist.

His wife was livid. “Why did you ask for a retrial? You don’t even know the person. If you didn’t ask for a retrial you would be home in two and a half years, now you are going to be in prison for 10 complete years and I will be alone with the children…”

R’ Bentzion answered, “That Yid also has a family, and now after ten years he will return to them, but imagine if it stayed by the first sentence…”

After the first part of the imprisonment he was sent far away and for over eight years there was absolutely no contact with his family.

After the ten years were up, he started the long trek back to civilization, and he was concerned because of what he heard about what the Germans did in Charkov – his home town. He strengthened his faith in Hashem that his family was spared due to the tremendous amount of charity that he gave prior to being arrested.

On the way he met a familiar individual who told him that many families fled to Samarkand before the Germans arrived. It was there that he was ultimately reunited with his family.

R’ Bentzion literally put another Yid first, even when his own freedom was at stake.
[1] pg. 320 in the Hebrew Samarkand book, by Rabbi Hillel Zaltzman.

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