Our Heart & Soul
By Menachem Ziegelboim
Every summer for 19 years, a bar mitzva celebration was held in Kfar Chabad
for the children of the war heroes who had died in Israel’s wars * Thousands
of people participated in these moving events * Behind this project was a woman
named Shifra Golombovitz of Kfar Chabad * For the first time, Beis Moshiach
tells the full story behind the amazing work done on behalf of widows and
orphans.* Part 1 of 3
The Six-Day War broke out. Dovid Morosov was drafted along with thousands of
other soldiers, both regular and reserves. He volunteered to serve in the
motorized corps and went south with his unit to the Egyptian front. Back at his
peaceful country home, he left his wife about to give birth and two small
daughters. Dovid was not afraid of hardship. He had never been afraid. He threw
himself into battle.
Twice he saw the specter of death right before his eyes. The first time was when
an artillery shell landed right on the jeep in which he was traveling with his
friend. The two were thrown from the jeep. His friend was killed instantly.
Dovid was miraculously saved.
The second time was on the third day of the war in Sinai, in one of the most
difficult battles of that war, which took place in Bir Jifjaffa, where Dovid’s
unit was fighting. A direct hit landed on the armored transport in which he was
traveling. His friends fell and were killed and the transport went up in flames
along with his tallis, siddur, and two pairs of t’fillin.
One day Dovid received a telegram announcing the birth of his first son. He was
thrilled and tried to rejoice in the midst of the terrors of war. He received
special permission to attend the bris and went to Kfar Chabad. He went
home for the first time in forty days.
When the war ended, Dovid returned to the front lines although the battles had
been won already. On Thursday, the 28th of Sivan, he returned to his battalion
to continue to serve.
On Shabbos Parshas Chukas, 29 Sivan 5727, he wrapped himself in his tallis
and davened Shacharis and Musaf. He didn’t forget to add Hallel
in honor of Rosh Chodesh. After davening,
he went over to take his place in position near the machine gun. Near him
stood Uri Wissler, his commander, who joined Dovid’s position after his own
machine gun malfunctioned.
Suddenly the Egyptian shelling resumed. Somebody had to leave the position and
go up on top in order to determine precisely where the enemy’s mortars were
located to be able to send the Israeli planes after them. Dovid volunteered and
jumped to the task along with Uri, the commander. The two were visible to the
Egyptians. Suddenly the shrieking of a shell could be heard, which landed four
meters away. Another shell was aimed at them and made a direct hit. The force of
the explosion threw them both into the air.
One of the soldiers described it: "Our shock was enormous. Heroes, tough
and brave battle warriors, cried like small children. The tears didn’t
stop." Two days later the coffin arrived in Kfar Chabad.
The funeral took place on Monday, 2 Tammuz 5727. The elder Chassidim, mashpiim,
and all the residents of Kfar Chabad were in attendance. All sobbed bitterly
over the terrible tragedy. A young life had been snuffed out, a life of holiness
and Chassidus, of humility and modesty, a life built on Torah. The elderly rav
of Kfar Chabad, Rabbi Shneur Zalman Garelik, burst into tears and said, "Be
a proper intercessor for your son, Elchonon."
In addition to Dovid’s widow, Shifra, there were hundreds of other suffering
widows. When people overcame the first shock, they went back to their daily
lives and forgot the widows with their sorrow and worries.
At that time a letter arrived from Rabbi Chadakov to Rabbi Yisrael Leibov, the
director of Tzeirei Agudas Chabad. Rabbi Chadakov noted in his letter
(apparently based on orders from "higher up") that the souls of the
slain want a proper education for their orphans. "Try to draw the orphans
to a proper chinuch," the letter said, "as the souls of their
fathers in the World of Truth desire."
Tzach didn’t know what to do with the letter, for up until that point they had
had no connection with the families. Rabbi Leibov tried to get a list of the war
heroes, but encountered difficulty. Meanwhile, Rabbi Chadakov continued to send
a number of letters on this topic.
One day, R’ Itche Gansburg, a well-known activist, asked R’ Dovid’s widow,
Mrs. Shifra Golombovitz to take on the project. Despite her own sorrows, she
agreed. "I didn’t think about an organization at the time," she
recalls. "I thought about starting on a personal basis."
Shifra received a list of the widows from the I.D.F., and despite the three
little ones she had at home, she began going from family to family. Wherever she
went she encountered mourning and sorrow. The wounds were still fresh. Since
that time, the name Shifra became known to thousands of women around the
country. When you said "Shifra," you said it all.
What did you talk about when you visited someone’s house?
"I knocked on the door and simply said, ‘Hello, I am Shifra from Kfar
Chabad.’ I came to encourage them and I spoke to them as one woman to another.
I told them we were in the same boat and that we had to go on in life. Sometimes
we just chatted for the purpose of getting people’s hearts to open.
"I once went to the home of a widow with six children. She was Persian and
hardly knew any Hebrew. The woman sat on the floor near the paraffin stove, sad
and dejected. I asked her for the best way to make rice, because my rice didn’t
come out right. I saw a spark ignite in her eyes and her heart opened up."
Didn’t you talk about Yiddishkeit?
"No. I didn’t discuss Judaism at all, just the situation. One day Mrs.
Itta Ginsberg asked me whether I discussed Judaism with the women. I told her I
didn’t and said I wasn’t able to. She said that wasn’t right and that I
had to talk about kashrus and candle-lighting, and in general to bring Yiddishkeit
into their homes. I insisted that I couldn’t speak about that. "I speak
to them as a woman with children." She said that she would soon be
traveling to the Rebbe and that she would ask him about this.
"She had a yechidus and the Rebbe said, "No, don’t speak
about Yiddishkeit. You have to speak as one woman to another, and then
you’ll get to the Yiddishkeit." Almost exactly the way I had put
"I visited homes and the women began trusting me. At first I spoke about
rice, and then when I asked that the children attend camps and have a bar mitzva,
they happily agreed."
Shifra devoted herself to her holy pursuit. Despite her little children, she
would leave her house from morning until evening traveling from home to home in
order to reach as many families as possible.
"It wasn’t easy," she remembers. Despite her personal pain she didn’t
sink into depression. She threw herself into her work. For Rosh HaShana 5728,
she sent a letter to each of the women with whom she had already made a
connection, suggesting that they arrange a trip on Chol
HaMoed Sukkos to the holy sites that were recently liberated. She doesn’t
have a copy of the letter, but she remembers that it was a touching letter that
aroused the interest of the Ministry of Defense. "I remember the following
sentence from the letter: ‘Leave the children with the neighbors and don’t
forget to bring pictures of your little ones.’"
Many women responded. It was the first time they had allowed themselves to go
out and enjoy themselves since their husbands had died.
A great miracle took place on that trip. "We traveled to the Kosel and then
went on to Gush Etzyon where Chanan Porat, later to become a Knesset Member,
welcomed us. He explained to us about the place and then at a certain point I
said to him, ‘Chanan, we have gone overtime by ten minutes.’ He said it didn’t
matter and we arrived at the Me’aras HaMachpela ten minutes late. In
those ten minutes, there was a mighty explosion near the Me’ara
in which four people were killed and over twenty people were severely
injured. When we arrived, the ambulances had just started coming and the scene
looked terrible. I saw what was going on and told the drivers to head
What does a trip like that accomplish?
"I took it upon myself to support and encourage the widows, and that is
what I did. The situation was very sad. Many widows were pregnant. We arrived at
the Kosel and the women poured their hearts out. The trip brought about a strong
connection among the women. One woman was from Yerushalayim, another from a kibbutz,
a third was the mother of one child and a fourth the mother of six. They spoke
to each other for hours and poured out their hearts and a connection was made
and kept up."
The trip was just the first of many events with the I.D.F. widows. The
connection deepened over that year, and for Chanuka 5728, the women were invited
to a Chanuka party with their children. Shifra had gotten a generous
contribution of toys from a man who had a toy factory. She prepared a list for
him of the children and their ages and took care of all the details. A short
while later a huge amount of age-appropriate toys arrived.
The party took place in one of the halls of the vocational school in Kfar Chabad.
Emotions ran high. "I remember that one of the mothers hesitated about
whether to come with her son or not. In the end, she decided to bring him. At
the end of the party the boy said to his mother, ‘Ima, people love us
There were warm responses. "You managed to do in a couple of days what we
haven’t managed to do in months and years," said the Ministry of Defense.
They couldn’t understand how Lubavitchers had managed to get all the women out
of their homes and had given them some motivation.
What was the secret?
"Giving our heart and soul."
* * *
The yearly programming expanded. On Purim, mishloach manos
were sent to all the women by Tzach, and on Shavuos a flower and explanatory
material were sent to each of them. Before every Yom Tov the women received a
letter and explanatory material. They were constantly kept in mind.
"Once R’ Shmuel Segal and Rabbi Ginsberg of Kfar Chabad went to bring mishloach manos
to a widow and her family who lived in Ohr Yehuda. They arrived at her house
just moments before sunset. Afterwards they received a letter from her which
said, ‘I was afraid you wouldn’t come, but after you came we felt like
Eliyahu HaNavi had entered our house.’
"Even non-Lubavitchers were involved in sending the mishloach
manos. It was a directive we received in a long conversation I had with
Rabbi Chadakov, to get outsiders involved too. For years, Bnei Akiva students in
Netanya brought mishloach manos to widows on behalf of Chabad.
"But the highlight of the year was Pesach. All the women and their children
were invited to Kfar Chabad for the seider. It actually wasn’t a seider
for the war widows, but a public seider, which many families in Kfar
Chabad attended. Whoever came from the outside didn’t know who was a widow
with her orphans and who was a regular family.
"Many families in Kfar Chabad rose to the occasion. It was a particularly
moving experience," Shifra relates. "The guests slept at the homes of
people in the Kfar who opened their homes to them, although the houses were
small then and there were many children.
"In those days there was no catering service to prepare the food. Neither
were there disposable dishes. The women of Kfar Chabad cooked it all themselves
for days in advance.
"The Rebbe enjoyed great nachas from this project. One year, as the
Rebbe distributed matza to the shluchim, he said that he had
great nachas ruach, for at that moment there was a public seider in
Kfar Chabad for the war widows."
Were there women who didn’t want to be categorized as war widows?
"Yes, though very few. I once received a letter from a woman who wrote, ‘I
don’t want to belong. Don’t send me any mishloach
manos. Don’t do me any favors.’" Shifra understood. She wrote a
warm letter back to her saying, ‘You are permitted not to want, and if at any
time you do want – by all means. To each his own.’ A few years later I
received a letter from her saying, ‘Really, why shouldn’t I join you?’ and
Shifra explained, "First of all, not everybody wants to be classified as
widows, despite the reality. Secondly, there were women who feared we would
interfere with their lives, but after realizing it came from the heart and was
real, they agreed."
What was the Rebbe’s connection to your work?
"A very special one. Our motto can be found in a conversation I had with
the Rebbe during a yechidus in which the Rebbe said to see each woman as
a daughter of Sara, Rivka, Rochel, and Leah. That was the Rebbe’s motto, and
it truly was an important point.
"Every year the Rebbe sent a letter to the children of the war heroes. I
remember that when the Rebbe announced that girls should light Shabbos candles,
I said that if we want the girls to light candles we had to give them
candlesticks, otherwise they wouldn’t have a reason to do so.
"Tzach agreed to give each girl a candlestick, but I explained that these
girls had to receive two candlesticks, otherwise it would look like a yartzeit
candle. Tzach refused and a debate ensued. Finally they asked the Rebbe and the
Rebbe supported my position of giving the girls two candlesticks, but said we
should explain that they should only light one. That was during Chanuka and the
Rebbe also said they should give the boys a siddur
in his name – "but the latkas are not in my name."
"The women appreciated this very much. After Gimmel Tammuz 5754, I received
a letter from a woman living on Kibbutz Mizra, saying that she was ‘joining us
in our sorrow.’ They all felt like one family with the Rebbe."
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