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Hero rabbi from Odessa: He broke Shabbat to save 250 orphans

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El rabino con algunos de los niños del orfanato.

Karol Wojteczek - published on 03/02/22

Faced with grave danger the chief rabbi of Odessa, Rabbi Shlomo Baksht, decided to break Saturday's travel ban to safely evacuate 250 children from a local orphanage.

“There were three powerful explosions next to the orphanage. The girls were very scared, they were crying. We wanted to transport the children closer to the city center, but the situation was becoming more and more dangerous,” the rabbi told VINnews.

After consultation with the Prime Minister’s office and the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Jewish community in Odessa decided to evacuate its children further west in Ukraine.

On Friday morning, February 25, eight buses arrived at the Odessa orphanage to take children, staff, and the rabbi and his family out of the city. Several hours later, more Russian missiles fell near the orphanage building. “It is a real miracle that we managed to escape in time. A real miracle,” Rabbi Bakszt concluded.

Due to the considerable traffic jams created by evacuating civilians, the journey was extended until the morning hours of the next day. This next day was Saturday, the day of Shabbat, the Jewish holy day of rest. However, Rabbi Bakszt decided to continue the evacuation, applying the principle of

. According to this Jewish teaching, saving a human life takes precedence over all other religious regulations.

“I told the children that we should always act according to God’s will. And on this particular Shabbat, God’s will is to save our lives.”

“I told the children that we should always act according to God’s will. And on this particular Shabbat, God’s will is to save our lives,” Rabbi Bakszt explains. He stressed that the journey was extremely exhausting for the children’s caregivers, who had to hold the smallest children in their arms for many hours.

In order to preserve the festive nature of the day, during one of the stops, the rabbi and other evacuees recited the Kaddish, one of Judaism’s central prayers, praising God.

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