Icy Education: A Mother’s Sacrifice for Her Son’s Chinuch

A flash of determination flitted across Bubba Chasha’s face. Without warning, her strong arms pushed her son into a cold, slushy puddle. His face buried in filthy ice, his clothes soaking wet, Shloima sputtered as he struggled for air, shivering to the bone.

By Rabbi Zalman Vishedsky

Gusts of frosty wind blew fiercely and little Shloima pulled his ragged coat tighter around his slim frame. The streets of Chernivtsi were riddled with puddles of slushy snow that had turned brown and muddy after being trampled on by thousands of footsteps.

His bony hand held his mother’s tightly as they walked through the slush. He shivered, though more from fear than from cold. He gazed up at his mother’s face. Usually warm with love, “Bubba Chasha” – as we knew her – was now as stiff as stone, her forehead wrinkled with tension.

It was Shabbos. A day that should’ve been a day of rest. A day of serenity spent at home surrounded by the security of family and the comfort of home-made delicacies. 

Yet it wasn’t an ordinary Shabbos. It was Shabbos in the town of Chernivtsi in the late 1950’s, where Jews were persecuted for practicing their religion and forced to attend the government-run schools, even on their day of rest. Sometimes, they could get away with being absent – a sore throat, a swollen ankle, a rooster that forgot to crow.

This week though, was a national test and there was no way any student could miss school. Everyone was expected to be there. On time. And write the answers to each and every question. No excuses. 

So they walked. Mother and son. Hand in hand. Passing the large oak tree at their street corner, its branches clothed in a frosty blanket of thick snow, they noticed two familiar figures walking towards them. As they came closer, they became recognizable as Shloima’s father – R’ Moshe Vishedsky along with his close friend – R’ Mendel Futerfas.

They sensed the tension hovering over Bubba Chasha and her son. R’ Moshe looked into his wife’s troubled eyes. “Do as you see fit,” he told her simply. With an almost invisible nod, she continued walking silently.  

A flash of determination flitted across Bubba Chasha’s face. Without warning, her strong arms pushed her son into a cold, slushy puddle. His face buried in filthy ice, his clothes soaking wet, Shloima sputtered as he struggled for air, shivering to the bone. And then he felt those same strong arms grab him by his belt, straightening him into a standing position. 

As he struggled to regain his balance, Shloima instantly understood what had happened. With the fear of the Russians breathing down their neck, he knew not to ask any questions. And mother said not a word. Together, they continued walking; Shloima squelching in his soggy boots, leaving a trail of dripping snow in his wake.


The wooden doors of the school slammed shut behind them. Hundreds of boys sat at the old wooden tables, arms folded, their eyes expressing what their emotionless faces could not. 

The guards at the door identified each boy coming into the classrooms. “Enter! Enter! Enter!” they barked endlessly. And then they noticed Shloima: Dripping from head to toe, his teeth chattering and lips blue from cold. Taking one look at him, they shouted, “Oh my! How did he fall like that?! Take him home at once before he catches a terrible cold!”

Bubbe Chasha tried to reason with them, “But it’s a national test. Perhaps he should stay…” Yet they wouldn’t hear of it and demanded that Shloima return home.

So mother and son turned around and again walked together in silence. They expressed no joy, exchanged not a word.

When they arrived home, R’ Mendel was incredulous. “How did you muster the courage to push the boy into the cold, icy snow?!” 

“My father, R’ Shloima Raskin,” she responded, “was a simple chossid, what’s referred to in chassidic lexicon as a ‘chassidishe balabos’.” 

“Tishrei, 1928, was the last Tishrei that the [Frierdiker] Rebbe spent in Russia and many Chassidim risked their lives to spend this special month with the Rebbe in Leningrad.

“My father was among those who were too afraid to travel. Fear of the Russians was real. They followed one’s every move and surely those who spent time close to the Rebbe himself was placing his life in grave danger.

“Yet, my grandfather, R’ Bentzion Raskin, wouldn’t hear of it. He commanded his son to risk his life and travel to the Rebbe. And so he did; spending the month of Tishrei in Leningrad.

“Upon return, he was extremely weak, and my siblings and I begged him to share something from what he experienced with the Rebbe. ‘I have nothing to share,’ he replied weakly. ‘It was incredibly packed, there was unbelievable pushing and I hardly heard anything. The little bit that I did hear, I didn’t even understand!’

“Suddenly, we watched as he grabbed a Chumash and leaped onto the table like a young boy, dancing joyfully. ‘This is how I saw the Rebbe dance on Simchas Torah’ he recalled. ‘Oh yes, and I remember one more thing!’ my father continued as he danced around and around, the room reverberating with joy, ‘The Rebbe shouted: “When it comes to the education of children, one has to go to the point of mesiras nefesh (self-sacrifice)!’”

Bubba Chasha raised her voice as she continued, “In that split-second decision, as I pushed my son, who is named after my dear father, R’ Shloima, into the muddy, slushy, snow as we approached the school building, it was this joyful dance and these words that flashed before my eyes – that to educate our precious children, one must go to the point of mesiras nefesh.”

In keeping in line with the Rabbonim's policies for websites, we do not allow comments. However, our Rabbonim have approved of including input on articles of substance (Torah, history, memories etc.)

We appreciate your feedback. If you have any additional information to contribute to this article, it will be added below.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

advertise package