by Rabbi Avi Shafran
Rosh Chodesh Adar Sheni fell this year on March 5. We are, of
course, enjoined by Chazal to "increase happiness" in Adar,
the month of Purim, when we celebrate and express our
gratitude to Hakodosh Boruch Hu for delivering the
Jews in ancient Persia from their enemies.
This year, March 5 brought us an early Purim present. It
wasn't food, but it was definitely food for thought.
The previous day was the fiftieth anniversary in the
Gregorian calendar of the death of Iosef Vissarionovich
Dzugashvili, better known as Joseph Stalin. A new book on the
Soviet dictator and mass murderer, Stalin's Last
Crime, is set to be published shortly, and it was on the
5th that The New York Times ran a lengthy article
about the book, including its suggestion that Stalin may have
been poisoned. The Soviet leader had collapsed after an all-
night dinner with four members of his Politburo at Blizhnaya,
a north Moscow dacha, and languished for several days
before dying. If indeed he was done in, as the book's authors
suspect, the likely culprit, they say, was Lavrenti P. Beria,
the chief of the Soviet secret police.
The book also recounts the story of the infamous "Doctors'
Plot," a fabricated collusion by Kremlin doctors to kill top
"By the time Stalin disclosed the plot to a stunned Soviet
populace in January 1953," the article notes, "he had spun it
into a vast conspiracy, led by Jews under the United States'
secret direction, to kill him and destroy the Soviet Union
The article goes on to relate something less widely known.
"That February," it states, "the Kremlin ordered the
construction of four giant prison camps in Kazakhstan,
Siberia and the Arctic north, apparently in preparation for a
second great terror -- this time directed at the millions of
Soviet citizens of Jewish descent."
That terror, however, thankfully never unfolded. Two weeks
after the camps were ordered built, Stalin attended the
Blizhnaya dinner and, four days later, was dead at the age of
The gift we have been given this Adar is the knowledge of
what the killer of millions of his countrymen had apparently
planned for the Jews under his control. That he met his fate
(however that may have happened) poised to launch a post-
Holocaust holocaust of his own, is something we might well
add to our thoughts of gratitude at our Purim celebrations
this year, a half century later.
And we might note something else as well, especially during
this season of meaningful ironies, when Hashem's hand is
evident "between the lines" of history to all who are
sensitive enough to see it.
Stalin, according to his successor Nikita Khrushchev, who was
present at the dinner party, had apparently collapsed after
the feast, at which, Khrushchev also recounted, the dictator
had gotten thoroughly drunk. The feast ended in the early
hours of March 1.
Which, in 1953, corresponded to the 14th day of Adar.
AM ECHAD RESOURCES
[Rabbi Avi Shafran is director of public affairs for Agudah
Israel of America]
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