In 1914, World War I had just begun and 20 million Russian soldiers were on the battlefield, falling like straw before the wind. Like most religious Jews, young Breslovers did their utmost to avoid the army, not only because of the dangers but also because of rampant anti-Semitism in the ranks.
In Uman, many attempted to hide in the kloyz (Breslov synagogue), but it was hardly necessary since the authorities turned a blind eye on them. There was one sharp-eyed policeman in particular who could easily have made life difficult for them, but knowing that the authorities considered them “poor material,” he ignored them. They would venture out to make purchases and bake bread, walking Uman’s streets without fear.
Reb Shmuel Aizik Rosenfeld had a tall, strong, good-looking son named Moshe Ber. When this policeman saw him, he was very upset. He told the Breslovers, “There is a young man hiding with you that the army really does want. We want him, and we will have him.”
The police broke into the kloyz at night, rushing to where Moshe Ber slept, but at the last instant the lad jumped up and fled. He was very fast and quickly outran the soldiers, but he lived in constant fear. A deserter was a true fugitive, and could be shot by anyone who recognized him, no questions asked.
When he approached Reb Levi Yitzchok Bender for advice, the sage said, “Although I can’t help you, go to God. He is your only hope.”
The teen would hide in various places and beg Hashem for help, crying a river of tears every day. Eventually it became impossible for him to remain in Uman and he fled to Demitrivka near Tcherin. He hid in an underground crevice, trembling with fear and uncertainty.
He once shared his pain with Reb Levi Yitzchok. “Will I ever be a person? Will I have a family? Will this persecution ever end?” But he made it through the war and lived to see children and grandchildren.
Reb Levi Yitzchok would say after telling his story, “We see the power of tears. Never give up! Shed tears and hold on. God helps!”
Based on Noam Siach II, pp. 109-121