The Unfathomable Suffering and Strength of the Sassover Rebbetzin A”H

The Unfathomable Suffering and Strength of the Sassover Rebbetzin A”H

This Tisha b’Av I read one of the most incredible life stories I’ve ever encountered, the autobiography of the Sassover Rebbetzin “Forever in Faith” by Rebbetzin Bluma Teitelbaum a”H.

For years, the Sassover Rebbetzin didn’t share the unthinkable horrors she endured and witnessed during the 6 years of the Shoah. But one Tisha b’Av towards the end of her life the Rebbetzin began telling over her story.
The Sassover Rebbetzin was born Bluma Strom, the 5th of 9 children born in Poland in 1922. Her father was a leather dealer and a devout Chassid of the Stutchiner Rebbe. She describes with great nostalgia the warmth of her close-knit family as well as their miracle-working Rebbe.

And then the Nazi beasts invaded Poland. And her wonderful childhood became more insufferable than her worst nightmare.
She was the only member of her family to survive the Shoah. Her mother, father, and 8 siblings were all brutally murdered by the Nazis, along with almost all the Jews of their city, Tarnow.

But what I found most incredible about the Rebbetzin’s life story was not her mindboggling faith throughout the Shoah, but rather how, for the rest of her life, she responded to the unfathomable tragedies she had experienced during the Shoah as well as following it.
Bluma Strom was 23 when the war ended, and she felt a burning sense of mission. Many of her companions, fellow survivors, married soon after war. But Bluma waited for 4 long years. Here is how she explains why:
“Personally, during the years after the war, I conducted my own introspection.
“I had 8 dear brothers and sisters. I had been blessed with wonderful parents. Everyone had been taken, and I was the only one to survive.
“Why???
“Divine providence had chosen me to remain the only one from my beautiful family. I wasn’t the smartest or the best of them. Why had I been chosen to survive?! Why I had I been decreed to live?!”
“The ways of Hashem are concealed. What do we understand about Heavenly considerations?…
“But it would not be for naught…
“‘Mah Ashiv L’Hashem?!’ How can I repay Hashem?! I thought about this constantly during the day, and pondered it at night as I tried to sleep. I had to do something with my life! I had to find special significance for the precious life Hashem granted me. I had to fulfill my mission, my destiny…’
“I felt that I needed to build a true life of Torah. I wanted to dedicate my life to helping a ben Torah, a Torah scholar who would devote his days and nights only to the holy Torah.”
And that is how 27-year-old Bluma Strum came to marry the great Torah scholar Rabbi Mordechai Pogromansky almost 2 decades her elder. Following his marriage to Bluma, Rabbi Pogromansky was offered the position of Rosh Yeshiva of Ponovitch. But, alas, it was not to be. After losing her parents and 8 siblings, Bluma’s dear husband passed away at the age of 46; the funeral took place on her first anniversary.
Years later, the Rebbetzin’s son, the Sassov-Monsey Rebbe wrote: “It’s hard to fathom the depths of my mother’s pain in the face of this tragedy. She had no relatives, no one to turn to…
“An average person would have probably given up in despair after such a tragedy. But not Mother–absolutely not!
“She was driven by tremendous fortitude. She didn’t raise her hands in despair, because she was following her holy mission in life: doing the will of Hashem.”
After becoming a widow, Bluma moved to Israel. 5 years passed until she married again, to a fellow survivor and widower, the Sassover Rebbe. The Sassover Rebbe had been married for 30 years to his first wife, with whom he had not had any children.
Together the Sassover Rebbe and Bluma had 5 children. But, again, the Rebbetzin was struck by tragedy. After 8 years of marriage, the Sassover Rebbe fell seriously ill, and 2 years later he passed away at the age of 60.

Again, the Rebbetzin was tortured by the same question. Why had she survived when her parents, her siblings, and both of her beloved husbands had not.
And these are the words that comforted her, and gave her strength for the rest of her life, through the unimaginable grief she must have endured:
“The most burning of all questions, which accompanied me by day and tortured me at night, was why I had remained alive. ‘Everyone else went up On High like a pure sacrifice. and I was chosen to survive. Why?!’ It was a question I would often ask the Rebbe, my husband.
“‘You must understand,’ he explained to me, and I never tired of hearing his answer, ‘we see clearly that it was destined from Above that you specifically should become a mother, and raise Yosef Dovid, Henoch, Moishe’le, Shloime’le, and Esther…’
“His words were like a balm on my aching heart because that is the eternal answer.”
“It is the ruach hakodesh, the spirit of holiness, that calls to all the survivors of the camps, raises them from the ashes and the depths of suffering, with a comforting call: ‘Kein yirbeh, so should they multiply!
“May these words be a memory for those who perished sanctifying Hashem’s name, and may their souls be ensconced in eternal life.”
And may these words also be a memory for the Sassover Rebbetzin, who didn’t die sanctifying Hashem’s name, but rather sanctified Hashem’s name with her survival, with her very life.

5 comments

  1. Incredibly inspiring on many levels!

  2. Yocheved A

    “How can I repay Hashem?” This is the essence of greatness, and a life of fulfillment and understanding. She had every “normal” reason to be bitter, angry, and depressed, but she saw the truth behind the tragedy.

    May her memory be a blessing.

  3. So who is Rav Moshe Leib of Sassov?

  4. Sara Miriam Gross

    I’m so glad that you were inspired by Forever in Faith.
    It was a zechus to manage the production of that volume for Tfutza Publications – and a labor of love coming up with the title.

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