Who are the great revolutionaries of the twentieth century? Any well-informed person would probably begin with Lenin and Gandhi — and many familiar names would follow. Ilya Essas would probably not be on the list. But Ilya — now Eliyahu — Essas is one of this century’s greatest Jewish revolutionaries. Essas was a leader of the refuseniks, their teacher, their rosh yeshivah, the firebrand who gave them courage when the secret police were pounding on their doors. Trained as a brilliant mathematician and secretly taught by his parents to be a proud though silent Jew, Essas discovered the Torah in a musty corner of the Vilnius Academy library. From that moment, his life was changed. He became the spark plug and inspiration of the Russian teshuvah movement. He refused to live for himself. His life belonged to his students and the cause of his newfound Torah Judaism. Incredibly, he made himself an accomplished Torah scholar when it was a crime to teach Torah in the Soviet Union. Incredibly, he was ordained a rabbi. Incredibly, he developed of students who are themselves leaders of Jewish life, in Russia, Israel, and America. The Soviet Union of Essas’s dangerous struggle is gone — but the story is as important as ever. This book soars with the grandeur of the Jewish spirit; the vitality of Jewish roots that lay buried but not dead under the blood-soaked ice of Communist atheism for sixty years; the lush new growth of Jewish awareness; the success story of Eliyahu Essas and his valiant revolution. And if any Jew ever imbides the poison of despair, this book is its antidote.
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