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526: Balak

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Devarim Deutronomy

July 10, 1998 - 16 Tamuz 5758

526: Balak

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Published and copyright © by Lubavitch Youth Organization - Brooklyn, NY
The Weekly Publication For Every Jewish Person
Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.

  525: Chukat527: Pinchas  

Don't Put It Off  |  Living with the Rebbe  |  A Slice of Life  |  Rambam this week
The Rebbe Writes  |  What's New  |  A Word from the Director  |  Thoughts that Count
It Once Happened  |  Moshiach Matters

Don't Put It Off

A goal-oriented person, especially when lecturing a procrastinator, quotes the golden rule, "Don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today."

A procrastinator, however, will cite the principle, "Don't do today what you can put off until tomorrow. For tomorrow you might not need to do it anymore."

Although neither of these cliches is a perfect fit for the Jewish experience of this coming Shabbat and Sunday, if we had to choose one over the other to describe the 17th of Tamuz this year, we'd side with the procrastinator.

For, even though the 17th of Tamuz is traditionally a fast day and a day of mourning, this year it will be a day of joy and pleasure. How can this be? The 17th of Tamuz this year occurs on Shabbat, and thus, the fasting and mourning are pushed off until Sunday.

The 17th of Tamuz is the date nearly 2,000 years ago when the wall surrounding the holy city of Jerusalem was breached by the Roman army. This initial cracking and breaching of the wall allowed for the eventual destruction of the Holy Temple which took place three weeks later, on the 9th day of the Hebrew month of Av.

A discussion about what to do when the 9th of Av falls on Shabbat is recorded in the Talmud. The esteemed Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi ("the prince") opines that being that the fast is postponed until Sunday (for Shabbat is a day of pleasure and enjoyment, and we must not mourn or afflict ourselves on Shabbat), it should be altogether cancelled.

Although the ruling was ultimately decided according to a differing opinion, the concept of "If it's being put off until tomorrow, don't do it altogether" does have validity.

For certainly, when we consider that the sad three-week period inaugurated by the 17th of Tamuz (and concluded on the 9th of Av) is actually a preparatory stage for - and thus part of - the ultimate Redemption, there is the real hope that the Redemption will come before the postponed fast can be observed.

Jewish mysticism explains that although outwardly, the fasts associated with the destruction of the Holy Temple and the subsequent exile of the Jewish people from our land seems to be entirely negative, in fact, the essence of these fasts is positive, since they are entirely connected to the Redemption. For the whole purpose of the destruction of the Holy Temple and our people's exile is solely to reach the pinnacle of existence which will take place in the Era of Moshiach.

The 17th of Tamuz is the beginning of this ultimate era. It is when the cracks and crevices were first created in the wall.

Quoting a verse in Song of Songs, "Behold, he stands behind our wall, he looks in at the windows; he peers through the crevices," the Rebbe brings the opinion that this verse refers to Moshiach. The Rebbe then explains, "Moshiach is standing on the other side of a wall that is already cracked and crumbling... Moshiach is watching and waiting in anticipation: When are we finally going to finish off our sundry outstanding task, and complete the final sorting out that needs to be done to refine and elevate the world? If we do not see him," the Rebbe concludes, "it is because it is our wall that is standing in the way."

Celebrate Shabbat this week, for in general, Shabbat is a taste of the World to Come. And particularly this Shabbat of the 17th of Tamuz, which is essentially and intrinsically connected to the Redemption. And as we celebrate and delight in Shabbat, let's contemplate which spiritually refining and elevating tasks we need to do (that should not be pushed off to tomorrow!) so that our wall no longer obstructs Moshiach's presence but reveals him entirely.

Living with the Rebbe

Balak, the king of Moab, was an evil gentile, a terrible rasha. Our Rabbis tell us that he hated Jews more than any of our enemies. It is therefore surprising, at first glance, that an entire Torah portion goes by his name!

The Talmud cautions against naming children after evil individuals. "May the name of the wicked rot!" our Sages said. Why then would a portion of our holy Torah bear the name of such an evil person as Balak?

To explain:

The name of a particular Torah portion is indicative of its content. What does Balak contain? The prophecy of Bilaam, a prophecy that is replete with blessings for the Jewish people, and also alludes to the End of Days. We must therefore conclude that the name of Balak is somehow connected to these positive subjects.

The Torah provides us with a great deal of information in its narration of the story of Balak. We are told all of the pertinent events that led to the frustration of his evil plan: how he wanted to curse the Jewish people, how he hired Bilaam, and how his curses were transformed into blessings.

It follows that when Jews use the name of Balak in reference to the Torah portion, it has the same positive connotations. Thus not only is there no contradiction to our Sages' declaration "May the name of the wicked rot," but the mention of Balak in this context only serves to attest to his disgrace.

Balak's evil intentions were not just nullified, but his actions produced an actual increase of blessing for the Jewish people. By engaging Bilaam to curse them, Balak caused them to receive the most exalted of G-d's blessings.

Balak was the medium through which much genuine good was brought about. This is an additional reason why the Torah portion is immortalized by Balak's name.

And what is the connection to the End of Days of Galus?

When Moshiach comes and ushers in the Final Redemption, not only will the nations of the world cease their oppression of the Jewish people, but all the power and vast resources that were used to tyrannize them in the past will be directed toward helping Jews in their G-dly service.

This was exactly what happened to Balak. His evil plan was not only thwarted, but he himself brought advantage and benefit to the Jewish people. The name of the Torah portion thus alludes to the role of the gentile nations in the Messianic era, may it commence at once.

Adapted from Likutei Sichot, Volume 23

A Slice of Life

The Life of Rabbi Mordechai Schusterman A'H.

My zeide, Reb Mordechai Schusterman, of blessed memory, was a person of simple integrity, yet there was nothing simple about him. Besides being utterly devoted to Torah and mitzvot observance and embodying awe of G-d to the very core of his being, he was exemplary in his earnestness, honesty and sincerity.

My zeide was a Torah scholar. Even though he worked very hard as a printer of Jewish holy books, he always found time to study Torah. At the shiva for my zeide, a young man commented on my zeide's volumes of the Talmud which were torn, taped up and worn out. "I wish mine looked like that," he said. "Mine are so neat."

When my zeide retired in his seventies, he devoted all his time to learning and teaching. Every night he would teach Talmud and Chasidut in English in an evening yeshiva for married men with limited Jewish knowledge. He was like a father and mentor to his students, and many people sought out his advice and wisdom. He always went out of his way to make them comfortable.

A young couple with a growing family was among my grandparents' tenants in their house on President Street. Unlike many landlord- tenant relationships which are strained, theirs was beautiful. Once, late on a Thursday night, the tenant came to my zeide in a panic. In the middle of his wife's preparations for Shabbat the kitchen sink had sprung a leak and water was pouring all over the place. My zeide, who was very handy, told him not to worry. He turned off the water under the sink and told him, "I'll be back soon." A few minutes later he returned with another faucet and replaced the one that had worn out.

The next day when the neighbor was upstairs she noticed that her "worn out faucet" was on my zeide's sink with a rag soaking up the leak: My zeide had given the tenant his own faucet and was using the tenants' broken one. "Why did you do that ?!" the tenant exclaimed. "You shouldn't have." My zeide responded, "That's okay. You're an American. In America everything has to be just so; you need things to work. We come from Russia where a lot of things are broken down, so we are used to it."

My zeide had a broad knowledge of many areas of the Torah and a unique knowledge of Hebrew grammar. But his specialty was his expertise in reading the Torah. He read the Torah in the Rebbe's minyan in 770 every Shabbat for almost 39 years. His Torah reading was beautiful and virtually perfect. Rarely did he make a mistake, even one as simple as mistaking a bet for a vet, placing the accent on the wrong syllable or using the wrong cantillation. He cherished the holy words of the Torah as a diamond merchant values his gems. My zeide read the Torah for over 65 years and knew the entire Torah by heart.

Once, when my zeide had surgery, my father read the Torah for him in 770. Wanting to maintain his father's high standards, especially in the Rebbe's presence, my father practiced reading the Torah by my zeide's bedside in the hospital. Because my zeide was weak from the surgery, he would sometimes doze off during these sessions. But whenever my father made even the slightest mistake, my zeide would wake up immediately and say, "Repeat the last verse. I was sleeping, but there was something wrong." The Torah was so much a part of him that even the smallest mistake was like a screech that grated in his ears and woke him up.

During his last months, when he was very weak and growing progressively weaker, my zeide insisted on going to shul every day, even though it took a lot out of him. My zeide left a will for his family instructing them to do certain things (give charity, learn specific Mishnayot, etc.) were he to pass away before Moshiach's coming. Those who fulfill these requests "should be rewarded with a significant gift," he wrote. However, "The most important thing I instruct my children, my grandchildren and my great-grandchildren is az men zol nit blohzin fun zich" (that they not be pretentious).

I think that a most significant and meaningful part of my zeide's life was the way he passed away. It was in his own home, in the presence of those who loved him most, his wife, children and family.

We live in California; my father, who was in New York, phoned us after Shabbat and said that we should all come to New York on that night's flight, and we were by my zeide's bedside the next morning. My brothers, sisters and I each introduced ourselves. He nodded and acknowledged us and we stayed for a while and said Tehilim (Psalms).

Sunday evening, the close relatives gathered in my zeide's home. My bubbe and their children surrounded his bed and there was a minyan of men near his room. When my zeide's neshama (soul) was leaving his body they all proclaimed (exactly as we do on Yom Kippur after Neila) "Shema Yisrael" once; "Boruch Shem" three times; and "Hashem Hu HaElokim" seven times. Those who were there said that it was such a deep and meaningful moment they will never forget it as long as they live.

A doctor who was present later said, "I have been present at many passings, but never have I experienced one like this. It was as if his neshama was taken heavenward on a chariot of love."

My zeide most definitely fulfilled his mission in this world. May he be an advocate before G-d for all of us.

Reprinted from the N'Shei Chabad Newsletter

Rambam this week

Rambam for 19 Tamuz 5758

Positive mitzva 148: Releasing the mother bird when taking its nest By this injunction we are commanded to let the mother bird go [when taking its nest]. It is contained in the words (Deut. 22:7): "But you shall surely let the mother go, and the young you may take to yourself."

The Rebbe Writes

The Imprisonment of 1927 - Part I - [Riga]
Publisher's Foreword by the Rebbe Gimmel Tammuz 5712 (1952) Brooklyn, N.Y.


In honor of the forthcoming Festival of Liberation, Yud-Beis-Yud- Gimmel Tammuz, celebrating twenty-five years since the deliverance of my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe [Rayatz], whose soul is in the hidden realms on high, we are hereby publishing one of his maamarim of Chassidus, and a memorandum written by him, each in a separate booklet.

The maamar was written on Rosh Chodesh Tammuz, 5687 [1927], during his incarceration at Spalerno Prison. The memorandum, describing his imprisonment, was completed in Riga on 15 Sivan, 5688 [1928], the first anniversary of his arrest. It is introduced here by a letter (dated 17 Iyar, 5694 [1934]) in which the Rebbe [Rayatz] outlines his seven terms of imprisonment.

The significance of this celebration has already been explained in the letter which the Rebbe [Rayatz] wrote [also on 15 Sivan] in 5688 [1928] in anticipation of the first anniversary of Yud-Beis-Yud-Gimmel Tammuz.

In it he urges that these days be set aside as a time of farbrengen - "a day on which people arouse each other to buttress the Torah and Yiddishkeit in every place according to its needs." Moreover, he blesses "all our brethren who love the Torah and who study and teach it - that G-d open wide His goodly treasure-store and bestow upon them and upon all our fellow Jews life and blessings in endless abundance; that He fortify their hearts with growing resoluteness in the dissemination of Torah and in the upholding of Yiddishkeit."

He concludes: "And may we all be found worthy of seeing children and grandchildren engaging in Torah and in mitzvos and being blessed with ample livelihoods."

May G-d fulfill the blessings of a tzaddik, the Nasi of our generation, in full.

Menachem Schneerson

A Letter of the Rebbe Rayatz On His Seven Terms of Imprisonment 17 Iyar 5694 (1934)

In reply to your question about my imprisonment and my subsequent exile in Kostrama: Though everything is recorded in my notes, for various reasons the only things that may be revealed are a number of excerpts and general impressions that will be offensive to no one.

The imprisonment in 5687 [1927] was the seventh, because I was imprisoned five times under the old [i.e., czarist] regime, and twice under the new [i.e., communist] regime.

The first imprisonment took place in Lubavitch when I was eleven years old. At that time, following the advice and directive of my teacher, R. Nissan, I began (in 5652 [1892]) to record my recollections in a book. This incident, too, was recorded there, in 5653 [1893].

The second imprisonment took place in Lubavitch in Iyar, 5662 [1902]. The informers to the authorities were the teachers of the school that had been founded in Lubavitch by the Society for the Dissemination of the Haskalah (the "Enlightenment").

The third imprisonment, also in Lubavitch, in Teves, 5666 [1906], resulted from the participation of members of the [secular] Poalei Tzion Party in an uprising against the local police.

The fourth imprisonment took place in Petrograd in Teves, 5670 [1910]; the informer in this case was an educated Jew called K.

The fifth imprisonment, also in Petrograd, in Shvat, 5676 [1916], resulted from my efforts to obtain legal information concerning military exemptions for people serving in rabbinical positions.

The sixth imprisonment, in Rostov on the River Don, in Tammuz, 5680 [1920], followed my denunciation to the authorities by D., the head of the local Yevsektsia.

Each of the above arrests, however, resulted in imprisonment for a number of hours. The seventh was somewhat weightier.

Normally, an analogy is less earnest than its analog. Consider, then: If imprisoning a body in a jail of wood and stone is called suffering, then how intense must be the suffering of the Divine soul when it is imprisoned in the body and the animal soul. This is something worth thinking about deeply.

I will not deny that from time to time the seventh imprisonment brings me particular pleasure. As witness: Even now, some seven years after the event, I occasionally set aside time to spend alone - to picture in my mind's eye the sounds and words, the sights and the dreams, that I heard, saw and dreamed in those days.

A lifetime spans a certain number of changing stages - childhood, boyhood, youth, young adulthood, adulthood, advancing years, and old age. People also vary in their gifts - whether common and mediocre or wonderfully luminous; likewise in their natures - for example, whether bashful and morose, or jolly and exuberant. But apart from all these variables, in the course of a lifetime Divine Providence engineers particular periods which sometimes change a man's very nature. They develop his gifts and set him up at a particular height, so that he can gaze upon the ultimate purpose for which a man lives his life on the face of the earth.

Above all, a man's personality and gifts are most intensely escalated by a period rich in suffering which is inflicted on account of his vigorous endeavors for an ideal. This is particularly so if he struggles and battles with his pursuers and persecutors for the sake of preserving and advancing his religious faith.

Such a period, though fraught with affliction of the body and suffering of the spirit, is rich in powerful impressions. Such days are the luminous days in a man's life.

Every single incident in such a period is significant. In particular, if imprisonment is involved, the resultant spiritual benefit is so great that it warrants the recording not only of days and nights but even of hours and minutes. For every hour and minute of torment gives rise to inestimable benefits: it makes a man so resolute that even a weakling is transformed into the most courageous of men.

My arrest began at 2:15 a.m. on Wednesday, 15 Sivan, 5687 [1927], and continued until 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, 3 Tammuz, 5687 [1927], in Leningrad (Petersburg).

After these eighteen days, eleven hours and fifteen minutes, I spent approximately six hours in my home, and at 7:30 p.m. took the train to Kostrama. I arrived there on Monday, 4 Tammuz, and remained in exile until 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday, 13 Tammuz, for a total of nine days and seventeen hours.

Finally, in response to your request, I am now sending you selections from my notes concerning the respective terms of imprisonment.

The rest of this is available in book format from Sichos In English. The name of the book is: A Prince in Prison - The Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe's Account of His Incarceration in Stalinist Russia in 1927 Write to: or see -

What's New


Congregation Beth Menachem recently dedicated its first Torah scroll during a ceremony at the Weston Hills Country Club in Florida. The congregation had been borrowing a Torah from New York. When congregants Hyman Victor and Renee Cohen found out that the Torah was on loan, they spearheaded a campaign for the writing of a new Torah scroll. Rabbi Yisroel Spalter, leader of the congregation and director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Weston, sees the new Torah as a sign of the strength of Weston's Jewish community. For info about the congregation or other Chabad-Lubavitch activities call (954) 349-6565.

A new Torah scroll was recently dedicated to the Jewish children of Hong Kong. The Torah was dedicated in memory of Antony and Laurian Greenstein's daughter Rafaela by friends of the family and members of the Hong Kong Jewish community. The final letters of the Torah scroll were completed at the Jewish Community Centre. The Torah was then brought to its temporary home at the Chabad Shul in the Furama Hotel, where it was greeted with a chupa and marching band. The Torah's permanent home will be at Hong Kong's Carmel School. For more info on Chabad-Lubavitch of Hong Kong call (852) 2523-9770.

A Word from the Director

This Shabbat is the Seventeenth of Tamuz, when the ancient city of Jerusalem was assaulted by invading gentiles. Twenty-one days later, on the Ninth of Av (Tisha B'Av), the Holy Temple was set afire and razed.

The fact that this interval on the Jewish calendar is known as the "Three Weeks" and not the "Twenty-One Days" is not incidental. The number three alludes to the inner significance and function of the Three Weeks as a period of preparation for the Third Holy Temple.

On a superficial level the Three Weeks are a sad time, a period of mourning for the destruction of the Temple and the beginning of the Jewish people's current exile. But on a deeper level they contain a hidden good. Why? Everything that happens in the world is directed by G-d. G-d is the essence of good, and everything He does is good, even if it doesn't appear that way at first. Having come directly from G-d, there is no other possibility.

Accordingly, the Three Weeks, although superficially associated with sadness, contain a positive meaning: At the exact moment when the Second Holy Temple was destroyed, the Third and eternal Holy Temple was constructed up in heaven! In this light the entire destruction can be seen as nothing but a preparatory stage in the Redemptive process, a necessary step toward the Final Redemption with Moshiach, at which time the concept of exile will no longer exist.

At present, the good contained within the Three Weeks remains hidden. But reflecting upon its true, inner meaning hastens the day when its inner goodness will be revealed, when the Temple will be reestablished.

Let us therefore accustom ourselves to seeing the hidden good that exists in all things, thereby meriting the ultimate revelation of inner goodness with the arrival of our Righteous Moshiach.

Thoughts that Count

And G-d opened the mouth of the donkey (Num. 22:28)

"Don't think too highly of yourself for being a prophet," G-d was rebuking Bilaam. "Look, even a donkey can speak if I so decree. Like the donkey, the only reason you have been granted prophecy is that it will ultimately bring benefit to the Jewish people."

(Kli Yakar)

Who can count the dust of Jacob (Num. 23:10)

Why are Jews likened to the dust of the earth? As the Baal Shem Tov explained, in the same way that the earth contains vast underground treasures and natural resources, so too does every Jew contain an immeasurable wealth of faith, love and awe of G-d - if only one digs deep enough...

(Keter Shem Tov, Hosafot)

He has not beheld any wrong in Jacob (Num. 23:21)

Whenever a Jew does a mitzva, he creates a "good" angel; whenever he transgresses, a "bad" angel is formed. Commented Rabbi Zushe of Anipoli: "Never have I seen a complete, unblemished angel that was created by the sin of a believing Jew. These 'bad' angels are always missing a limb: this one its head, that one an arm. For as soon as the Jew sighs in remorse, it cripples the accusing angels and maims them..."

(Otzar HaChasidut)

There shall come a star out of Jacob (Num. 24:17)

Nachmanides (the Ramban) interprets this verse as an allusion to Moshiach; according to the Jerusalem Talmud, it refers to every Jew. However, this is in no way contradictory. Every Jewish soul contains a "spark" of Moshiach. It is the individual's function to bring that spark out of concealment, as preparation for the revelation of Moshiach in the world at large.

(Likutei Sichot)

It Once Happened

The 12th of Tamuz is the anniversary of the Previous Rebbe's release from Communist imprisonment. What follows are excerpts from the book Likutei Diburim, authored by the Previous Rebbe, concerning his incarceration.

A lifetime spans a certain number of changing stages-childhood, boyhood, youth, young adulthood, adulthood, advancing years, and old age. People also vary in their gifts - whether common and mediocre or wonderfully luminous; likewise in their natures - for example, whether bashful and morose, or jolly and exuberant. But apart from all these variables, in the course of a lifetime Divine Providence engineers particular periods which sometimes change a man's very nature. They develop his gifts and set him up at a particular height, so that he can gaze upon the ultimate purpose for which a man lives his life on the face of the earth.

Above all, a man's personality and gifts are most intensely escalated by a period rich in suffering which is inflicted on account of his vigorous endeavors for an ideal. This is particularly so if he struggles and battles with his pursuers and persecutors for the sake of preserving and advancing his religious faith.

Such a period, though fraught with affliction of the body and suffering of the spirit, is rich in powerful impressions. Such days are the luminous days in a man's life.

Every single incident in such a period is significant. In particular, if imprisonment is involved, the resultant spiritual benefit is so great that it warrants the recording not only of days and nights but even of hours and minutes. For every hour and minute of torment gives rise to inestimable benefits: it makes a man so resolute that even a weakling is transformed into the most courageous of men.

A few minutes after midnight, weary and fatigued, I washed my hands in preparation for the evening meal together with my family. Before ten minutes had passed the doorbell rang noisily. The door opened and two men rushed into the dining room, shouting: "We were sent by the administration of the GPU. Who is Schneersohn? Where is he?"

I answered coolly and clearly: "I don't know which Schneersohn you are looking for. If you come to a man's home you no doubt already know who lives there. So there's no need for all the threatening noise. Say what you have to say, what you want and whom you want. Besides, the official in charge of the courtyard is with you, and he knows all the residents by sight, So why shout?"

Their spokesman responded: "I'm not shouting; that's just the way I talk. It looks like you're not yet familiar with the ways of officers dispatched by the GPU. Show us all the ins and outs of your home so that we'll be able to watch it as the law prescribes. You, as head of the family, will accompany us to observe our search through the house."

"True," I replied, "I don't know the ways of your administration's officers, nor do I want to know them. It is clear to me that you have either made a mistake, or else there is an intentional libel. It's all the same to me. As to the officers of the said administration, I have not feared them, I do not fear them, and I shall not fear them. And as to the ins and outs of my home, the man in charge of the courtyard can show you around. My home is in your hands: you can search and probe according to your desires, or according to the law of which you speak. At any rate, I am sure that you will not disturb me at the supper table."

This cool and unimpressed response - or, more precisely, the naive scornfulness of a Lubavitcher citizen - left a deep imprint even on those rocklike men. Their wings drooped for a moment; they looked at me in astonishment; the house fell silent.

A couple of minutes passed before Nachmanson spoke up. He was a Jewish lad from Nevel whose father used to visit Lubavitch; he himself had gone to school in Nevel. He gave the armed men their orders: "Go out and stand guard at the doors. If anyone wants to enter, open wide. If people want to move about, even from room to room, or even to talk with each other, don't let them! You've been warned!"

He turned to Lulav, his aide, one of the Lulav family of Riga, and added: "Let's get down to work." To me he added: "We won't disturb you from eating - if you're able to eat ..."

With that, he posted one of the armed guards in the dining room to police his orders.

They began their search in the room of my daughters...and asked them: "What party do you belong to?"

"We belong to our father's party," they replied, "We are non-partisan daughters of Israel. We are fond of the old ways of our Patriarch Israel, and detest the new aspirations."

We heard Nachmanson's demand: "But why?"

My daughter Sheine answered: "Why? I'm not obliged to answer that question. You asked for my views and I answered you, but as to the question 'Why?,' I'm not obliged to reply nor to give reasons. After all, you didn't come here to rummage through all my notes and letters just for the sake of conducting a discussion! What we have now, we are telling you, irrespective of whether it makes you happy or not."

"You should really take into account our power and our opinions," Nachmanson warned. "The GPU administration which we represent can open even a dumb mouth, and make it talk about whatever is hidden under the heart. Our interrogators are remarkable craftsmen: people tell them everything. Over there there's no saying 'no'; over there people talk, sometimes willingly and sometimes not; over there everything melts; even a stone will become talkative."

"That's the whole calamity," replied my daughter. "People want to take everything by brute force. What a repulsive and unjustifiable thing it is to take hold of men with minds and opinions by the might of a fist and by the threat of a revolver!"

I cannot deny that I found it pleasing to hear the way she spoke so sensibly, in such a decisive voice, and with such cool-headed (though simulated) calm. At the same time, however, I was anxious lest this Nachmanson, who boasted so loudly about his power and violence, should have her punished by a prison sentence.

They spent about an hour and a half ransacking every room, but this did not appear to be their real purpose. Next, they wrote up a document and handed it to me to sign. It stated that they had searched the house, that I testified that all the laws governing such a search had been observed, and that I had been informed that I was under arrest.

I explained that I could not sign that everything had been according to the law when the whole notion of a house search appeared to me to be questionable. Everyone, I explained, knew the identity of Rabbi Schneersohn and his activities. It was clear to me that here was a case either of a mistake or a libel; I could not sign and give my assent to either.

I continued: "As to your desire to arrest me, it appears that the requests of my family here are to no avail - but I too have something to say about your desire.

"Whether this is a mistake or a libel, it will be clarified in a day or two. Everyone knows who I am and what I do. I have not hidden myself away. I live in one of the largest cities in the country; my home is in the center of town; I have a synagogue; and I deliver discourses on Chassidus on Sabbaths and festivals.

"From this you see that I am not in hiding. It would appear to me that such an arrest would arouse undesirable publicity. I think it would be preferable to wait with the arrest until you can establish the truth - that is, if the truth interests you. If, instead, you intend to becloud the mistake or the libel with layers of untruth, it is clear to me that you will regret it. You are capable of doing anything - but you will not arrest Schneersohn with ropes of libelous deception!"

Nachmanson interrupted me: "The administration of the GPU is responsible for its own activities. It is not afraid of criticism from the surrounding world. When it issued the order to have you arrested it obviously had the necessary power. I am surprised that you speak as you do. At any rate: For your information, you are under arrest."

I replied: "But I do not understand why I was interrupted before I managed to express my request."

Nachmanson was losing patience: "If you have a request, then you're allowed to make it. That's a right that every prisoner has. But why are you talking so harshly? Don't you understand the situation? We didn't come here to make conversation! Nor did we come here to listen to the requests of your daughters or the rest of your family! As to you," - he turned in anger to my daughters - "get out of here! Just talk one minute more and you're all arrested!"

He held up his revolver and said: "With this I'll talk to you, and then you'll give up your pretty phrases!"

My daughter Chanah spoke up: "We speak the language spoken by those who at all times have been human. We don't speak the language of those who have just come up out of the mire, who are unable to speak honestly, and who are interested only in pointing revolvers and making threats of imprisonment. Leave our father alone! Don't take away the apple of our eye!

My sisters and I will happily go to jail in his place. He is weak, and his doctor doesn't allow him to go outside. Bring a doctor to examine him and establish whether he can be taken to jail. Take us, and leave a guard here until the doctor decides that our father can go out. You are human beings, too, aren't you? Surely you, too, have what the world calls feelings? Surely you, too, have what the world calls decency?" And she burst into tears.

Smiling, I explained to my wife and daughters: "Only wishful thinking could imagine that tears and pleas could help. There's nothing in common between a cruel gentile and pleas." I addressed Nachmanson in a voice of authority: "Why did you not let me finish talking? All your threats and your moral explanations about how people should talk you can tell me in jail. Here, you have to hear what I have to say. I am still within the walls of my home, and I want it all to be heard by my family, by reliable witnesses whose testimony you will not be able to refute."

"Your words," said Nachmanson, "smack of poison. So you don't like the laws of the new regime? Well, we'll have time to talk about that.... Now, say whatever you have to say so that it will be heard by your family, by reliable witnesses whose testimony we will not be able to refute." And he winked at Lulav and the three armed men who were there at the time. It was my turn to speak: "I demand that I be given permission to put on tefillin and to pray, and if the law allows it, that my food be brought to me by no one apart from members of my family."

"You're asking for permission to pray?" said Nachmanson. "I'm telling you that you can take along your tefillin, as well as books, and pencil and paper. I promise you faithfully that no one will disturb you from praying, or reading and writing. You'll be back here today. When you arrive there, the officer in charge will be waiting for you. He'll ask you a few questions and you'll be able to return to your home."

At that moment, when all the talking was over, and they were simply waiting for the vehicle that was to take me to the new building of the Spalerno Prison, my revered mother walked in. Until this moment she had been in her room and had not known what was going on, because Nachmanson had ordered everyone to move quietly so that she should not be woken. I do not know how she found out, but at this point she walked in and discovered the uninvited guests.

"What is this?" she exclaimed, and clapped her hands together in consternation. "Why did they come? Would they force their hands even on innocent people like you, my son, who work for the good of others?!"

Quickly sizing up the situation, she declared boldly: "No, my soul's precious one! I will not let them take you away. I will go instead of you." She addressed herself to Nachmanson. "Take me!" she pleaded. "Don't disturb the repose of my only son, who is always responsive to the distress of others. Do you judge even honest men so harshly? No, no! Not arrest!" She sobbed bitterly: "My husband! They're taking our son Yosef Yitzchak!

They're taking your only son, who sacrifices his very life to do good! Your only son, who fulfills your instructions with self-sacrifice! Brigands have come, murderers of an upright soul - and for what? Holy forebears: They want to extinguish your lamp! My son: Come what may, I won't let the m take you away!"

Nachmanson now turned to me: "Please be so kind as to calm her down. Take her to her room. It's not my fault that she is so upset. We were quiet enough; we didn't want to disturb her rest. Just talk to her gently." At that moment it appeared to me that even in the depths of evil there is an ingredient of good. Words of this kind sounded incongruous when mouthed by a cruel individual whose hands were stained with human blood. This man of rock, I mused, does he too have a heart? Does he, too, have a sense of decency? Does he, too, have a conscience? Can he, too, feel compassion? Can it be that he realizes that the sobbing woman standing before him is the Lubavitcher Rebbitzin, whose good name is known far and wide? Can it even be that he feels a flutter of regret over the stroke of fortune by which he has come to be an official of the GPU...?

I accompanied my mother to her room, where I spoke of things which could not be discussed in the presence of our visitors. In fact they did not disturb me at all: they had gone out for a stroll, leaving behind only armed guards to wait for the van.

The rest of this is available in book format from Sichos In English. The name of the book is: A Prince in Prison - The Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe's Account of His Incarceration in Stalinist Russia in 1927 Write to: or see -

Moshiach Matters

On an obvious level, a fast day is undesirable. The suffering endured on a fast is surely not pleasurable, nor appreciated. Nevertheless, the inner dimension of a fast is good.

This concept is openly expressed in regard to the 17th of Tamuz. On an obvious level, it is associated with negative factors, the breaching of the wall of Jerusalem which led to the destruction of the Holy Temple. Nevertheless, its inner, essential quality is good.

This is even alluded to in the date itself, for 17 is numerically equivalent to the word "tov." This points to the intent of the exile, that it should lead the Jews to the Era of the Redemption.

(The Rebbe, 17 Tamuz, 5751-1991)

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