#555 (s5768-45 / 12 Tammuz 5768)

Devotion and Defiance

The Rebbe Rayatz replied in Yiddish: "Even those who arrest others may rest assured that their turn too will come."


The following is excerpted from the diary of the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe at the time of his arrest in Communist Russia

Devotion and Defiance


["HURRY INTO THE CAR!" shouted an agent of the GPU (the dreaded Soviet secret police, later called the NKVD, the MGB, and finally the KGB).

I replied in Yiddish: "That's one of the things which in Russia's current situation one can't miss.... Even those who arrest others may rest assured that their turn, too, will come. One mustn't hurry; no one is going to miss out!"]

I put on my coat, received farewell blessings from my revered mother, my wife, and my daughters Chanah, Chayah Mushka and Sheina, before I set out for the Spalerka [prison].
I then said goodbye to the household staff. Once the guards freed them from the kitchen, they were so shocked by what they heard and saw that they averted their gaze from me and looked at the floor, unable to return my greetings.

I kissed the mezuzah at the entrance to my home and sat down on a bench, while armed henchmen surrounded me from all sides in keeping with prison regulations.

One travel bag contained my [3 pair of] tefillin (of Rashi, Rabbeinu Tam and Shimusha Rabbah), my tallis, and a gartel; a Siddur, Tehillim and Tanya; as well as a change of clothes, a handkerchief, some food, Valerian, and a small pillow. This bag, marked with the initial letters Sh. Sh., was bought and used by my revered father for all his travels from the year 5673 [1913]. I was also given a blanket.

Not wanting to carry these things myself, I handed the bag to one of the guards. Lulav [of the Lulav family of Riga, and aide to the agent in charge, Nachmanson, who was a Jewish lad from Nevel whose father used to visit Lubavitch; he himself had gone to school in Nevel] sprang forward said: "Give it to me; I'll carry it. Chassidim remain chassidim! My grandfather carried parcels for your grandfather, and I want to carry your parcel."

Taking it from his hand I said: "Your grandfather was a chassid, so he had the good fortune to carry my grandfather's parcels wherever my grandfather went; you want to carry this parcel so that I should go (G-d forbid) where you want me to go. No, that cannot be! I'm not going to go your way. You're right: chassidim remain chassidim...!"

I returned the bag to the hands of the guard, kissed the mezuzah, and left, with armed guards surrounding me on all sides.

On the way down the stairs I could hear the entreaties of my family: "Let us accompany my son; ...my husband; ...our father!" As I reached the waiting vehicle in the courtyard I turned around and saw an armed guard barring their way. I called out aloud to Lulav: "Why don't the guards let them accompany me? Do you have permission to prevent that?"

My self-assured words made an impact. Lulav ordered the guard to leave, and allowed my family to walk together with me. I was even able to exchange a few words with my son-in-law, R. Shmaryahu Gourary.

The courtyard was quiet. There was no one to be seen apart from my family, the guards, and their officers, Nachmanson and Lulav.

"Here, at the entrance," said Nachmanson with a smirk, "you will have to kiss each other goodbye, as aristocrats are accustomed to do, because I will not allow you to go out into the street."

I turned to him: "For a high-ranking official who demands a signature to testify that he visited and searched the house with all due politeness and respect, it is inappropriate to prevent family members from accompanying someone dear to them."

"Go!" roared Nachmanson. "It seems that you can't yet get used to the idea that you are under arrest and have to take orders from your commander!"

"Who is the commander," I asked, "and what is the command? You can see that with all your tough words you are not going to intimidate me. I ask you again: Fulfill my family's request!"

He immediately stepped aside and we all went out to the street.

The van was surrounded by armed men. Inside sat a dignified foreign traveler of about forty, his face white as snow, his eyes filled with terror. An armed guard faced him.

I caught sight of the big clock in the window of the watchmaker's over the road, its face as white as the faces of my family. Its crow-black digits told me that it was 2:20 am [Wednesday, 15 Sivan, 5687 (1927)].

In the course of the last two hours and ten minutes, I thought, how much pain, fear and distress had my family undergone! And the cause? - A false libel; an informer; and my efforts for the preservation of Judaism, of Torah study!

After we had stood together for a few moments, one of the guards helped me up and I took the seat in the rear that I had been shown. Nachmanson sat next to the driver. Lulav sat in the back seat facing me. He held his revolver in hand, no doubt in keeping with prison regulations.

"Be well," I called out to my family, "and keep your spirits strong! May G-d grant that we all meet soon in good health!"

And off we drove.
[Excerpted from A Prince in Prison (part I, section 12) by Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn of Lubavitch. Translated by Uri Kaploun.]

Biographical Note:
Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn (12 Tammuz 1880-10 Shvat 1950), known as the Rebbe Rayatz, was the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, from 1920 to 1950. He established a network of Jewish educational institutions and Chassidim that was the single most significant factor for the preservation of Judaism during the dread reign of the communist Soviets. In 1940 he moved to the USA, established Chabad world-wide headquarters in Brooklyn and launched the global campaign to renew and spread Judaism in all languages and in every corner of the world, the campaign continued and expanded so remarkably successfully by his son-in-law and successor, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson

Yerachmiel Tilles is co-founder and associate director of Ascent-of-Safed, and editor of Ascent Quarterly and the AscentOfSafed.com and KabbalaOnline.org websites. He has hundreds of published stories to his credit, and many have been translated into other languages.

A 48 page soft-covered booklet containing eleven of his most popular stories may be ordered on our store site.

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