Chassidic Story #216

(s5762-12 /posted date19 Kislev 5762)
Said Rabbi Pinchas Teitz: "To cooperate with the Lubavitcher Rebbe to deliver basic Jewish necessities to
the deprived Jews of Russia is one matter, but to ..."


The Astonished Messenger

[Yud-Tes Kislev is also the anniversary of the publication of Tanya, over two hundred years ago.]

Rabbi Pinchas Teitz of Elizabeth NJ made twenty-two trips to Russia in the 60's, 70's and 80's. Even in the heyday of the Communist empire and the secret police, he managed to secure permission for his visits. He had good contacts in the government and they trusted him. Nevertheless, he was often able to utilize his visits to secretly smuggle in important Jewish paraphernalia, such as tefillin and prayerbooks, for the benefit of the oppressed Jews of the USSR.

Although Rabbi Teitz was born, raised and educated in Lithuania and its yeshivas, without any connection to the Chasidic movement. But noone could be involved in Jewish life in the Soviet Union in those days and not laud the activities of the Chabad Chassidim who had dedicated their lives for the preservation of Torah Judaism there. Thus, many times he merited to bring objects from the Lubavitcher Rebbe to his Chassidim in Russia, and vice versa.

One summer, when he was preparing for another trip, a representative of the Rebbe showed up at his house, bringing him a package of siddurim, chumashim and several pairs of tefillin. This was no surprise; he was already used to and even expected the arrival of an emissary and the usual package.

But this time the messenger from the Rebbe also took out a small-sized volume of Tanya, the foundation book of Chabad teachings, and handed it to the Rabbi. He explained that the Rebbe asked that Rabbi Teitz take it and carry it with him while in Russia, but didn't say who to give it to.

"I was astonished," related Rabbi Tetz afterwards. "To cooperate with the Rebbe to deliver basic Jewish necessities to the deprived Jews of Russia was one matter, but to go with a copy of Tanya in my luggage? To Russia? It seemed unnecessarily dangerous. The KGB knows very well what is a Tanya. What plausible explanation could I give if it were detected?"

In the end, he decided to take it. If the Rebbe was making such an unusual request of him, he must have a good reason.

On the third day of his stay in Moscow, in the evening, while he was walking back to his hotel from the Great Synagogue after the Evening Prayer, two young men suddenly approached him as he passed through a dark side street. They took him by the arms and forced him to quickly go into a nearby parked car. The Rabbi was taken by surprise and of course frightened. Were they the KGB? Was this a kidnapping?

His fears were soon dissipated, however as his two 'snatchers' turned out to be local Chabad Chassidim. They apologized for the rough treatment, explaining that this was the only means by which they could possibly bring him to a safe house to talk to them without arousing suspicion, and they needed to discuss with him matters of emergency.

Only after they were safely in the house, did the two introduce themselves. They said they had investigated and discovered that he could be trusted, and what they wanted of him was that he should deliver a message to the Lubavitcher Rebbe for each of them. They had major life decisions to make for which they needed the Rebbe's input, and they couldn't wait for an official emissary.

The older one had recently found out that the KGB was actively pursuing him, so he wanted to know if the Rebbe thought he should flee Moscow and move to another city, or should he remain despite the obvious danger in order to maintain and further his important educational activities in the Jewish underground, which the Rebbe already knew about.

The second, the younger, wanted the Rebbe's advice whether he should apply for an emigration visa to Israel. Recently, a number of such requests had been approved. On the other hand, he currently held an excellent position as a top engineer, and as soon as he would submit his application he would be fired from his job, and if the request was refused, he would be left without any means of support.

Rabbi Teitz was very moved by this encounter, and by the fiery dedication of the two Chassidim. He promised to commit to memory their names, their mothers' names and their questions to tell the Rebbe, because it would be much too dangerous to write them down and have such a paper in his possession.

After this, the three men relaxed and engaged in conversation, marveling at the differences between their lives. The Rabbi happened to mention that soon before his departure from home, the Rebbe had given him a copy of Tanya to keep with him on the trip, but without explaining what should be done with it.

The eyes of the two Chassidim opened wide. "Do you mean to say that you have this Tanya from the Rebbe in your possession? Now? Here?" they exclaimed enthusiastically.

Rabbi Teitz silently took the Tanya from his coat pocket and showed it to them. They grabbed it from him and eagerly examined it from all sides and angles. Their increasing excitement was palpable. Clearly they were overjoyed to be holding a book that less than a week ago had been in the Rebbe's own holy hands.

However, it turned out there was more to it than that. While fondling the book, one of them shouted out in amazement. Too excited to speak, he pointed to what their intense scrutiny had uncovered: a page had been slightly crimped by folding down the top corner, as a person sometimes does in place of a bookmark.

They opened to the page (kuf-samech-beit in the standard edition**), and were awestruck by the very first words!

** (P.630 in the bilingual edition - near the end of the fifth and last book)

he is extremely pressed for time and finds it utterly impossible to delay

"That's it! That's my answer from the Rebbe!" cried out the older chassid, visibly shaking with emotion. The Rebbe is telling me to hurry and escape from here."

The younger chassid quickly picked up the book and eagerly examined it even more closely, hoping to find another crimped page. And there was one! Again they were overwhelmed. This time (lamed-chet in the standard edition**) it only took two words!

**(P.134 in the bilingual - near the end of ch. 29 in the 1st book)

l'heekaneis l'aretz… - to enter the Land

"That's the answer for me!" he shouted excitedly. "I should apply to make aliyah to the Holy Land now."

The two pleaded with Rabbi Teitz to allow them to keep the book. He refused, saying that the Rebbe had instructed him to carry it with him, but had said nothing about giving it to anyone.

"To this day," related Rabbi Teitz to Aharon-Dov Halperin, the editor of Kfar Chabad magazine, in the course of an interview, "whenever I study something from this volume, or even happen to glance upon it, I recall this extraordinary episode and get excited all over again."

Rabbi Teitz warned the editor not to publish the story, so as to not damage the Rabbi's relationships with his valuable contacts in Russia and the government's trust in him. The editor transcribed the story in its entirety and submitted it to the Lubavitcher Rebbe on 17 Av, 1984. He received a reply that same day:

"I am pleased to receive this, but absolutely do not publicize it in any form at this time."

For over a decade the story was suppressed, but when Rabbi Teitz passed on to his Heavenly award in the final weeks of 1995, it quickly found its way into print.

[Translated and adapted by Yrachmiel Tilles from from V'rabim Hashiv M'avon and Sichat HaShavua #471. You may pass on this email rendition to whomever you wish as long as you give full credit, including Ascent's email and internet addresses, but PLEASE DO NOT PUBLISH THIS STORY IN PRINT OR ELECTRONIC FORM WITHOUT EXPLICIT PERMISSION.]

Biographical notes:
The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson (11 Nissan 1902 - 3 Tammuz 1994), became the seventh Rebbe of the Chabad dynasty on 10 Shvat 1950. He is widely acknowledged as the greatest Jewish leader of the second half of the 20th century. Although a dominant scholar in both the revealed and hidden aspects of Torah and fluent in many languages and scientific subjects, the Rebbe is best known for his extraordinary love and concern for every Jew on the planet. His emissaries around the globe dedicated to strengthening Judaism number in the thousands. Hundreds of volumes of his teachings have been printed, as well as dozens of English renditions.

Rabbi Mordechai-Pinchas Teitz [1909?-1995] was the well-respected, innovative leader of the Jewish community in Elizabeth NJ for many decades. A scholar, educator, early pioneer in the use of modern technology to teach Torah, and tireless behind-the-scenes activist on behalf of Russian Jewry, a biography of him has recently been published by Ktav, titled "Learn Torah, Love Torah, Live Torah."

back to Top   back to Index   Stories home page

Redesign and implementation - By WEB-ACTION