|Defiance And Devotion|
Selected Chassidic Discourses
Dating From The Arrest And Liberation
Of The Sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe
Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, In 1927
Maamar Asarah SheYoshvim VeOskim BaTorah 5688 
Letter Sent By The Previous Rebbe For The 1st Celebration Of Yud-Beis Tammuz
Translated by Rabbi Eliyahu Touger • Edited by Uri Kaploun
Published and copyright © by Sichos In English
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[Soon after his release from imprisonment and exile, the Rebbe Rayatz moved to Riga, Latvia. A year later, though contact with his chassidim in Russia was problematic, he sent them the following letter, dated 15 Sivan, the anniversary of his arrest, together with the maamar which is reproduced below. On several occasions the Rebbe had these two documents reprinted and he often suggested that they be studied as part of the celebration of Yud-Beis-Yud-Gimmel Tammuz.]
By the Grace of G-d,
Sunday, 15 Sivan, 5688, Riga.
To our friends, the members of the chassidic brotherhood, and to all those who love the Torah and study it - wherever you may be: May G-d be with you.
Greetings and blessings:
Today marks the first day of my incarceration in the Spalerno Prison in Leningrad, in Section Six, Cell 160, during the night preceding the Wednesday of the week in which one reads the verse [in Parshas Shlach], "And now, let the strength of G-d be magnified" - on the fifteenth of the month of Sivan, 5687 . There I was maltreated until the Sunday preceding the Shabbos on which one reads the verse [in Parshas Balak], "How goodly are your tents, O Yaakov, and your dwelling-places, O Yisrael" - the third of the month of Tammuz. On that day I was forced to leave for a three-year exile in Kostrama.
It is clear to everyone that the imprisonment and exile were brought upon me by the calumnies of our brethren who hate us and despise us, by men who - in defiance of the laws of the land and its government - persecute those who observe the laws of Moshe and Israel.
These people could not bear to see how the rose of Yaakov flourished, as the study of the Torah was disseminated throughout the length and breadth of this land. They therefore trumped up false libels in order to bring about my downfall, and thereby (G-d forbid) to destroy the House of Yaakov.
But G-d's acts of kindness are never-ending, and the merit of our holy forefathers has not been exhausted - and will never be exhausted - in protection of those who walk in their paths. Thus it was that freedom was granted to me on the twelfth day of Tammuz, on the Tuesday preceding the Shabbos on which one reads the verse [in Parshas Pinchas], "I hereby grant him My covenant of peace."
It was not myself alone that the Holy One, blessed be He, redeemed on Yud-Beis Tammuz, but also those who love the Torah and observe its commands, and so too all those who merely bear the name "Jew" - for the heart of every man of Israel (irrespective of his particular level in the observance of the mitzvos) is perfectly bound with G-d and His Torah.
Today, the twelfth of the month of Tammuz, is the Festival of Liberation of all Jews who are involved in the dissemination of Torah knowledge, for on this day it became known and manifest to everyone that the great work in which I labored in the dissemination of the Torah and in the strengthening of the religion is permitted according to the law of the land, which grants freedom of worship to those who observe the [Jewish] religion as it does to all the citizens of this country.
This is the day on which the light of the merit of public Torah study banished the misty gloom of calumnies and libels. It is fitting that such a day be set aside as a day of farbrengen - a day on which people arouse each other to fortify Torah study and the practice of Yiddishkeit in every place according to its needs, a day on which to offer blessings to our brethren in Russia (who are suffering from such libelers and informers), that G-d strengthen their hearts and the hearts of their children so that they will remain faithful Jews, and never again be persecuted by the above-mentioned evildoers.
With the auspicious approach of the Festival of Liberation of all those who engage in the dissemination of Torah, I hereby offer my blessings to all our brethren who love the Torah and study it, and to all those who publicly teach the Torah: May G-d open up His goodly storehouse and grant them, together with all of our brethren of the House of Israel, abounding life and endless blessing; may He fortify their hearts so that they will courageously extend their dissemination of Torah knowledge and their buttressing of Yiddishkeit; and may we all be spared to see children and grandchildren engaging in Torah and mitzvos, free of care or want.
At the beginning of the year 5687 (1926) I made a request to the chassidic brotherhood - that every group of worshipers in the synagogues after Shacharis should make a regular practice of reading the daily allotment of Tehillim as apportioned throughout each month, and that this be followed by Kaddish, according to custom. This request still stands - for the public good. (Indeed, it would be proper to institute this practice in every shul, for it is not relevant to chassidim alone.) And by virtue of this reading, may all those concerned be blessed by the Source of Blessings with all manner of bounty both spiritual and material.
For all the members of our chassidic brotherhood I am enclosing the maamar which begins, Asarah SheYoshvim VeOskim BaTorah, Shechinah Sheruyah Beineihem. May our eyes witness the ascending glory of the Torah, of Israel, and of our brotherhood, and may we behold the goodly light.
Your unswerving friend, who seeks the welfare and success of yourselves and your children and grandchildren, and who blesses you all both materially and spiritually,
- (Back to text) [Bamidbar 14:17.]
- (Back to text) [Ibid. 24:5.]
- (Back to text) [Ibid. 25:12.]
- (Back to text) As the Rebbe points out, the term "bear the name" (Yechuneh) has a distinct technical meaning in Jewish law: a Kinui is a name other than one's given name, which is perhaps not widely used. Here this usage alludes to people estranged from their Jewish identities to the point that "Jew" is a name used by others and not by themselves. It is nevertheless appropriate, as is made clear by the continuation of the above sentence of the maamar.
- (Back to text) [The Rebbe appended the following note to the above letter by the Rebbe Rayatz:] "In order to clarify the chronology of events, we hereby reproduce a passage from the account of The Imprisonment and the Liberation of the Rebbe, my revered father-in-law, in 5687 (1927), written by a friend of the Rebbe's household - the esteemed and venerable chassid, R. Eliyahu Chayim ben R. Pinchas Todros Althaus (May G-d avenge his martyrdom!)."
The passage reads as follows: "From the beginning of that fateful year, 5687, a fearful dread overcame all those who felt close to the Rebbe, the House of our Life. The fear reached even the Rebbe himself, as my friend R. Michael Dvorkin and I heard explicitly from his holy mouth in Kostrama, the town to which the Rebbe was exiled [after his reprieve on Yud-Gimmel Tammuz]. These were his very words, letter by letter: 'Before 5687 I was very much afraid. It was not myself I was anxious about; I was thinking about the chassidim. I experienced great difficulty in finally issuing the directive that people should start reciting Tehillim.'
" 'When was the directive issued?' I asked.
" 'On Simchas Torah,' replied the Rebbe.
"I then recalled that on Simchas Torah that year, at the Kiddush that was held in the room of his mother, the Rebbitzin [Sterna Sarah], the Rebbe had repeatedly asked the members of the chassidic brotherhood to undertake (bli neder) to read the daily allotment of Tehillim according to the monthly cycle - in all the minyanim after Shacharis, with Kaddish following. I recall that I asked him if I would discharge my obligation by the Tehillim that I read every day before davenen.
"The Rebbe replied in these words: 'The Tehillim that one reads before [the morning's] davenen is connected to Tikkun Chatzos.'
"All in all, the talks of the Rebbe on that Simchas Torah were pervaded by a spirit of bitterness, coming from a contrite and shattered heart.
"I have no doubt that the well-known penciled note concerning the reading of Tehillim that we found in the Rebbe's study on the dread day of his imprisonment had also been written in Elul 5686 or in Tishrei 5687. This is my conclusion, because though it was undated, it concludes with his blessing for 'a happy year,' as people are accustomed to do either at the end of a year or at the beginning of the next.
"This is a copy of the note that was found on a high table in the Rebbe's study after he had been imprisoned on Wednesday, 15 Sivan 5687, in Leningrad: 'Chassidim, and all Jews who are waiting in hope for Mashiach: listen! Pass the word on in my name to all chassidim around the world - that I have directed that in all chassidic shuls, after Shacharis every day (including Shabbos), Tehillim should be read communally by the congregation according to the monthly cycle, and this reading should be followed by Kaddish. Moreover, all the businessmen and market folk who cherish the homely warmth of yore should go to shul to pray, and should be present [between Minchah and Maariv] during the communal study of Ein Yaakov. And the A-lmighty will enable them to earn a comfortable livelihood.
" 'When you speak to chassidim, tell them this comes from me as a directive; when you speak to other Jews, tell them that out of the love of a fellow Jew, and out of concern for the welfare of a fellow Jew, I ask them to fulfill the above requests.
" 'May the A-lmighty bless us all with a happy year, both spiritually and materially, and may we be privileged to experience a complete Redemption through Mashiach, Amen." (Kovetz Michtavim, the letters appended to Tehillim Ohel Yosef Yitzchak, Kehot, N.Y., p. 210.)
- (Back to text) In the course of the years that have elapsed since the above was written, many congregations, both those who pray according to Nussach Ari as well as others, have instituted the practice of reciting, after Shacharis every day and after Musaf on Shabbos and festivals, a section of the Book of Tehillim as it is apportioned according to the days of the month. After Tehillim, the Mourner's Kaddish is said. Every Shabbos Mevarchim (the Shabbos before Rosh Chodesh), including the Shabbos preceding Rosh HaShanah, early in the morning before Shacharis, the entire Book of Tehillim is recited, followed by the Mourner's Kaddish. If a congregant observing yahrzeit or a mourner is present, the Mourner's Kaddish is said after each of the five Books of Tehillim.
A further custom, first introduced on Sunday, the second of Nissan, 5704: On those days when Tachanun is not said, and therefore Psalm 20 is not said [at Shacharis], this Psalm is read after Shacharis - not as part of it, but as the opening passage of Tehillim.