Sichos In English   Holidays   Shabbat   Chabad-houses   Chassidism   Subscribe   Calendar   Links B"H

     Sichos In English -> Books -> Stories & History -> A Prince in Prison

Publisher's Foreword

The Imprisonment of 1927: Part I

The Imprisonment of 1927: Part II

The Imprisonment of 1927: Part III

[Chronicles of the First Three Generations of Chabad Chassidism]

[Recollections of the Author's Childhood Between the Ages of Six and Eleven]

Appendix

A Prince in Prison
The Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe's Account
of His Incarceration in Stalinist Russia in 1927
An Extract from Likkutei Dibburim
by Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn of Lubavitch


[Recollections of the Author's Childhood Between the Ages of Six and Eleven]

Translated by Uri Kaploun

Published and copyright © by Sichos In English
(718) 778-5436     info@SichosInEnglish.org     FAX (718) 735-4139


Add to Shopping Cart   |   Buy this nowFor Palm Pilot
  [Chronicles of the First Three Generations of Chabad Chassidism]Appendix  

Hundreds of hours of audio lectures, on 9 CD-ROMs!

Part IV

1.

About three times during the summer of 5651 (1891)[1], my father the Rebbe [Rashab] visited a village called Mozinkes. It was about 25 viorsts from Lubavitch, via Babinovitch[2], and surrounded by a pine forest. He would leave Lubavitch on Sunday, stay at the home of R. Shmuel Horovitch[3], and return on Thursday.

At that time three friends and I studied[4] under a teacher called R. Nissan Skobla. We studied Gemara (Tractate Bava Metzia) with the commentaries of Rashi and Tosafos; the Alter Rebbe's Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim; Mishnayos by heart (by that time I had memorized Zera'im and Moed) after I had mastered the commentary of Bartenura; and Torah with the commentary of Rashi. In addition, once a week my father would teach me a chapter of Tanya, and twice a week a passage from a maamar in Likkutei Torah.

2.

R. Nissan the Melamed was studious by nature. He had a scholarly understanding of the Gemara and was expert in the learned literature on several tractates in particular. Though unschooled in formal bibliography, he was familiar with a wide range of books and with the times and biographies of their authors. He often quoted from Seder HaDoros, Sifsei Yesheinim and Tzemach David[5].

R. Nissan never punished like other teachers do, nor did he ever complain about his pupils. Instead, whenever he observed that one of them lacked interest he would not teach him, but concern himself with those who did show interest, especially with those who had industriously prepared their preliminary independent reading of the Gemara text to be studied. For us, his pupils, this was the severest punishment imaginable.

3.

One day my father asked R. Nissan the Melamed if he could take me on his next visit to Mozinkes. R. Nissan was not eager to agree, arguing that this would not only upset a week's learning but might well weaken my studies in general.

I was still only a child, and perhaps just a little mischievous as well (though the manner of my education and the conditions under which I grew up from my seventh to my tenth year stripped me of any spoiled hankering after luxuries, as will be recounted at another time). Nevertheless, the changes that occurred in my life[6] from the summer of 5649 (1889) until the summer of 5651 (1891) reassured me afresh that I was an only child, and that I too had a loving father and (May she live on for many good years!) a compassionate mother.

Though still only a child I understood that this journey had an aim apart from merely taking fresh air, but I could not determine whether this aim was for [my father's] sake and ultimately for my sake, or whether it was for my sake and ultimately for his.

4.

In essence, father and son fuse so completely that they become indivisible. Accordingly, that which gladdens the father serves as a living Torah for the son, and a good son doubles his father's years.

5.

For whatever reason, my father deferred his journey to Monday morning. I had imagined that I would accompany him, but since I had been told nothing I would obviously not dare ask to be taken for a vacation, especially after R. Nissan's remark that this might dampen my enthusiasm for my studies.

As I now recall, when Monday came and my father set out for Mozinkes while I stayed at home, I found this painful and for brief intervals felt antagonistic to R. Nissan. In between times I regretted feeling that way for, after all, it was my good that he had in mind. Surprisingly, therefore, I studied that week with particular diligence.

In the two previous weeks during which my father had travelled to Mozinkes, he taught me that week's chapter of Tanya on Friday, and Likkutei Torah on Shabbos before Minchah and on Sunday from 3:00 to 4:00 p.m.

6.

On Shabbos my father would pray at considerable length. In those days he used to pray in shul both on weekdays and on Shabbos. On Shabbos he would go there when the congregational prayers began at about 9:30 a.m. [and begin his prayers and meditations at his own pace]. When the congregation had finished at about 11:30 a.m. he would begin to say Baruch SheAmar, completing his private devotions at about three or sometimes four.

Usually, even those individuals who prayed at length had completed their prayers half an hour or at most an hour after the congregation had finished - except for R. Chanoch Hendel. He, however, used to daven in the adjoining room,[7] so that there was no one left in the main shul but my father.

When I had completed my prayers with the congregation I used to go home, and from there I liked to pay a visit to the home of my saintly grandmother,[8] to watch how all the members of the minyan made Kiddush, conversed and exchanged chassidic stories. This would take half an hour or so. From there I would return to the shul to listen to my father's supplications.

The beis midrash, which was known as der kleiner zal,[9] was 18 meters long from east to west, 15 meters wide from south to north, and five-and-a-quarter meters high. A door at the west near the northern corner led from a smaller hall four meters square; there were three large windows to the south and to the north; and in the northwest corner near the entrance there was a basin of water.

The aron kodesh stood in the middle of [the eastern wall of] the kleiner zal. To its right, on the southern side, had been the place of my grandfather [the Rebbe Maharash]; the place next to it was vacant; the third seat was the place of my uncle, my grandfather's son-in-law, R. Moshe Aryeh Leib;[10] the fourth seat was the place of my uncle, R. Zalman Aharon;[11] the fifth was my father's place; the sixth was the place of my uncle, R. Menachem Mendel;[12] and the seventh seat was vacant, awaiting the future husband of my aunt Chayah Mushka. [13]

The first seat on the other side of the aron kodesh had [also] been reserved for my grandfather [the Rebbe Maharash]. It was near a door that led to the yechidus-room in which he [sometimes] prayed. On those occasions he would take this seat in the kleiner zal whenever he joined the minyan to listen to the Reading of the Torah. The Reading took place at the table in the middle of the room.

Between the two large stoves against the western wall a door led to the adjoining room, which was eleven meters long from south to north and four meters wide from east to west. This room contained an aron kodesh, a table from which to read the Torah, and a few benches.

For over two years I had been accustomed to return to the kleiner zal every Shabbos in order to listen to the prayers that poured forth from my father's otherworldly heart. Though on weekdays, too, he used to pray there at length, I was unable to be present because I was then sitting at my lessons in cheder.

Following my daily schedule, I used to rise at 8:00, daven with the minyan in shul at 8:30 and have breakfast at 9:30. There were lessons from 10:00 till 2:00; lunch was at 2:00; from 3:00 till 4:00 I had time to write; studies again from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m.; and after that, in my room, my time was my own.

7.

At this age I recalled that when I had been a very little boy still taught by R. Yekusiel I used to run to shul to hear my father at his prayers. At that time, though, my heart was sad: Why didn't my father daven fast like the whole congregation - like my uncles, for example? Once, in answer to my question, my uncle R. Zalman Aharon explained to me that my father wasn't able to read all those letters so fast. This made me really sad.

8.

From the year 5647 (1887)[14] until 5649 (1889) I did not see my parents, because throughout this time they visited various health resorts abroad, partly for health reasons but more for domestic reasons. Only occasionally did they return home for a few days. My lifestyle during those two years made me forget my earlier memories of my father.

The warm closeness which my father showed me from the summer of 5649 (1889) onwards erased all traces of the suffering which I had undergone as a result of my wanderings and difficulties in the preceding two years, and once again I recollected everything that I had seen and heard in the years before that period.

Once, when I was little, I came to shul and found no one there but my father. He was facing the wall and entreating G-d for compassion. I was utterly unable to grasp why he entreated more than all other worshipers and why he was more in need of compassion than other people.-

Suddenly my father wept intensely. My heart fell within me: no one was there in the House of G-d but my father, and he was weeping. I listened carefully and heard that he said Shema Yisrael and wept, and said HaShem Elokeinu and wept. Then, still weeping, he said from the fullness of his heart and in an awesome voice, HaShem Echad.

This time I could contain myself no longer. I went and asked my mother tearfully: "Why does father daven longer than everyone else? My uncle R. Zalman Aharon says that father can't pronounce the letters quickly, but why can't he read quickly and properly? Besides, today I saw and heard him crying. Mother, come along with me and I'll show you that father is crying!"

"But what can I do?" replied my mother. "Can I send him to a teacher? Go and ask your grandmother. Perhaps she will be able to do something about it."

Hastening to follow my mother's advice, I went to put my innocent question to my grandmother.

"Your father is a great chassid and a tzaddik," she said. "Before any single word leaves his mouth he first thinks of its exact meaning."

As I now recall, her answer set my mind at rest. From that time I related differently to my father, for I now knew that he was different from all other people. At every single step I began to see just who my father was. My father would put on his tefillin in the morning and say Kerias Shema and then go to make a cup of tea for his mother. I wanted to do the same, but was told that the hot water might hurt me.

I observed that my father washed his hands for netilas yadayim in a distinctive way. Other people poured water on each hand twice; my father would pick up the dipper in his right hand, transfer it to his left hand, pour water three times consecutively on his right hand, then take another dipper of water which he would hold (with a towel) in his right hand and pour water three times consecutively on his left hand.

I observed that my father called on his mother every day for an hour before Minchah and again poured her a cup of tea.

Other people talked, and talked excitedly; my father was silent most of the time, and when he spoke he spoke softly.

9.

Once a number of family members were sitting together waiting for tea to be served: my grandmother; my uncle R. Zalman Aharon; my uncle R. Menachem Mendel; my aunt Devorah Leah; my greataunt Gittel, who was my grandmother's sister; and her son, Zalman Fradkin. The cups and sweets were on the table, but the samovar had not yet been brought in.

Meanwhile I was playing with my cousin Aharon Yosef in the western corner of the room near the buffet which had recently been brought from one of the larger cities, perhaps Vitebsk or even Moscow, and we were enjoying its decorative carvings. Suddenly we heard all the chairs move. Looking up I saw that my father had walked in, and everyone present had stood up out of deference to him.

"Your father's here," said my cousin. "You'd better watch out that he doesn't punish you. I'm going to tell on you. I'm going to tell him that you didn't say a blessing before you ate the candy that my mother gave you."

I protested: "But I did say a blessing! You didn't, but I did. Besides, Yosef Mordechai" - he was the elderly household help in my grandmother's home - "heard me and even answered Amen. It was you who didn't want to say a berachah. If you say such a thing to my father you'll be an informer and a liar."

"But if I tell my uncle [the Rebbe Rashab] that you didn't say a berachah he'll believe me and he'll punish you. Besides," my cousin added, "I'll swear to him as I am a Jew that you ate without a berachah and he'll believe me."

For a moment I did not know what to do. I was afraid of my father, and was pained by the shame he would feel if he were to think that his only son ate without first saying a berachah.

"My father," I told my cousin, "is a chassid, and a tzaddik, too. So he knows the truth - that I did say a berachah."

Before I had quite finished speaking I ran off to seek refuge in old Yosef Mordechai: perhaps he would recall if he had answered Amen to my blessing. And how happy I was to hear him declare that I had indeed said the blessing of Shehakol and he had responded Amen.

I ran back and told my cousin: "I'm right! I told the truth! Yosef Mordechai answered Amen to my blessing. I'm not afraid of you any more. My father is a chassid, and a tzaddik as well, and I'm a tzaddik, too - a tzaddik the son of a tzaddik. And what about you? You're two years older than me, yet you did not say a berachah and ate like a goy, while I said a blessing out loud and Yosef Mordechai even answered Amen!"

10.

In the course of one month in the summer of 5649 (1889) I became a different boy. My father showed me such closeness that I felt all the warmth of a father, all the love of a compassionate father. I went to sleep with the thought that now I, too, had a father and a mother to whom to say goodnight, and in the course of the following two years I completely forgot the bitter conditions under which I had previously lived.

In the course of those next two years I attained understanding. I was now able to appreciate the great difference between my father and his brothers, that is, between his aspirations and theirs. For over a year now I had been listening to the discourses of Chassidus, standing behind my father as he delivered them. My father was expounding Chassidus and I was there to hear it.

In the course of those two years the Shabbosos were holy and the festivals were devoted to avodah and joy. Every Shabbos I would listen to the Reading of the Torah while following attentively in a Chumash, and in the course of the day I would study the commentary of Rashi as well. Rosh HaShanah of the year 5650 (1889)[15] was the first Rosh HaShanah on which I did everything like an adult. On the eve of Rosh HaShanah after immersing in the mikveh I visited the resting place of my grandfather [the Rebbe Maharash]; in the evening I listened to my father as he prayed; in the morning I read all the prayers in the Machzor with due deliberation; I listened to the Sounding of the Shofar; I said Tehillim;[16] I listened to [my father's delivery of an original maamar of] Chassidus; and beginning with Maariv did the same the following day. And from that day I was a grown-up.

11.

From late in the month of Kislev in the winter of 5651 (1891) my father was ill with high fever for about two months. The first two weeks were the most severe, he had to spend most of the next three weeks in bed, and for three or four weeks he was forbidden to engage in any strenuous intellectual exercise.

I did not study much during that period. Most of the time I sat in my room and cried, read Tehillim and cried, davened and cried. Not that he was so seriously ill, but a dark dread fell upon me: my father was ill. "Master of the Universe!" I thought to myself. "I've had a father for only a year-and-a-half, for in the course of the preceding two years, if not for the four times that he came home for a few days at a time I would have forgotten that I had a father at all. And now my father is ill!"

One night before daybreak, while we were waiting for the fever to reach its critical peak and then recede, I ran to speak to Reb Zalman Lieblis. (He was descended from the family of our saintly uncle R. Yehudah Leib of Yanovitch.[17] As the caretaker of the ohel he visited it every day, after immersing in the mikveh.) I begged him desperately to take me to the ohel and to promise me that no one would know of it. Realizing how much this meant to me, and knowing that my father's health was in need of heaven's mercies and that my grandmother and mother had visited the ohel recently, he agreed.

It was bitterly cold and snowing heavily, and when we cleared the edge of the township the wind pushed me along. Though Reb Zalman was short and elderly he strode sturdily, whereas I stumbled at almost every step until we finally reached the ohel.

Before I even opened the door my little heart leaped up within me and released rivers of tears. Stepping inside I saw before me the holy resting places[18] covered by fine snow, and in the unbroken silence recited the blessing over the future Resurrection of the Dead. Such a shuddering then overwhelmed me that I was quite unable to say the prescribed verses of Tehillim. Instead, still weeping, I addressed those who repose in the dust: "My father is ill! My father who is a chassid and a tzaddik is lying ill in bed! My father who has only one son and who has been guiding me for only a year-and-a-half is ill! Pray to G-d and ask that He be merciful and heal him soon!"

Reb Zalman approached me: "Here," he said, "light this lamp and read what is written here in Maaneh Lashon. Ask your holy forebears to have pity and to arouse heaven's mercies so that your ailing father will be preserved among the living!"

These words made me cry out in anguish: "Zeides![19] Holy tzaddikim! My father is ill! Ask G-d to keep him alive and make him well and let him guide me so that I will grow up to be an upright Jew!"

Returning by the half-light before daybreak we found people already gathering at the marketplace. Reb Zalman walked quickly and I, ignoring my exhaustion, ran and perspired, eager to arrive home and hear news of my father's condition. As we reached Bram St. we saw ahead of us Reb Chayim Meir the Butcher and his brother Reb Avraham Dan. They called out from a distance of 50 meters: "Thank G-d! Just now we came from the [Rebbe's] courtyard. The fever's crisis has passed! Two doctors were there, Brodie and Bogorodski, and both of them said that the crisis has passed. Now, thank G-d, he's ours! And may G-d grant him a long life!"

Dr. Brodie was a Jew who had come to Lubavitch from near Kharkov; Dr. Bogorodski was a 70-year-old Polish Russian specialist, a student of the celebrated Dr. Heibenthal.

I ran all the way home. Everyone there was overjoyed; no one knew where I had been and no one asked. My mother was in my father's room and many family members had gathered in the front rooms of the house, including: my grandmother; my uncles, R. Zalman Aharon, R. Menachem Mendel and R. Moshe [Aryeh] Leib; and my aunts, Devorah Leah, Basya, Basya,[20] and Chayah Mushka.

I very much wanted to enter my father's room and see him for the first time in two weeks, but I was not allowed in. Since one of the visitors at that time was my teacher R. Nissan, I decided that it would be a good idea to tell him that I had been at the ohel; perhaps he would advise me what I could now do to improve my father's condition.

I approached him and told him secretly what I had done and he said that I had acted as I should.

"And now," he asked, "have you drunk tea yet?"

"No," I replied.

"If so," he said, "then don't drink or eat all day, but fast. Now, go along and daven with the minyan and then I'll tell you what to do next."

In response to my request he promised to keep my secret. I went off to daven and followed the day-long schedule that he prescribed.

It was clear to me that it was my prayer at the resting place of my holy forebears that had aroused G-d's lovingkindness and compassion. I keenly desired to go there again, to inform them that the crisis had passed, and to ask that G-d in His mercy send my father a complete and speedy recovery - but I was afraid to speak up.

The doctors' consultation took place at 5:00 p.m. Though I had already prayed Maariv with the minyan I had not yet tasted anything. At almost 6:00 p.m. the doctors left my father's room, beaming. They both said that the day had passed very well; the illness had passed; the fever had gone; and now my father needed only an orderly regimen and complete rest.

Dr. Bogorodski was very fond of me. When I was five years old, before our visit to Yalta, he had cured me of a dangerous illness. And by meticulously fulfilling all his orders and taking all his medicines I had captured the heart of that pedantic physician.

"Why do you look so sad?" he now asked me. "Your father is getting better, thank G-d, and in a few days he'll be healthy."

Then, turning to his colleague, he said: "And now, my friend, we have to set out a regimen of rest and diet for our patient."

I spoke up and said: "I'm longing so hard to see my father. I haven't seen him for about two weeks, but they won't let me in!"

In addition to his professional connection, Dr. Brodie showed a lot of respect to our family. He was especially fond of my father, whom he had visited several times in his study. Being a thinking man with philosophical leanings, from time to time he would discuss scientific matters with my father.

He now rose from his place and after ten minutes in my father's room rejoined Dr. Bogorodski, who was enjoying his very sweet tea with milk. In the meantime they conversed with our relatives, all of whom were in high spirits. An awareness of G-d's kindness to my father lit up all faces, not only of the family, but also of the household staff and of all those who visited the courtyard. Even the face of Yosef Mordechai, the old household help, lost its usual irritable appearance.

12.

This simple and honest man really deserves to have a whole description devoted to him. He lived in Lubavitch for a long, long time. He had first arrived to be employed by my greatgrandfather, the Tzemach Tzedek, even before the Rebbe Maharash was born,[21] and he lived there until the winter of 5658 (1898).

All in all, Yosef Mordechai spent 67 years in the household of the Rebbeim. Though he was a simple man and burdened by various failings, what his eyes saw and his ears heard is a treasure that cannot be described on paper.

One of his positive attributes is that he used to describe things exactly as they happened. His memory was remarkable: for every statement or story or incident that he spoke of he would mention the place and the time and the people involved, as if it had all happened that very day.

His tasks were simple, such as heating stoves and cleaning rooms, but this meant that he had ready access throughout the house without asking questions, so that he saw whatever he saw and heard whatever was being said.

During my two bitter years I suffered a great deal from this man, but at the same time I heard a great deal from him. The things he described to me are rooted in my mind and absorbed in my blood. I am perfectly certain that they are genuine and precise, but conditions of time and place do not allow me to record them. The time for that will no doubt arrive, with G-d's help.

13.

Mendel, the domestic, suddenly appeared from my father's room and said that my father called me in. After only a brief moment of confusion I went in calmly and happily.

I stood next to his bed without a word. His pale and weary exhaustion saddened me, until his frail voice asked: "Yosef Yitzchak, what are you doing? Are you studying? What did you learn in the course of this time? Did you keep up going to daven with a minyan?"

"I went to daven with a minyan three times every day," I said. "I learned, too, but they warned me not to speak a lot so that I wouldn't disturb your rest. All this time they didn't let me into your room. Even now I'm afraid I'll make them send me out."

A gentle smile appeared on his lips. "From now they won't hold you back any more," he assured me. "Tell me, have you drunk tea?"

Now I was really in a fix. On the one hand, I was not only reluctant to tell a lie but also afraid. After all, my father was a chassid and a tzaddik and no doubt knew everything, so how could I lie? On the other hand, I did not want to tell the truth either. Could it be that tzaddikim are not kept informed of things that concern them personally? At that moment I recalled that Yitzchak Avinu knew of the sale of Yosef but kept it a secret from Yaakov. [22]

At that opportune moment, while I was still hesitating, my mother walked in with a cup of milk and said that the doctors had ordered my father to drink three cups of milk before going to sleep.

"Very well," said my father as he put down the cup, "I will drink as much as I can. Yosef Yitzchak will give it to me when it has cooled down a bit, and then I'll drink it."

These words healed all my ailments. Sheer pleasure raced through my whole being, as I considered: I would now serve my father - I, who only eleven hours ago had run to the ohel and wept and begged for mercy, was now privileged to see that G-d had accepted my prayer, the prayer of an only son whose love for his father was unbounded.

Though at first I was concerned that my father might ask me again if I had drunk tea, my delight at being able to help him banished all my anxiety. Deep in my heart, moreover, my pleasure was doubled by the awareness that I was serving my father while still fasting. I considered: Eisav, who was so wicked that he sought to kill his innocent brother Yaakov, made a point - while serving his father - of wearing clothes so precious that he entrusted them to the safekeeping of his mother[23] alone. How much more appropriate was it that I, the son of a chassid and a tzaddik, should attain a level at which I served my father while fasting and pure of heart.

From that day on my father's health and strength improved so much that a week later he was allowed to sit on a chair. Most of the day I spent in his room at my request, and this gave me great pleasure.

On Chaf-Daled Teves,[24] Dr. Brodie allowed my father to go into the other room to say Kaddish[25] according to his annual custom. On the same day my father wrote a discourse of Chassidus. (This is the maamar beginning with the words, Mizmor Shir LeYom HaShabbos, on the manuscript of which he [later] wrote: "Delivered [orally] on the Shabbos of the yahrzeit, Yud-Gimmel Tishrei.") [26]

From that time on I began to show signs of growing up. I gradually took leave of my childish games with my cousins, the sons of my aunt Devorah Leah. I now found their company tedious and at the same time grew closer to R. Chanoch Hendel.[27] My father was very fond of him and often praised his character traits that sprang from deeply-rooted chassidic living.

This chassid is one of the individuals who have surely earned an entire chapter in our family's chronicles, both on account of his personality and on account of his close relationship with our family. For about forty years he was like a member of the household, taking the lead in every matter that affected us privately. I will yet describe this, with G-d's help.

Though my grandmother, my uncle R. Zalman Aharon, my father, and my uncle R. Menachem Mendel, each lived [with their respective families] in a separate apartment, the expenses of the whole family were jointly covered by my grandmother's account - except that that purse was now empty. The business enterprises were all finished and my uncles were left with heavy debts and no source of income. This, too, will be described separately.

The relatives who visited did not notice that the household was penniless, because my grandmother's home was always open wide and the familiar routine continued, with relatives constantly coming and going. Those who lived in the household, however, knew the situation well.

Even I realized that the situation was not rosy. My father had been accustomed to give me five kopeks for every chapter of Mishnayos that I committed to memory (I used to master a chapter a day) and my mother also used to give me five kopeks a day. For a long time now I had not received any pocket money. I did not ask for it, of course; I saw it as a sure indication of where things stood.

From the time that my father recovered, the routine of my studies changed: every Thursday he visited the cheder for an hour-and-a-half or more and examined me on my week's lessons in the presence of R. Nissan the Melamed. In addition, every evening after school I had to review for my father the new texts I had learned that day. And while with him, I would also recite for him whatever I had committed to memory.

14.

I enjoyed memorizing Mishnayos so much that I used to lovingly repeat aloud the Sedarim that I had mastered - very quickly, though not at the expense of being letter-perfect. Once, as I recall, I raced against a venerable chassid by the name of R. Abba Persohn (also to be described separately), who was amazingly familiar with the entire Six Orders of the Mishnah and with Tanya as well.

He once told my father that my great-greatgrandfather the Tzemach Tzedek had directed him at his first yechidus: "Learn Mishnayos by heart. Significantly, the words mishnah and neshamah share the same letters. Repeating Mishnayos by heart causes the soul to light up the body: the body becomes more luminous."

For some reason unknown to me, as we were once sitting in cheder early in the month of Adar - the lamp had already been lit and we were studying the laws of Pesach in the Alter Rebbe's Shulchan Aruch - Mendel the Meshares suddenly arrived and said, "Your father wants to see you."

Our cheder was a room in Reb Saadiah Kastier's house, which was later bought for the Tomchei Temimim Yeshivah and used for one of the advanced classes. I ran home, entered my father's study, and found that R. Abba was sitting there facing my father.

"Yosef Yitzchak," asked my father, "how long would it take you to repeat aloud the Order of Zeraim?"

I did not know why this question was asked. I felt afraid and did not know what to answer: should I say more than what it would really take me, or less?

"I think I could repeat the whole Seder in a bit more than an hour," I said.

R. Abba spoke up: "It takes me an hour and twenty minutes to repeat the Order of Zeraim. One could reduce that by five minutes, or ten at the most."

"Very well," said my father, "let's try it out and see."

With that he took out his watch and noted the time, opened up a little volume of Mishnayos, and told me to recite the whole of Zeraim. This I did without interruption in 58 minutes.

That was the first time that I saw my father's face glowing with manifest pleasure. At a later time he told me that since he was afraid that the extreme haste might adversely affect my speech, he planned to have someone teach me grammar and the musical cantillation of the text of the Torah. He therefore employed R. Yitzchak Gershon the Melamed especially for this purpose for one hour twice a week.

On that occasion my father gave me a prize for my attainments in Mishnayos - a manuscript volume of part of the Responsa of the Tzemach Tzedek written in the author's own hand, which my father had received as a gift from his father [the Rebbe Maharash].

15.

That Purim I was struck by a calamity - or so it appeared to me at the time.

I had very much wanted to buy certain well-bound study books and also a gilt chain with a watch. According to my reckoning, the capital that I had amassed from the memorizing of Mishnayos amounted to quite a sum. That meant that the cash in hand and the debts owing to me would have sufficed for all my wants. In view of the difficult situation, however, I realized even then that my debts could not be counted as ready cash whenever needed, so I weighed and considered the question: Should I first buy the books, even though in the meantime I could manage by borrowing, or should I first buy the watch, which could not be borrowed?

When the question had been duly weighed, the scales of my logic determined that the watch was more necessary, for it would be more useful towards disciplined timesaving. As I turned this question over in my mind and repeatedly pictured just how things would be, I became utterly convinced that when I had a watch not only would every single hour be solidly dedicated to the purposes of heaven, but even the individual minutes would be safeguarded - especially if I had a watch which indicated the minutes. Then, for sure, every minute would tell me exactly what should be done with it. In the morning, for example, the clock would wake me up at 8:00; a little later it would command me to drink tea; at 8:30 it would order me to go to my prayers; at 10:00 it would tell me to sit down to my studies; and so on.

My heart filled with hope that acquiring the watch would upgrade my entire life. I would then be big - a boy with a watch, no less. I had already told my mother of my desire and she had agreed. All I now had to do was to gather in all my wealth which was out on loan to a number of people.

The first time that my capital totalled a whole ruble my father advised me to use it for gemilus chassadim, so I lent it to Reb Saadiah, the warden of the local Malbish Arumim fund for clothing the destitute. Within two months I attained the status of owning three rubles. Since I did not want my growing earnings to be all in the hands of one person my father advised me to make a loan to Reb Hertz Meitin, the warden of the Lechem Evyonim fund which fed the hungry. After some time that fund, too, had three rubles of mine that I had earned by the sweat of my brow in memorizing Mishnayos.

As I continued to sweat and snatch every opportunity for this study my wealth grew week by week. Half a year went by, then a whole year, until I calculated (with the help of my uncle R. Zalman Aharon) that my ready cash came to 15 silver rubles. I very much wanted to gather all my money together, and over the next two months I satisfied my desire to exchange [part of] it for one gold coin, which cost me one whole Imperial.

As the months passed, I saw that my luck in gathering together my money had collapsed. Times were really tough, and my work was done only on credit. It was clear to me that my father would pay me, though I did not know when or how.

One day as I was toying with what I had, the gold coin, Reb Koppel came to tell my father that he needed to borrow [28] silver rubles. When my father told him that he had nothing to lend, Reb Koppel glanced at my coin and commented that though it was worth only 15, since there was no alternative this too would do.

I trembled, but caught sight of half a smile on my father's lips. His face was lit up by his luminous eyes - and a little battle took place within me.

A variety of thoughts crossed my mind. Without a word I hid the gold coin in my wallet and washed my hands for netilas yadayim before sitting down to lunch with my parents.

As soon as Reb Koppel had left the room my father said: "Giving a loan as a gemilus chessed is superior to charity28 inasmuch as it can be given both to the poor and the rich. When one does not feel like doing this and one does it nevertheless, that is even better. One lends something to someone for a week or two and gets it back - and earns a great mitzvah."

It was very hard for me to part with this toy of mine, even for a short while: I used to play with it twice a day. Nevertheless, since my father had said that a gemilus chessed was even greater than charity I could not stand back. As soon as I finished eating I ran off to find Reb Koppel so that I could fulfill the mitzvah.

I found him sitting in his store and daydreaming, waiting for a customer. I looked around in every direction; my tongue froze and my heart was tense. I prayed that Reb Koppel would tell me that he had already found a loan and no longer needed my gold. Then, I calculated, I would have gained in double measure: not only would the coin remain in my wallet, but I would also have the reward of the [attempted] mitzvah.

As I stood there for a minute or two, a deep sigh escaped Reb Koppel's heart: "I need money, a lot of money. My agent has to leave tonight to buy up merchandise and I haven't got any money."

My prayer had obviously not worked. This sigh and this singsong were clearly intended for my coin. Any minute now I would have to take leave of my favorite toy. But what could be done? My father, who was so dear to me, had said that gemilus chessed was superior to charity. Besides, he had recovered from his illness, thank G-d, and surely I should do what he had told me to do. So, with a heavy heart, I took out my cherished treasure and handed it to Reb Koppel.

"You'll get it back next week," he assured me. "I only need it for a week."

I must confess that I could not hold back my flood of tears even for a moment, and I ran outside.

By the time I returned to the cheder my friends were already at their studies. R. Nissan looked at me irritably. I heard what was being learned, but my heart was not quite with me.

One week passed, two weeks, three weeks, but whenever I found reasons to stand next to Reb Koppel he never said a word nor even looked in my direction.

Then came Purim, when everyone throws off his inhibitions. And so did I. Generating all my courage I asked him: "And what's going to be with the loan?"

"The loan?" repeats Reb Koppel. "The loan is an old story. Who can think about loans like that? Even if G-d in His kindness makes me earn something from the sale of esrogim next summer, even then I wouldn't be able to think about loans like that."

This was beyond my understanding. What was the difference between this loan and other loans? But the fact was that I had heard him saying explicitly that this loan was an old story and he had no plans to return it. With my happy Purim all saddened, I turned aside and cried.

16.

Pesach was fast approaching. By now, thank G-d, I knew many of the laws of Pesach orally and knew where to find them in the Shulchan Aruch. At the baking of shemurah-matzah I was already taking my share of responsibility and word had even reached me that this had caused my father pleasure. I now hoped that when it came to the baking of matzas mitzvah on erev Pesach[29] I would be at my best.

One night, about three days before Pesach, I could not fall asleep. I was busy with happy thoughts about all the upcoming events - drawing water at dusk towards the end of the thirteenth of Nissan for matzah-baking;[30] the Search for Chametz[31] [the following evening]; the siyum[32] [in the morning] which would mark my completion of Tractate Megillah by heart; the baking of matzas mitzvah [that afternoon]; and reading the description of the offering of the Pesach Sacrifice[33] [after Minchah].

A year earlier, in 5650 (1890), my father had also taken me to draw water with him, to stand next to him while he pronounced the blessing over the Search for Chametz, to help him as he inspected the rooms, and to accompany him early in the morning of the fourteenth to hear the completion of Tractate Zevachim. At that time, however, I was a mere participant. I drew water without understanding its meaning; I stood and listened to the blessing over the search without understanding the obligation involved; I listened to the siyum without knowing the meanings of the terms involved, such as bamah gedolah and bamah ketanah, pigul and linah. I only recalled how struck I had been by the fact that in such a short time, from when the tractates of the Talmud were apportioned on Yud-Tes Kislev[34] until the fourteenth of Nissan, my father had managed to study 120 double pages of Gemara with the commentaries of Rashi and Tosafos....

That year, which was the first year in which I cracked walnuts for the charoses which recalls the mortar [used in the Egyptian bondage], my father called me to his study.

"Early in the morning prayers," he said, "we read: 'Master of the worlds! You have commanded us to offer the daily sacrifice at its appointed time.... Therefore, may it be Your will... that the prayer of our lips be regarded and accepted by You....' Tell me, what is the meaning of this prayer?"

By that time my studies had reached a point at which I knew the meanings of the prayers, as well as of the Mishnayos and the psalms [quoted there], almost perfectly. I was thus able to translate this prayer [into Yiddish], including all the details of the sacrifices mentioned there.

"On the fourteenth of Nissan," my father began, "the Pesach Sacrifice used to be offered. For there are two separate times: on the fourteenth it was offered, but it was eaten at night, on the eve of the fifteenth, for the fifteenth is the time of our Exodus from the Egyptian exile. It was offered after the daily afternoon sacrifice, which could be offered from plag haMinchah onwards, which on our clock is 1:25 p.m. We read the laws of the offering of this sacrifice after praying the Minchah service which stands in place of the daily sacrifice of the afternoon.

"In order that you should understand what this signifies I shall study it with you. You will then review it alone two or three times, and after Minchah you will come to me and we will read together the description of the offering of the Korban Pesach."

17.

While we are on this subject, let me mention that every year, from 5650 (1890) to 5679 (1919)[35], my father called for me and we read the Order of the Korban Pesach together. (The only exceptions were 5661 (1901), when my father was in Verishoffen, and 5667 (1907), when he was in Lubavitch but my family and I were in Wurzburg.)

In honor of the reading he would wear his round Yom-Tov hat and Yom-Tov clothes as well as a gartl. He always read it standing, and facing south. He read it in a happy frame of mind, taking careful note of every one of its words and discussing the laws they conveyed. From the year 5656 (1896) onwards, he used to explain one of its aspects from the perspective of Chassidus, and from the year 5668 (1908) onwards, he also explained one of its aspects from the perspective of the Kabbalah.

18.

Unlike the years of my earlier childhood, this year - 5651 (1891) - I knew all about the drawing of the water and its proper time, and likewise the details of the Search for Chametz, and especially the concluding passage to be studied aloud for the siyum. I was so excited that I did not sleep all that night, but I knew what I had learned and I knew how happy my father would be when I explained the last page of the Gemara, whose topics included the Reading of the Torah and the blessings recited over it, and the raising and binding of the Sefer Torah.

Before dawn I washed my hands for netilas yadayim and dressed, and then walked up and down my room. There was more than an hour to wait, for on erev Pesach my father was accustomed to rise at five. The day's tasks passed smoothly and successfully - not only the siyum, which went very well, but I also made myself useful at the baking of the matzas mitzvah. Part of the time I stood next to the oven and changed the rods with which the matzos were placed inside, and part of the time I stood at the place where the individual portions of dough were handed out to the people rolling them flat. Most of the time I was supervising wherever someone was missing.

This year's reading of the Order of the Korban Pesach was also different from that of the previous year. I stood at my father's right like a well-practiced veteran, just as I had done the previous year, except that this year I knew the relevant laws and procedures from their source in the Mishnayos of Tractate Pesachim which I now knew by heart.

The shul that evening was full of light. A new chandelier had been brought there by one of the worshipers who spent the whole year in Moscow and Petersburg, because he worked for the well-known Minister Poliakov, returning to his home in Lubavitch only twice a year, for the month of Tishrei and for Pesach. This time he had brought a gift for the shul, which was suspended by gilt chains.

The shul walls were whitewashed, the windows sparkled, the benches were clean. A red silk cloth covered the table from which the Torah was read and the aron kodesh was draped over with a paroches of green and red. The amud was covered by a little red silk cloth which had been embroidered by my mother. The Western Wall was depicted in the middle, and its four corners showed the Tomb of our Mother Rachel, the Tomb of the Prophet Samuel, the Tombs of the Davidic Dynasty, and the Tomb of R. Shimon bar Yochai. A fresh white towel hung on a ring near the entrance to the shul, and the lamps made everything bright.

A noble spirit rests upon every corner of this House of G-d. The faces of the local householders are lit up likewise. Over at the northern corner sits old Zalman Leib, surrounded by a knot of listeners with whom he shares his recollections of long ago. Not too far from him, Yitzchak Shaul the Liar is recounting wild and wondrous adventures from the war against the Turks. Near the Reading Table, Bere the Shammes is talking to Yitzchak Gershon the Chazzan, who proudly tells the music-lovers who buzz around him that even Nisse the Belzer was impressed by his wonderful voice.

Near the south wall sits Zalman Munkes, who is holding forth about his father's father's medical expertise. His friend Yeshaya Kastier counters with stories about his own grandmother's father, who was such a great mathematician that using his fingers alone he could count up to 10,000 in two hours. Zalman Beshes and Zalman the Deaf Guy lean eagerly over them, overawed.

At the southwestern corner near the old clock, two hoary chassidim - R. Chanoch Hendel and R. Shmuel Chayim from Poland - are discussing what Chassidus teaches about the particular sanctity of this night. Listening in are Uncle Leibele's Reb Zalman, Reb Shlomo Chayim the Shochet, and a number of other chassidim. Among them, listening wordlessly, sits the aged R. Abba, who from time to time raises his eyes aloft.

19.

R. Abba was at least 80 years old. He was born in Tchashnik, where he had taught in his youth, and as a child had twice seen the Mitteler Rebbe. In the years 5595 (1835) to 5600 (1840) he had taken an active and decisive role in the controversy involving Strashelye. He was completely at home in the works of the Alter Rebbe and the Mitteler Rebbe and in Likkutei Torah. Throughout the lifetime of the [Tzemach Tzedek] he visited Lubavitch by foot every two years. In 5635 (1875) he retired from teaching and settled in Lubavitch. He was - in the chassidic sense - a maskil, an advanced scholar in the literature of Chassidus, who made his own notes of maamarim [that were delivered orally]. He refrained altogether from talking and spent his whole day in shul praying, studying and writing.

20.

At the east wall, to the northern side of the aron kodesh, sat the local rav, R. David, next to R. Meshullam, R. Nissan the Melamed and R. Shalom the Melamed. Together they were debating the laws of Pesach. If I was not so tired I would have been able to join in, but at that moment I felt that weariness was about to close my eyes. I shuddered to think how awful it would be to be overcome now by sleep. Within a few minutes the southern side of the east wall began to fill up. My uncles R. Zalman Aharon and R. Menachem Mendel had already taken their places and at the appointed time for Maariv my father arrived.

When the davenen was over, the rav and all the householders converged on the southern side of the eastern wall to wish [my father] a gut Yom-Tov. All were dressed for the occasion and all faces were radiant. People gradually left, and within an hour we were all seated in my grandmother's home and conducting the Seder.

The excitement of preparing to ask the Four Questions and the pure light that rested on my father's holy countenance banished sleep from my eyes. Thanks to G-d's never-ending mercies, I too found myself seated at the table like one of the grown-ups. Every activity I handled with the self-assurance of a veteran - washing the hands, karpas, breaking the middle matzah, covering and uncovering the matzos, holding the cup of wine in hand as we sang VeHi SheAmdah, and so on. All this gave me the strength to fight off the desire to sleep.

Thank G-d, I held my own until the exultant declaration, "Next year in Jerusalem!" I then looked forward to going to sleep in a few minutes' time with a glad heart.

The whole festival passed like just a few days. Then it was time for workdays, days of study. The impressions left upon me by the festival and the marks of closeness that my father had shown me made a positive imprint on my increasingly conscientious study.

This spirit prevailed throughout the next six weeks until Shavuos, which was the first Yom-Tov during which I had ever stayed awake all night. I read the Tikkun Leil Shavuos and before daybreak I too immersed in the mikveh. The truth is that I had wanted to stay awake on the night of the Seventh Day of Pesach, too, but then sleep overcame me. This time, however, I won.

Our financial situation did not allow my father to go to a suitable resort as his state of health required. He therefore chose, at the insistence of Dr. Bogorodski, to spend the weekdays in the forest near Mozinkes.

Considering my current conscientious conduct and my father's recent manifestations of warmth, it was not surprising that he should want to take me with him on his next journey there. Nor is it surprising that I should earnestly want to travel with him. As well as enjoying his company I would have something to boast about to my friends, because by this time my father's spiritual stature was widely recognized. Not in vain had I been so disappointed by R. Nissan's refusal to allow me the pleasure of my father's company.

21.

One Sunday, to my great joy, an hour before my father set out on his third weekly visit to Mozinkes, he called for me and said: "Today you're coming along with me. If you have some books that you would like to take with you, bring them here so that I can pack them in my luggage."

I already knew how to control myself from making my joy visible to all, in order not to bring about any obstacle. Within a few minutes, with all due deliberateness and humility, I had brought the Tanach, Mishnayos, Gemara and Shulchan Aruch which I was then studying.

Until I was actually seated in the wagon I did not believe that I was really and truly going. I was afraid of some sudden hindrance, but thanks to G-d's lovingkindness everything passed smoothly and we were on our way. The fact that I was sitting next to my father, the pleasant breeze, the vistas of green fields, the orders that Leibichke the Wagondriver shouted to his horses from his exclusive perch while his long whip stood erect at his right, made my spirits buoyant.

22.

Seated opposite my father on this journey was R. Shmuel [Horovitch],[36] in whose home my father used to stay when visiting Mozinkes. He was born in Deneburg, but as a young man he had been one of the advanced long-term students [of Chassidus][37] in Lubavitch in the time of the Tzemach Tzedek, from 5608 (1848) to 5611 (1851). He was a solid scholar who studied Gemara and the poskim in depth, had memorized three Sedarim of Mishnayos as directed by the Tzemach Tzedek at yechidus, had mastered Torah Or and Likkutei Torah, and was a man of upright character.

When he was a student in Lubavitch a learned villager took him as a son-in-law and supported him in his home for several years of fulltime study, after which R. Shmuel continued to work in that village as a farmer. When the timber business reached that region he converted some buildings in his backyard into accommodations for the employees of the lumber merchants.

During the three years in which he had been a "sitter" in Lubavitch he used to spend all day and sometimes all night as well in the beis midrash of the Tzemach Tzedek. For at that time there were two groups of students - the yoshvim and the regular yeshivah students. Both groups were supported by the Rebbe's household, but they were distinguished by their study schedules and the manner of their avodah.

23.

The yeshivah had been founded in the year 5602 (1842). The Tzemach Tzedek's son, R. Yisrael Noach,[38] and the Tzemach Tzedek's son-in-law, R. Levi Yitzchak, each delivered two shiurim weekly.

The lower class comprised 25 students aged 14 to 17; the higher class comprised 35 to 40 students aged 17 to 20. They were all gifted and assiduous in their study of the revealed plane of the Torah, Gemara and the poskim. From time to time they would study a chapter of Tanya and occasionally a maamar from Torah Or as well. Even when the Tzemach Tzedek delivered maamarim they were generally not allowed to enter, except on Yom-Tov and the Days of Awe. These were the regular yeshivah students.

The young men counted among the yoshvim were people entirely occupied with matters of Chassidus. They included two groups: young men either after or before marriage, including some particularly gifted young students; and others whose fathers supported them or who had not been shining scholars - but nevertheless remained and absorbed the ambiance of Lubavitch by rubbing shoulders with exemplary chassidim. [39]

As R. Shmuel recalled as we traveled: "In the days of the Tzemach Tzedek, at almost all times through the year there were venerable and hoary chassidim visiting Lubavitch. So there were always opportunities to be of service to great men, to observe meanwhile how they davened and how they ate, how they studied and how they conducted themselves. Sometimes this affected young scholars even more than their actual studies."

And indeed, as the Talmud teaches, "Being of service to Torah sages[40] is superior [even] to the study of the Torah itself." This is palpably evidenced in the life of chassidim and Chassidus: reverently spending time in the company of elder chassidim has accomplished much more than actual study. For study has given a student an intellectual grasp of a concept; attendance on elder chassidim has made of him a servant of G-d and a chassid.

24.

Regretfully, I did not devote due attention to the conversation of my father and R. Shmuel that day. I was busy envying Leibichke the Wagondriver who sat so high up there, tugging at the reins....

After about five parsas my father asked him to stop the wagon. He strolled among the forest trees, washed his hands with a blessing, and said the Prayer for Travelers[41] word by word so that I would be able to repeat it after him.

My father, R. Shmuel and I climbed up and we resumed our journey. The weather was fine, the blossoms were fragrant, the air was still, and the birds were singing. My father asked the wagondriver to slow down so that less dust would be raised and we would be able to enjoy the clear air, so Leibichke allowed his horses to trot along at their own relaxed pace.

As we traveled my father was deep in thought, old R. Shmuel dozed off, and I enjoyed memories of earlier days.

25.

[As I sat in the wagon on the way to Mozinkes,] recollections of our stay among the tall mountains of Yalta[42] [a few years earlier] sprang alive before me. At that time my father and mother and my teacher R. Shneur Slonim and I used to go walking almost every day, from 1:00 p.m. until 7:00 or even 8:00 p.m. My father would find a seat and study a learned book that he had brought with him, thinking a while and writing a while. R. Shneur would teach me for about an hour and tell me to review what I had learned, and then he would join my father and they would study that book together. My father would speak and R. Shneur would listen; R. Shneur would pose a problematic query and my father would offer a solution; my father would clarify a point and R. Shneur's face would glow.

At a little distance my mother sat and read a long letter. From time to time she would offer me milk and cookies from the little bag that lay on the ground next to her and send refreshments with me to my father and R. Shneur.

She used to sew and knit for hours every day, and embroider fabric stretched over a wooden ring with threads of blue and gold.

I recalled how when we were in Crimea my parents had stood on the seashore among those who waited to catch a glimpse of Czar Alexander III who was due to arrive there with his courtiers; the Libadia estate; the Czar's palace and vineyard; encountering the Czar as we were on our way to the mikveh on erev Pesach; and our journey home via Kharkov, where we spent Lag BaOmer in the year 5646 (1886).

In Kharkov,[43]* for the first time, I saw a gathering of chassidim - their speech, their melodies, their enthusiasm, their joy and their high spirits.

I was most impressed by the local rav, R. Yechezkel, who looked so dignified with his gold spectacles. At that time many grown men, some of them with snow-white beards and some of them very old, crowded into a middle-sized room. Whether they sat or stood, they all focused on my father, who sat at the head of a long and narrow table. As soon as they perceived that my father had something to say, all the sounds of singing and talking ceased, and in the perfect silence my father spoke.

By one o'clock it was very hot inside. I had been taken from the table there and later found myself in a book-filled room where my mother sat in tears.


My heart was sore. If my mother was crying she no doubt had a reason to cry, because I remembered that the previous winter in Yalta both she and my father had wept. At that time I persuaded my mother - in exchange for a promise to take my studies more seriously, because this was when R. Shneur had first arrived and I was not at all eager to have him as my teacher - to tell me the reason for her distress.

"You're still a child," my mother had said. "Even if I explained it you wouldn't understand what it's all about."

"So you explain it to me in such a way that I'll understand it," I countered tearfully. "Look: I don't understand Chumash, either, but when Father explains it to me then I do understand it. Didn't Father say that I understand properly the parshah that he taught me? So why shouldn't you, too, want to tell me this in a way that I can understand?"

"But why are you crying?" my mother asked.

"How can I not cry?" I replied. "If I see Father and Mother talking and crying, then it must be something important. So how can I, their only son, not cry?"

My tears and arguments stole my mother's heart and she explained: "Your father's father[44] was a Rebbe and a great scholar, who studied Torah and davened all his days. He instructed his sons - your uncle R. Zalman Aharon, your father, and your uncle R. Menachem Mendel - never to engage in any business, but only to sit and study. This they did for about two years, but now [your uncles] have entered the business world.

"Last week your father received a letter from your grandmother and your uncles to say that your uncles wanted to buy a big forest, which they did. When your father read that letter he was so upset that they were ignoring the instruction of their father, the great Rebbe, not to engage in business, that he wept.

"And when I saw your father's distress and feared that it might affect his health, I wept, too."

I consoled my mother by promising that I would heed my father's voice in all matters; I would cause him pleasure and fortify his frail health; I would begin to study energetically with R. Shneur, exactly as my father wanted me to do.

[This was what had come to pass during the previous winter in Yalta.]


[The author now resumes the recollections that came to mind during his wagon ride to Mozinkes.] On this occasion, therefore, [in the book-filled room in Kharkov on the way home from Yalta,] when I saw my mother crying I was deeply distressed. While I was still debating whether or not to dare to ask her for the reason, I heard jolly noises coming from the room into which all the chassidim had crowded. Running straight there, I saw a man standing on a small high table in a corner and playing an instrument that was accompanied by the voices of all those present.

I climbed up the little ladder that stood near the stove not far from the door that led to the room in which my mother sat, and caught sight of my father. He was wearing the small round silk head-covering that he wore when studying alone in his room. His broad forehead was luminous, his face was flushed and radiant, his eyes were closed, his right hand supported his temple, his left hand rested on the table - and he cast a holy awe upon all those who surrounded him.

After a few moments he opened his eyes and looked at all the people around him. His beautiful eyes gazed deep inside them, penetrating the heart of every man who encountered this gaze that proceeded from my father's innermost essence. His gaze had the power to straighten out any crookedness of heart. The sweetness that graced his lips endowed even the stricken with hope; it awakened even those whose hearts were broken and downcast.

In response to the request of one of those present, everyone fell immediately silent; everyone sat up straight; everyone prepared himself and waited eagerly. My father put on his silken hat and gartl. The thoughts within shone through his face.

In a moment all those who had been sitting, all those elderly folk with their white beards, stood up. My father's eyes were closed; his face was flushed then pale, flushed then pale. He wanted to start speaking and opened his eyes, but seeing that everyone around him was standing he requested with gracious humility that they be seated. They for their part implied an entreaty that he allow them to do as they had chosen to do.

He passed his right hand over his eyes and sat in silence for a few minutes. Those were painful moments, as his face betrayed. Suddenly he opened his eyes and began to speak.

What my father said I neither knew nor understood, but I saw that as he spoke all those people listened. He spoke aloud with increasing ardor, adding emphasis with his right hand. All those who stood around him listened intently, though I did not understand why some of them shed tears. After a few minutes of observation I went off to my mother's room.

My mother, too, was seated and leaning on her right hand, and tears were streaming down her flushed cheeks.

"Why are you crying?" I asked. "Did my uncles buy another forest? Why is Father not crying and why are you crying?"

"Let's leave it," said my mother. "When you're big you'll know why. Right now you're a little boy so you don't have to know all those things."

This answer did not leave me very happy, obviously enough. I sat down on a chair at the side and remained silent.

An hour and more later my father was still speaking and his listeners were still standing as when he began. Then, all of a sudden, their voices exploded in rollicking joy. I ran into the other room. Hand on shoulder, hand on shoulder, they danced and sang. Within a moment one of them had dragged me inside and I, too, was part of the dancing circle.

The singing came to an end. One of the chassidim picked me up on his shoulder then passed me on to another who handed me over to a third who passed me on a fourth - until they had brought me to the table where I could see my father. In the meantime my father had loosened his gartl and removed his outer hat, and his broad forehead glistened with tiny jewels.

R. Yechezkel handed me a cup of mashke over which to say LeChaim! to my father and to the others present, but I declined. I saw that my father was watching me closely. Noting that there were cookies on the table I said to R. Yechezkel: "My teacher R. Shneur says that first of all you have to say the blessing of Mezonos and only after that do you say the blessing of Shehakol." I saw a flicker of a smile on the face of my father and of R. Yechezkel and of others who had overheard me.

R. Yechezkel thereupon handed me a slice of cake. I said a berachah and ate, then said a berachah over the mashke, and later said LeChaim! - first to my father, then to the rav and to the other people around me. I touched the cup to my lips, put it on the table, and sat down on the edge of the rav's chair.

Looking at my father, I saw that his face was not as joyous as earlier, though those who were sitting and standing all around him were singing in jubilation. At that moment I recalled that my mother was sitting in the other room alone. She might even be crying still. My heart grew heavy and I sighed a long sigh.

Without thinking a great deal I got up from my place and approached my father to tell him a secret. He gave me his ear and I said: "Father, Mother is sitting in the other room with tears streaming down her cheeks. I asked her why, but she only said that I'm still a child and I don't have to know everything."

My father was visibly saddened by what I said. After thinking for a moment or two he whispered in my ear: "Go and tell Mother that I feel well. My headache has gone, and my heart doesn't ache any more. She can be at ease: I feel well."

Once again I was raised aloft from one man's hands to the next until I arrived at the door to the other room. My mother was sitting near the window, her eyes red from weeping. I approached her and told her what Father had said.

She smiled and said: "That's very good. Now you can go back to the other room."

[Only this much of the manuscript is extant.]

   

Notes:

  1. (Back to text) In the summer of 5651: The author turned eleven at about this time.

  2. (Back to text) Babinovitch: Birthplace of Rebbitzin Chayah Mushka, of blessed memory.

  3. (Back to text) R. Shmuel Horovitch: See Section 22 below.

  4. (Back to text) Three friends and I studied: For a detailed description of the author's teachers at this time (including R. Chanoch Hendel mentioned below), see Likkutei Dibburim, Volume I, pp. 218-221. On R. Chanoch Hendel specifically, see also: R. Raphael Nachman Kahan, Lubavitch VeChayaleha, p. 125ff.

  5. (Back to text) Seder HaDoros, Sifsei Yesheinim and Tzemach David: Classic works of Jewish chronology and bibliography.

  6. (Back to text) The changes that occurred in my life: See Section 8 below.

  7. (Back to text) The adjoining room: In the original, cheder sheni.

  8. (Back to text) My saintly grandmother: Rebbitzin Rivkah, widow of the Rebbe Maharash and mother of the Rebbe Rashab.

  9. (Back to text) Der kleiner zal (Yid.): "the little [study] hall."

  10. (Back to text) R. Moshe Aryeh Leib: R. Moshe Aryeh Leib Ginsburg of Vitebsk, husband of Devorah Leah, elder daughter of the Rebbe Maharash.

  11. (Back to text) My uncle, R. Zalman Aharon: Eldest son of the Rebbe Maharash and elder brother of the Rebbe Rashab.

  12. (Back to text) My uncle, R. Menachem Mendel: Youngest son of the Rebbe Maharash and younger brother of the Rebbe Rashab.

  13. (Back to text) The future husband of my aunt Chayah Mushka: R. Moshe HaKohen Horenstein later became the younger son-in-law of the Rebbe Maharash.

  14. (Back to text) From the year 5647 (1887): The author was then seven years old; see Section 3 above.

  15. (Back to text) Rosh HaShanah of the year 5650 (1889): The author had just turned nine.

  16. (Back to text) I said Tehillim: I.e., throughout all the available hours of Rosh HaShanah continuously, according to the Chabad-Lubavitch custom.

  17. (Back to text) Our saintly uncle R. Yehudah Leib of Yanovitch: The Alter Rebbe's elder brother, known by the acronym Maharil; i.e., the author's "uncle" several generations removed.

  18. (Back to text) The holy resting places: I.e., of the Tzemach Tzedek and of the Rebbe Maharash, on the outskirts of Lubavitch. (See Likkutei Dibburim, Volume III, footnote on p. 199.)

  19. (Back to text) "Zeides!"...: In the original, this impromptu prayer appears in Yiddish, whereas the surrounding narration is written in the Holy Tongue.

  20. (Back to text) Basya, Basya: Second wife of R. Menachem Mendel and second wife of R. Zalman Aharon, respectively.

  21. (Back to text) The Rebbe Maharash was born: In 1834.

  22. (Back to text) Kept it a secret from Yaakov: See the end of Rashi's comment on Gen. 37:35.

  23. (Back to text) Clothes... entrusted... to... his mother: See Rashi on Gen. 27:15.

  24. (Back to text) On Chaf-Daled Teves: The yahrzeit of the Alter Rebbe (1812).

  25. (Back to text) To say Kaddish: I.e., a minyan had been set up there for the occasion.

  26. (Back to text) Yud-Gimmel Tishrei: The yahrzeit of his father, the Rebbe Maharash (1882).

  27. (Back to text) R. Chanoch Hendel: See footnote to Section 1 above.

  28. (Back to text) Gemilus chessed is superior to charity: Cf. Tractate Sukkah 49b.

  29. (Back to text) Erev Pesach: For a complementary description of the activities and atmosphere of this time in Lubavitch, see Likkutei Dibburim, Volume I, p. 292ff.

  30. (Back to text) Water... for matzah-baking: In the original, mayim shelanu (lit., "water that spent the night [cooling]").

  31. (Back to text) The Search for Chametz: In the original, bedikas chametz; see Siddur, p. 407.

  32. (Back to text) The siyum: I.e., the celebration of a completed program of study which would exempt the author (then ten years old) from the Fast of the Firstborn on the eve of Pesach.

  33. (Back to text) The description of the... Pesach Sacrifice: See Seder Korban Pesach in the Siddur, p. 408.

  34. (Back to text) Tractates... were apportioned on Yud-Tes Kislev: In the original, chalukas haShas; see Sefer HaMinhagim: The Book of Chabad-Lubavitch Customs, pp. 154-5.

  35. (Back to text) To 5679 (1919): This was the last Pesach of the Rebbe Rashab in this world (yahrzeit: Beis Nissan).

  36. (Back to text) R. Shmuel [Horovitch]: See Section 1 above.

  37. (Back to text) Advanced long-term students [of Chassidus]: The Heb. word yoshvim is a translation of the Yid. sitzers (lit., "sitters"); see Section 23 below.

  38. (Back to text) R. Yisrael Noach: Of Niezhin, fourth son of the Tzemach Tzedek.

  39. (Back to text) Rubbing shoulders with exemplary chassidim: The Yid. idiom is raibn-zich tzuvishn chassidim.

  40. (Back to text) Being of service to Torah sages: In the original, gedolah shimushah [shel Torah] yoser milimudah; Tractate Berachos 7b.

  41. (Back to text) The Prayer for Travelers: Siddur, p. 86.

  42. (Back to text) Yalta: Port town in Crimea; see Likkutei Dibburim, Volume I, p. 214, and footnote there.

  43. (Back to text) * Cf. Sefer HaSichos - Kayitz 5700 (1940), p. 28.

  44. (Back to text) Your father's father: The Rebbe Maharash.


  [Chronicles of the First Three Generations of Chabad Chassidism]Appendix  
     Sichos In English -> Books -> Stories & History -> A Prince in Prison

Current
  • Daily Lessons
  • Weekly Texts & Audio
  • Candle-Lighting times

    613 Commandments
  • 248 Positive
  • 365 Negative

    PDA
  • iPhone
  • Java Phones
  • BlackBerry
  • Moshiach
  • Resurrection
  • For children - part 1
  • For children - part 2

    General
  • Jewish Women
  • Holiday guides
  • About Holidays
  • The Hebrew Alphabet
  • Hebrew/English Calendar
  • Glossary

    Books
  • by SIE
  • About
  • Chabad
  • The Baal Shem Tov
  • The Alter Rebbe
  • The Rebbe Maharash
  • The Previous Rebbe
  • The Rebbe
  • Mitzvah Campaign

    Children's Corner
  • Rabbi Riddle
  • Rebbetzin Riddle
  • Tzivos Hashem

  • © Copyright 1988-2009
    All Rights Reserved
    Sichos In English