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Days of Light

Days of Light

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The following is from a letter by Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak written in 1934:

... My imprisonment in 5687 [1927] was my seventh -- I was imprisoned five times in the days of the old [Czarist] regime and twice in the days of the new [Communist] regime.

The first imprisonment took place in the Lubavitch of my childhood in 5651 [1891] when I was eleven years old. That year, I had begun -- by the advice and instruction of my teacher, Rabbi Nissan -- to submit my memoirs to writing. I recorded this incident in my journal of 5653 [1892-93].

The second imprisonment took place in Lubavitch, in Iyar of 5662 [May-June 1902], when I was informed on to the authorities by the teachers of the school run by the 'Enlightenment' movement in Lubavitch.

The third imprisonment took place in Lubavitch, in Tevet of 5666 [Jan. 1906], as a result of the participation of members of the 'Workers of Zion' party in a riot against the Lubavitch police.

The fourth imprisonment took place in Petersburg, in Tevet of 5670 [Dec. 1909-Jan. 1910]; the informer being the Jewish scholar K.

The fifth imprisonment took place in Petersburg, in Shevat of 5676 [Jan.-Feb. 1916], because of my efforts to obtain legal material concerning the exemption of religious functionaries from military service.

The sixth imprisonment was in Tammuz of 5680 [June-July 1920] in Rostov-on-Don; the informer was D., the Yevsektzia ("Jewish Section" of the Communist Party) head of Rostov.

All these were imprisonments of but hours; the seventh, however, is the most distinguished of them all.


As is the nature of things, the analogy is more trivial than the analog and the analog more formidable than the analogy. If confinement in a prison of wood and stone is an affliction, how much greater is the suffering of the G‑dly Soul in the imprisonment of the body and the Animal Soul. Men bedarf zich in dem batifen ("One should think deeply into this").

I will not deny that, at times, this seventh imprisonment causes me great pleasure, as is evident by the fact that now, some seven years after the event, I occasionally take the time to seclude myself and visualize the encounters and discussions, the visions and the dreams, which I heard, saw, and dreamt in those days.

In addition to the set life-periods of man -- childhood, youth, his single and married days, maturity and old age; in addition to the talents granted him, be they average and ordinary or brilliant and phenomenal, or his temperament, whether shy and melancholy or joyous and exuberant; in addition to all this, Divine Providence grants a person special moments in his life which may transform his nature, develop his faculties, and set him upon a higher plateau, so that he may behold the purpose of the life of man upon earth.

The period which most profoundly affects the course of a person's soul and the development of his faculties is that period which is rich with suffering and persecution for his diligent and passionate work for an ideal; in particular, when one is struggling with and battling his persecutors and oppressors to uphold and strengthen his faith.

Such an experience, though fraught with pain of the body and agony of the soul, is rich with powerful impressions. These are the days of light in the life of man.

Each and every event of such a period is extremely significant and distinguished, particularly in the case of arrest and imprisonment. Because of their great spiritual value, not only the days and nights, but also the hours and minutes are worthy of note. For every hour and moment of pain, affliction and suffering brings tremendous rewards and infinite fortitude of mind -- also the most feeble of men is transformed to the mightiest of the mighty.

This last imprisonment began at 2:45 a.m. early Wednesday morning, Tuesday night, Sivan 15 5687 [June 15, 1927], and lasted until 1:30 p.m. Sunday Tammuz 3rd [July 3], in the city of Leningrad-Petersburg.

Eighteen days, eleven hours, and fifteen minutes.

That day at 8:30 o'clock in the evening, after approximately six hours at home, I left with the train that goes to the city of Kastrama. I arrived on the next day, Monday the 4th of Tammuz, and I remained in exile until 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, the 13th of Tammuz.

Nine days and Seventeen hours...


Published in Likkutei Dibburim, Vol. IV, pp. 1219-1221; English translation by Yanki Tauber ("Once Upon a Chassid", Kehot 1994).

See also:
A Boy and A Calf
Monotheism
Moscow, 1927

From the writings of the sixth Lubavitcher rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn; translation/adaptation by Yanki Tauber.
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