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The Direct Approach

The Direct Approach

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Long before his arrest in the summer of 1927, the Soviet authorities were closely watching the "counter-revolutionary" activities of the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, awaiting the opportunity to pounce on their prey. Often the Rebbe had to leave his Leningrad residence and evade the Party henchmen until a particularly dangerous moment passed. On one such occasion, while spending a Shabbat in the Moscow suburb of Niskina, he related this following incident from the days of the "old" czarist regime:

The "Enlightenment Movement", in their war on traditional Jewish life, were once again plotting to enlist the aid of the czarist government to further their aims. Heading the effort was a certain Mr. Karpos whom the authorities had installed as a rabbi in Odessa. He had prepared a voluminous thesis "proving" that religion is the number one enemy of civilization and had concluded with the recommendation that the study of Kabbalah and other fundamentals of Judaism be outlawed. He had then headed to Petersburg to present his "findings" to the government.

My father received word of these developments and dispatched me to Petersburg to deal with the matter. The purpose of the trip was kept secret: I traveled with my wife, and we made it known that we had gone for a medical consultation.

After several days in Petersburg I had made no headway whatsoever; all my connections and exertions were to no avail. I notified father by telegram that all my efforts to stop Karpos had failed. Father replied that I was to keep on trying.

When several more futile days had passed, I took the train home to personally inform father of the hopelessness of the situation. When I entered father's room he was preparing for the morning prayers; his tallit lay folded on his shoulder and he was examining its tzitzit. I reported the events and failed efforts of the last few days, and concluded that, as I saw it, there was absolutely nothing to be done about the situation.

Said father: "Once Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi sent his son, Rabbi DovBer, on a certain mission. Rabbi DovBer returned empty-handed. When he arrived, he found his father with his tallit folded on his shoulder, checking its tzitzit in preparation for the morning prayers.

"Said Rabbi Schneur Zalman: 'Do you see? This is a tallit. The tallit represents the level of the Ohr Makif ("Transcendent Light"), and the Transcendent Light blinds all forces of evil.' Upon hearing this, Rabbi DovBer kissed his father's tzitzit and went back. This time he succeeded."

Without another word, I took hold of father's tzitzit, kissed them, and caught the next train back to Petersburg. Again, I started racking my brains and making my rounds. Then, I had an idea. I went to Karpos' hotel and asked to see him.

Karpos received me warmly -- it seems that he had heard of me or of my father. We sat and talked, and I brought up the subject of his dissertation. He spoke readily of his plans. "Soon we will see who will prevail" he challenged. "Soon, we of the Enlightenment will rid the Jewish people of your archaic notions and practices.

"I have already prepared all the material," he continued to boast, "now I have only to make a few finishing touches and it will be ready for submitting. Our Czar's Ministerial Commission on Culture and Religions has scheduled to review the matter in a few days. Once and for all we shall make our case!"

"May I see what you wrote?" I asked.

"But of course. I have nothing to hide -- in a matter of days, all will be decided" said the preening slanderer, handing me his manuscript.

Without a word I proceeded to tear the dissertation to shreds.

Karpos exploded in rage and frenzy. "What are you doing?! My lectures! My notes! Do you know how many months of research and writing are invested in these papers?!" I continued to tear the manuscript into tiny bits of paper. All the while he continued to bellow in rage, to curse and deride me. In his fury, he dealt me a resounding blow across the face.

When I finished with his papers, I ran from the hotel and returned to Lubavitch.

From Once Upon A Chassid (Kehot, 1994), by Yanki Tauber.
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Sarah Rivka :) Cincinnati, OH June 14, 2013

Wow! That was very bold of him!

I enjoy reading about Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak because I share a birthday with him: 12 Tammuz. :) Reply