On Sunday of the week of Parshas Balak, the third of Tammuz, 5687 (1927), having just been released from incarceration [and capital sentence], the Rebbe Rayatz stood on the step of the train that was to take him to Kostroma, the city to which he had been exiled.1 Turning to the many chassidim who accompanied him to the station, he said:

We ask G‑d, Blessed Be He:2 “May the L-rd our G‑d be with us”3and He will indeed be with us — “as He was with our fathers; may He not forsake us, nor abandon us.”

We cannot be likened to our fathers, for they were characterized by mesirus nefesh — literal self-sacrifice — for the Torah and its mitzvos. This is reflected in the well-known statement of one of our holy forebears4 (when the former regime tried to force the rabbis to institute reforms in Jewish education and in the status of rabbis and the rabbinate):

Nevertheless, all the nations on the face of the earth must know: Our bodies alone were banished into exile to be ruled by the nations of the world. Our souls were never exiled, nor were they subjected to the rule of the nations.

We must openly declare for all to hear, that with regard to everything involving our religion — the Torah of the people of Israel, with its commandments and customs — no one is going to impose his views on us,5 and no force has the right to subjugate us.

With all the power of Jewish stubbornness and with our thousand-year heritage of mesirus nefesh,6 we must say, “Do not touch My anointed ones, and do not harm My prophets.”7

This is the way a Jew permeated by mesirus nefesh spoke, whereas we do not have [even] the resolute strength to make a clear statement to the world and show what the wanton deeds of several hundred reckless Jewish youth are doing to Jews and to Jewish life. Everyone knows that the laws [of the Russian government] permit us to study the Torah and observe its mitzvos (albeit with certain limitations). It is betrayal and libel [on the part of these youths] that is leading us to prisons and hard-labor camps.

This is our request to G‑d: “May He not forsake us, nor abandon us.” May G‑d give us the necessary fortitude not to be affected by physical suffering and, on the contrary, to accept it with joy.8 The punishment which we must suffer (G‑d forbid) for maintaining a cheder, for studying the Torah, or for observing its mitzvos, should reinforce us in the sacred task of strengthening Jewish life.

We must always bear in mind that prisons and hard-labor camps are transient, whereas the Torah, its mitzvos, and the Jewish people, are eternal.

May you all be strong and healthy, both materially and spiritually. I hope to G‑d that the punishment which I must temporarily suffer will, with G‑d’s help, inject fresh vigor in [our] eternal [mission of] strengthening Jewish life, and that we will merit the fulfillment [of the promise] that “the L-rd our G‑d [will] be with us as He was with our fathers,” and that all of the Children of Israel will have light in their dwellings,9 in both a spiritual and a material sense.