Decades after the tumultuous events described in this volume, a number of fascinating contemporary documents and diary entries came to light. In those candid letters and jottings, in his characteristically graphic style, the Rebbe Rayatz1 not only described the dramatic perils of defiance to Stalin’s regime, but also recorded his personal reactions to them. His detailed diary entries are so alive that their reader senses that he was personally present, in his company, as he experienced the surprising and intimidating encounters that they describe. These include one of the most critical moments in all the two centuries of Chabad-Lubavitch history – his arrest and cruel incarceration in Leningrad, in the middle of the night of 15 Sivan, 5687 (1927).

He was accused of “counter-revolutionary activities.” In other words: Unintimidated by the spies who shadowed him in every shtibl and hotel and railway station, he addressed his inspiring Torah teachings – publicly – not only to his chassidim, but to “all Jews who are waiting in hope for Mashiach.” Moreover, he deployed the hundreds of idealistic chassidim who day after day risked their lives, quite literally, in order to maintain a countrywide underground network of chadarim and yeshivos, shochtim and mikvaos.

True, his arrest was executed by the dreaded Secret Police of Stalinist Russia. (At the time it was known as the GPU, and was successively known as the NKVD, the MGB, and ultimately the KGB.) In fact, however, it was engineered by the heartless informers of the Yevsektsia, the faithful members of the “Jewish Section” of the Communist Party. Apart from them, the Rebbe Rayatz also had to cope with the wily activities of other Jewish bodies, such as the so-called Religious Community Council of Leningrad. Thus, the bitter truth is that he had to focus much of his energy and self-sacrifice on challenges that were painfully near home.

The above arrest of 1927 is described in this volume not only by the Rebbe himself, but also by a faithful elder chassid who was an alert eye-witness and active participant throughout the events of this tempestuous period. This was Reb Elye Chayim Althaus, whom the Rebbe Rayatz refers to as “a friend of our household.” Interestingly, as the Rebbe Rayatz was being hurried off in the GPU van to the dreaded dungeons of Spalerno Prison, the moment of eye contact between this chassid quaking on the street corner, fearful for the Rebbe’s life, and the warm and reassuring nod that he receives, is described by them both. These two perspectives of the same touching moment grant us a rare glimpse into the loving bond of souls between Rebbe and chassid that is called hiskashrus.

A detailed depiction of “The Lubavitcher Rebbe’s Ordeal in Soviet Russia” from a very different slant is also presented here. Its source is an anonymous Yiddish booklet published in 1930 in Riga, Latvia, which now appears in English for the first time. In his stirring reconstruction of the period – in order to heighten the tension, and to produce the sentimental technicolor that idiomatic Yiddish is so fond of – its independent chronicler allowed himself a little poetic license here and there. Why, then, is this version nevertheless presented here? Firstly, because it covers certain aspects of the episode and its sequel that are outside the scope of the above accounts; secondly, because it photographs the mood and climate of that turbulent era.

From a variety of perspectives, then, the present volume is a unique primary source, affording a rich insight into the crowded years that helped forge the proactive personality of Chabad-Lubavitch chassidim ever since.

In addition, this sixth volume, which brings Likkutei Dibburim to completion, provides a battery of supplementary background resources, including: a biographical outline of the author; a simplified family tree of the author’s forebears; a glossary; a chronological listing (with a page index) of all the talks and letters in this series; a regional map; and three indexes that cover all six volumes – an Index of Placenames, a Biographical Index; and a detailed Subject Index.

The entire project was initiated and masterminded by Rabbi Yonah Avtzon, Director of Sichos In English; it was researched, translated and annotated by the undersigned; and Yosef Yitzchok Turner was its untiring typographer (and cartographer). Thanks are also due to Ms. Neria Cohen, Ms. Michal Levin, Ms. Pnina Rochwarger and Ms. Toby Trompeter for their professional assistance with the indexes of names and places.

May we all become worthy of the rare zechus of disseminating the life-giving wellsprings of this classic work.

Uri Kaploun

Jerusalem עיר הקודש ת"ו
Rosh Chodesh Kislev, 5773 (תשע"ג; 2012)