By the Grace of G‑d
The fifth day of Parshas Matos 21 Tammuz, 5687 (1927)1

Moscow

To our esteemed friends,
the eminent2 Rabbi Menachem Mendel Lokshin3
the Chabad chassidim of the US and Canada:

Cordial greetings!

Let us praise G‑d for his great lovingkindness, for this is a time of glad tidings, a feast of joy. The third day of the week (the day of Creation on which G‑d expressed His satisfaction twice), the twelfth of Tammuz, was the day on which the servant of G‑d, the crown of our glory – the Rebbe, Shlita4 – was redeemed in peace. This day has been designated by G‑d for all generations, until the coming of the Righteous Redeemer, as a day of rejoicing.

This day recalls the first Yud-Tes Kislev.5 Indeed, one may well say that this latter miracle is greater than the former – because in the present case, those responsible were Jews,6 men of free choice, who knew full well what was at stake, and sought to uproot not only the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov but G‑d’s Torah in its entirety, to utterly extinguish (G‑d forbid!) the lamp of His people, Israel.7 However, G‑d was with Yosef the Righteous8 and saved his life – and the lives of all the Jews whose survival depended on him – from the murderous snare that they had vainly contrived against him. However, “the lying lips that spoke arrogantly against the righteous man were struck dumb,”9 and “those who plotted against his life were confounded and disgraced.”10 The date on which he was born, the date on which his hidden light first appeared, was the twelfth of Tammuz in the year 5640 (1880) – and on that very date, the twelfth of Tammuz in the year 5687 (1927), the sun shone forth for us in all its might and beamed upon us a light seven times more sublime than the radiance of dawn.

“Who can find words for the mighty deeds of G‑d and declare all His praise?”11 Can a finite man, who is bound by the laws of nature, describe with pen on paper someone who is so unlike myself, someone who down here below is being led from Above in a manner that utterly transcends the finite laws of nature? With our own eyes, we members of the chassidic brotherhood12 patently witnessed overt miracles and wonders – after having seen and known the awesome danger that hovered over the holy one in particular, and indeed upon all of us of the House of Israel. How, then, can I refrain from revealing to you, my loved ones, at least a thousandth part of what we heard and saw? This is what transpired.

From the beginning of this year,13 those of us who were nearest to the Rebbe and abided in his holy ambiance were in constant dread, because at the times that he customarily revealed something of his inner self – such as Simchas Torah, Yud-Tes Kislev, and Purim – we heard from his mouth terrifying words that none of us had ever heard from our first day on earth. For example, he once said: “I’m burning like a candle. Have no pity on my body: only on my head.” He demanded that each of us practice literal self-sacrifice: “Watch over your children! Enroll them only in a cheder!14 Educate your children in the paths of your fathers, and if not, then (G‑d forbid! G‑d forbid!)….” I find it hard to repeat his words. They flared like a fiery torch: “All Jews who hope for the coming of Mashiach! Chassidim! Say Tehillim!”

He wept at length and through his tears uttered words that jabbed you like a sword – words so awesome that our aged colleague, R. Moshe Anshel from Nevl, pleaded with him: “Rebbe, we don’t want to hear this! We want a Rebbe here!” And his mother, the elder rebbitzin,15 felt obliged to persuade her son to desist from such terrifying words.

Throughout the year, and now, too, we have been regularly saying Tehillim after the morning prayers in all the prayer-houses16 of Anash everywhere.17 We were truly afraid – and we were answered.

[But first,] during the night preceding Wednesday of the week of Parshas Shlach, on the [fifteenth] of Sivan, at 2:00 A.M., the Rebbe was arrested and imprisoned in the severest prison. The Holy Ark was hidden from our view. We did not know where he was nor what had befallen him. For fourteen days we did not know with whom to speak nor of whom to make a request. We walked about all day long, lost and wretched. We felt as if our lives were hanging precariously in the air, not knowing even whether Joseph was still alive…. We ordained public fasts in all the communities and said Tehillim without interruption all day long. Finally, eighteen-and-a-half days later, on Sunday of the week of Parshas Balak, his great light was revealed to us. However, to our deep distress, we were not privileged to enjoy his radiance, for on the same day the sun was again hidden from our sight, and after a mere few hours, he was obliged to be on his way, as sentenced, to the city of refuge to which he was to be exiled for three years. During those intervening few hours we found out what he had been accused of and the supposed transgressions of which he had been found guilty. On account of four main accusations his blood was figuratively spilled like water: (a) that he was the leader of all the chassidim on earth; (b) that he established chadarim and yeshivos and many other religious facilities throughout this country; (c) that he was universally accepted as an authority among the Orthodox, the intelligentsia, and also in bourgeois circles both here and abroad; (d) that by virtue of his power and his activities, substantial sums of money were being brought into the country from abroad for the support of Torah scholars. There were also many other details that are better left unpublished.

Confronted as he was by all of this, the all-forgiving G‑d granted him profound wisdom, and his sublime answers to each and every question sprang from his innermost nucleus of truth. G‑d was with him, and once again, “Joseph was the [spiritual] provider.”18

These were the first words that we were privileged to hear from his pure lips: “Now I have palpably seen that ‘You are G‑d.’ All the stories that are told about the Alter Rebbe, I palpably saw. No quarter-hour passed without my having seen my father. Many new explanations will now be forthcoming, illustrating the profound and pregnant concepts of Chassidus. If only I knew that [all the recent events] would result in a tangible gain – that they would breach the barriers preventing overt Torah study – I would overlook all my suffering.”

He also said many other things that no mouth can repeat. He fasted on each of those eighteen-and-a-half days, and in every Shemoneh Esreh he added the prayer of supplication that begins with Aneinu.19 He underwent a great deal of self-sacrifice until, on his third day there, his tallis and tefillin were finally given to him. This is not the forum for further details. While he was there, he also delivered and wrote a great deal of Chassidus, but so far we know of only two maamarim: the one beginning Min HaMeitzar Karasi… (“From out of the depths have I called You”20 ), and the one beginning Havayah Li BeOzrai VaAni Er’eh… (“G‑d is among those who help me; may I witness [the downfall of] those who hate me”21 ). There will yet be time to find out about the others.

We arrived at the “city of refuge”22 on Monday night, the eve of the third day of Parshas Balak, and in the morning we immediately reported to the relevant office for the weekly registration that the law required. The Jews of the local community received us with all due respect. A week later, on the third day of Parshas Pinchas – the date was Yud-Beis Tammuz – we again reported to that office, but as soon as we arrived, they informed us that the Rebbe was now to be released and was free to proceed in any direction. The following day, Wednesday, he was handed the necessary documents,23 on Thursday morning we set out for home, and we arrived there peacefully in time for Shabbos. “For the Jews there was light and gladness!”24 The light of the Torah shone brightly upon us, and a holy joy warmed our hearts. May G‑d grant that we never again grieve, that the lamp of Israel never be extinguished, and that the Rebbe’s wellsprings will be disseminated to the furthest places.25

Nevertheless, my dear friends, after all that we witnessed with our own eyes, we are obligated to take to heart the principle laid down by our Sages, that “a miracle doesn’t happen every day,” and that “one is not permitted to rely on a miracle.”26 We are not yet free of anxiety and are not yet enjoying unclouded repose. Deep in our hearts there still abides concern, for we do not know from where salvation suddenly sprang forth, whether from here or from over there, nor do we know why things were suddenly overturned positively. Accordingly, the dread that we experienced in the past continues to hover over us in the days ahead, for who knows what each new day will bring? Who knows what wind will blow next, and from which direction in the political world? In truth, [the Rebbe] has no connection whatever with the world of politics. His portion in this world is only the four cubits of Torah and prayer. However, now that they have really found out who this great man is, and realize his stature and loving repute in the eyes of all the Jews worldwide who quake in reverence at the mere mention of his name, we are afraid lest the Evil Eye27 focus on him, and use his case as a football to serve some alien interest, G‑d forbid.

A sacred obligation therefore devolves upon us, and upon our cherished brethren who are bound and devoted to him, to act according to the teaching of our Sages: “A Torah scholar must be guarded,”28 and “may not go out alone at night.”29 So be vigilant, and keep yourselves constantly informed of his welfare. Do not deflect your attention even for one moment from the crown of our head and the treasure of our heart. Maintain constant contact with “the house of our life” and with all our fellow members of the chassidic fraternity, wherever they may be. By day and by night, beseech our Father in Heaven to have compassion upon him. May the merit of his forebears, our holy Rebbeim, shield him against all hateful conspiracies and unfounded suspicions, so that he will steadfastly withstand all the winds in the world.

I remain, sir, your loving friend who seeks your constant welfare,

Eliyahu Chayim Althaus