At the end of the '50s, Chabad Chassidim began to move from the Old City and relocate in the New City. We moved as well, and bought a house together with my sister and brother-in-law. The house itself was large, and it was surrounded by a huge yard—more than a thousand square meters—containing some eighty fruit trees and bushes.

The house was unusually large for urban Samarkand standards. It had been the former home of a Brigadier General in the Russian army, who had been given a large plot of land upon which to build a house by the government. A short while after the house was built and the trees were planted, he divorced his wife and married a younger woman. His former wife then moved into a neighboring government house with a window directly overlooking his large yard and would torment him and his young wife without respite. In time, he had no choice but to sell the house, and that is how we came to buy it.

It was a pleasure to sit in the garden, but the windows overlooking our yard bothered us too. On the one hand, this was the first time we had a house with our very own yard; on the other hand, every move we made was observed by our gentile neighbors. The children couldn’t go out to the yard so the neighbors wouldn’t notice that they did not attend school. We couldn’t go outside wearing tzitzis or Shabbos clothing because they were watching. We were forced to hide out in our very own house.

If we couldn't do something to get out of their sight, my father said, then all the pleasures of a large garden were worthless. We couldn’t be exiled from our own backyard. He finally came to an agreement with the neighbors: In exchange for five meters of land extending across the entire length of the yard, he received their consent to build a high wall surrounding our yard. After that, we were able to host the semi-formal yeshiva that had secretly begun operating in Samarkand, and groups of boys would come to learn in our yard on a regular basis.

A Clever Father-in-law

My father was a clever and insightful man. There were times when the truth of his judgment was only realized with the passage of time.

At the time when R. Mendel Futerfas stayed in our home after arriving in Samarkand from Tchernovitz, my father suspected that one of the gentile neighbors had begun to follow us. My father was extremely on edge, and he would often report to us: “Just as I left the house, he decides to walk his dog. When I went to the market, he was there too, and when he noticed me he bent over as though he was tying his shoelace.”

We were sure that my father was exaggerating, and even R. Mendel said that he was just imagining things, but my father insisted. After a while, the neighbor stopped following us, and only then did we realize how closely he had shadowed us during the previous months.

Once, at a farbrengen before R. Mendel left Russia, my brother-in-law Eliyahu asked him: “As you are well aware, running a yeshiva and taking care of the bochurim studying with us puts us in all sorts of predicaments. Now that you’re going, with whom will we consult?”

R. Mendel said, “If you have a question, or if there is a problem, consult with your father-in-law. He is a clever Chassid and he understands things well. Do you remember how we all thought that he was imagining things when he claimed that the gentile neighbor was following us? It was only later when we realized how right he was. We were all naïve while your father-in-law was absolutely correct in his assessment.”