With R. Berke Chein’s arrival in Samarkand, about which will be related later, the group became even more pious and conscientious in their religious observance. The bochurim were young and receptive, and R. Berke’s behavior had a great impact on them. Although he was forced to stay in hiding and was unable to farbreng publicly, his place of hiding was in our house and in the Mishulovin home, so we were privy to his conduct and it influenced us greatly.

At his secret farbrengens, R. Berke would demand of himself and others to work on their prayer and dedication to religious observance, the study of Chassidus and the like.

His focus on personal character and conduct was insistent, and relentless. He would say playfully, “We have to be careful with our madam,” by which he really meant the acronym for the Hebrew words for thought, speech, and action.

“When a yeshiva student or a young manwalks down the street, there is no need for him to look at his surroundings,” he would state emphatically. “He needs only to look at the space he takes up. Beyond that is not his to view!”

“Speech is like a tossed salad,” he would often say. “It has everything in it: mindless chatter, gossip, rumors, and more.”

In addition to his focus on personal character, Reb Berke also turned the discussion amongst the attendees of his farbrengens to maintaining the chassidic integrity of one’s home and surroundings. Amongst other things, they spoke of how a radio does not belong in a chassidic home, and that the day of Shabbos ought to be kept so completely sacred, that keeping a secular newspaper on the table would be inappropriate since it detracts from this focus, and thus desecrates the honor of Shabbos.

In face of the enormous, often painful pressure to compromise on our chassidic values, to conform to Soviet society, to surrender our children to the regime, these stories would urge us on, and gave us the spirit and strength we needed.

This was style of the farbrengens then, and this was the atmosphere we felt in the company of R. Berke.