Indeed, on the 19th of Kislev, 1960, a regular learning routine was established. The initial group consisted of four students: Naftali Estulin, Shmuel Chaim Frankel, Shaika Gertzman and Itche Mishulovin, who had been learning alone until then. The positions of lecturer, Chassidic mentor, and student supervisor were held by one individual: R. Michoel Mishulovin. A short time later, the brothers Eliyohu and Yosef Volovik from Chernovitz joined as well. Then Shimshon Cohen arrived from Chernovitz, and then a few more boys, and eventually two separate classeswere formed.

The learning first took place at the home of my brother Berel on 6 Tchlekskaya Street, in a small one-room cottage in the yard, where several of the boys would also sleep. The cottage lacked heating, and its only table served a dual purpose: by day it was used as a table, and at night it served as a bed. Shmuel Chaim Frankel later reminded me that I arranged heating by means of some mechanism with a fan that blew hot air. The boysdubbed it “Hilke’s patent.” (I myself do not recall this detail!)

These underground studies were kept in the strictest confidence. Tzvi Hirsch Lerner, for example, did not know where his guest Shmuel Chaim had disappeared to; he only knew that he would not return to them anymore. As long as the boys were with their respective hosts, they were literally like prisoners under house arrest; only late in the evening would they go out for a breath of fresh air.

One day, recalls Shmuel Chaim, we were told that R. Mordechai Kozliner would come to test us, and we realized that Mordechai knew about the yeshiva. "Many years later," Shmuel Chaim says, "I realized how much this helped us, because we all prepared seriously and reviewed for the test, as we were nervous that we would not know the material."

Although the learning followed the schedule of Tomchei Tmimim yeshivas, we never thought of calling this learning program by the holy name of “Yeshivas Tomchei Tmimim.” After all, it consisted of just a few boys learning here and there in private homes, and although it certainly had a chassidic atmosphere, it wasn’t exactly the yeshiva atmosphere that comes with several dozen students learning together.

On the other hand, a feeling developed deep within me that although this was not a yeshiva in a large, prestigious building, the unique holiness of Tomchei Tmimim was present nonetheless. I remember that during the hakafot dancing on Simchas Torah, I would endeavor to lead the seventh and final of the hakafot, whose accompanying prayer was the origin of the Tomchei Tmimim name, and is associated with the yeshiva. I would recite the words “Tomchei Temimim Hoshi’ah Na”—“He Who supports the sincere, please deliver us!”—with great fervor and enthusiasm, praying silently to Hashem: Please protect these studentswho study as in Tomchei Temimim, so they will be able to continue learning without any disruption, G‑d forbid!

The first to use the name “yeshiva” to describe the boys' studieswas R. Mendel Futerfas. After he moved to Samarkand, he would ask whenever I visited him, “What’s happening in the yeshiva?”

At first, I didn't understand his intention. Was he being ironic, and making fun of the learning we had arranged?! But R. Mendel was entirely serious. "What do you think a yeshiva is?" he said. "A place where hundreds of studentssit and learn? No! If even a small number of boys learn the Talmud, Halacha and Chassidus according to the schedule of Tomchei Tmimim, it is a yeshiva!

"Tell me," continued R. Mendel. "Do the boys study Chassidus four hours a day, in the morning and the evening?" When I replied in the affirmative, R. Mendel ended the discussion. "Nu," he said. "If so, this is Tomchei Tmimim!"

Nonetheless, I have difficulty even today describing the learning that took place in Samarkand with the title "yeshiva."