On that same visit to Riga, R. Yisrael told me that he had recently been visited by the Rebbe’s secretary, Rabbi Nissan Mindel. R. Nissan had a set of tefillin, phylacteries, that were fashioned out of one piece of leather, which is the Halachically preferable method of forming tefillin. Being that such tefillin were not available in Russia, R. Yisrael asked R. Nissan to exchange them with his own. R. Nissan agreed and left his pair with R. Yisrael. I had the privilege of putting on those tefillin and reciting the Shema with them.

R. Yisrael also told me that R. Nissan had relayed that the Rebbe wanted photographs of the young men of Lubavitch in Russia, the bochurim, to be sent to him. At first I refused to be photographed as I was embarrassed and afraid, but R. Yisrael insisted and took me, against my will, to the photographer. As I was being photographed, I reviewed in my mind the twelfth chapter of Tanya. I wish for myself today to feel the sentiments I felt then.

During those years, we were disconnected from any Chabad literature, and it was only on rare occasions that we would merit to receive some Chabad material from tourists who had come to visit Russia. We had no idea of the topics the Rebbe was addressing in his talks, or what he was demanding from the Chassidim at any given time. R. Yisrael, who passionately wanted to help us in Samarkand with whatever he was able, told me that R. Nissan Mindel had left with him a two-volume set of Likutei Dibburim, of the Rebbe Rayatz. He was not willing to give me the books themselves, explaining that not all the Lubavitchers in the area had had a chance to go through them yet, but he suggested that I photograph the pages and then develop the pictures in Samarkand.

I was thrilled with this idea and rushed to buy ten rolls of film. R. Yisrael prepared his bedroom for this purpose and it was there that I photographed the two volumes. Before I entered the bedroom, he asked his wife not to go in so she would not see what I was doing there. She did not ask any questions.

R. Yisrael also told me that tourists who had recently arrived from the United States had brought with them the first four volumes of Likutei Sichos. Now a 39 volume set, Likutei Sichos is perhaps the magnum opus of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, and a classic work of Torah. According to R. Yisrael, the Chabad rabbi in Leningrad, known as “der Liepler rav,” had these volumes in his possession. He suggested that I travel to Leningrad and request that he give them to me. "He will probably be suspicious of you," he told me. "To calm his fears, tell him that Yisrael Pevzner sent you."

I headed straight for Leningrad and made my way to the main shul at 8 Nevsky Prospect Street. Next to the left-hand courtyard, on the second floor, was a small shulwhere most of the Lubavitchers in Leningrad had prayed before the war. The Rabbi lived in a small apartment below the shul. As was to be expected, he was initially suspicious of me and refused to admit that he had the books. However, after I told him that I was a friend of R. Yisrael Pevzner and that he had sent me here, he gave me the set of Likutei Sichos without any questions.

It is impossible to describe the joy of the Lubavitchers in Samarkand when I brought home this treasure. We immediately sent two volumes to the Chassidim in Tashkent while we learned the other two volumes. After a few weeks we switched with them. It was enough time to review the two volumes from cover to cover. We learned it avidly day and night, devouring every word with great pleasure.

In the meantime, I developed the film with the pictures from Likutei Dibburim. It was dangerous to have these pictures, to the point that we did not show them to the boys in the yeshiva. Instead, I would sit together with R. Itche Mishulovin on Thursday nights to copy the Rebbe Rayatz’s talks from the book, into notebooks. I would compete with R. Itche as to who wrote faster and nicer. (Truth be told, he won.) It was these copies that we gave to the boys to learn from.