Not surprisingly, even the limited dissemination of this letter from friend to friend, in writing or orally, was enough to make waves. The Rebbe’s explicit opposition to the proposed general conference encouraged many G‑d-fearing Jews to protest against it openly, and to persuade all kinds of uncommitted Jews who for various reasons did not view it favorably. At the very same time, however, just as with any two wrestlers, as soon as one side gains the upper hand, the other side musters all its strength to overpower it,1 many communities were now roused to express their outspoken identification with the Leningrad community council.

In return they received letters from the council urging them not to believe the Lubavitcher chassidim, and instead to put their trust in Chief Rabbi Katzenelenbogen. After all, was he not the eldest of the veteran rabbis?2 Moreover, the letters argued, his interests were identical with the interests of the recipients, and the opposition to the conference sprang only from the classic controversy between chassidim and misnagdim. The council was thus able to pull the wool over the eyes of many innocent fellow Jews by fanning the embers of a dying controversy.

This state of affairs came to an end when word leaked out to individuals in various communities that the prodigious power behind the council’s above-described publicity was none other than the Yevsektsia, the notorious “Jewish section” of the Communist Party. They did not publicize their involvement. On the contrary, they rigorously forbade the leading rabbis from breathing a word about it, and sought to intimidate them into signing their assent to the conference. To the credit of those rabbis be it said that despite the severe threats that hung over them, not a single one of them capitulated and signed. Their dread of the consequences advised them to maintain absolute silence. And thanks to that silence, the entire subject of the general conference simmered down into oblivion – until late in the winter of 5687 (1927), when it suddenly blazed afresh, as I shall later recount.

In the meantime, the Rebbe underwent an unpleasant experience which to this day has remained an unsolved riddle. If that incident had not later played a significant role in the interrogations and charges that took place during the Rebbe’s incarceration, I would have passed over it in silence. Here is the story.

Before Hakkafos on the eve of Shemini Atzeres, 5686 (1925), a non-Jew visited the Rebbe’s house and told one of the chassidim at the door that he was Professor Barteshenko, and that he had arrived from Moscow especially in order to be admitted to the Rebbe’s study for a private interview. It was explained to him that this was a festival, a day on which the Rebbe did not engage at all in non-religious matters. He argued that this explanation was a mere excuse and insisted at length that his request be brought to the attention of the Rebbe himself. So since he was a professor, and since there was a certain fear of rejecting his request because we couldn’t tell what manner of man he was, one of us went up to the Rebbe’s table and told him about this visitor.

The Rebbe was not fazed in the slightest. He asked his secretary, [Chaim] Lieberman, to go out and tell the visitor that, begging his pardon, the Rebbe would be unable to receive him on this special day. If he would be so good as to come again two days later, on Isru Chag, he would be welcomed with respect.

“I sorely regret having wasted my time,” replied the professor, “but considering the weighty nature of the subject at hand, I will stay in Leningrad until after the festival.”

When he duly arrived on Isru Chag he was immediately admitted to the Rebbe’s study. There he remained for a very long time. We chassidim who were most closely involved in the Rebbe’s activities had no idea of this man’s intentions, nor of his reasons for speaking with the Rebbe. We later heard that this Barteshenko engaged in some esoteric discipline that was somehow linked to numerology3 and that sought to uncover hidden truths and foretell future events. This discipline was said to be somehow related (though keeping in mind the distinction between the sacred and the profane4 ) with the mystical teachings of the Kabbalah. We also heard that he had secured a governmental permit for the association that he had founded for people who were interested in the serious study of this discipline, and that it included many eminent scholars.

One day he was told that in Leningrad there resided the greatest man of Israel, a scholar who was proficient in the teachings of the Kabbalah, a sage whom no secret escaped and to whom the paths of Heaven were familiar. The professor, therefore, in the course of his search for G‑d, had now sought out the Rebbe, in order to learn that which was hidden from him – because, as he claimed, through his studies he had arrived at a grasp of the unity of G‑d, in the way that we Jews believe. All we found out about the Rebbe’s response was that the study of Chassidus has absolutely no connection whatever with foretelling the future, and that we are forbidden to seek such matters that are hidden from mortals.

As to Barteshenko’s request concerning the classic works of the Kabbalah, the Rebbe told him that he would be prepared to help him, but his time was particularly precious at this point. Besides, his ability to translate them into Russian was limited. However, he added, his relative, Rabbi M. M. Schneerson, was soon due to arrive from Yekaterinoslav. Since he was familiar both with the language of the Kabbalah and with the Russian language, the Rebbe would ask him to find the necessary sources, translate them, and mail them to the professor. Delighted with the help and the warm welcome that he had been given, Barteshenko thanked the Rebbe profusely and went his way.

We then learned how the Rebbe viewed this visitor. Uncertain as to what lay deep inside him, the Rebbe had related to him with cautious respect. When the professor first began to speak about the unity of G‑d and linked it with numbers and with his theories about foreseeing the future, the Rebbe had doubts as to his sanity. Sensing this, the professor promptly produced from his pocket documents signed by a number of Moscow professors attesting to his mental stability. In addition, since he was afraid of being suspected of espionage, he produced many documents from the Politbureau and from the National Economic Commission, certifying that he held a senior position there.

Soon after, he sent the Rebbe a few hundred gold rubles, together with a letter explaining that this sum was intended to cover the traveling expenses of Rabbi M. M. Schneerson from Yekaterinoslav to Leningrad, as well as further expenses that would no doubt be incurred. Without letting a single day pass, the Rebbe immediately returned the money that he had been sent; he did not deduct the cost of postage.

Perturbed and insulted, Barteshenko wrote a long letter in return, explaining why he had taken offense. He went out of his way in an endeavor to prove his bona fides and to demonstrate that the fact that his money was returned to him proved that the Rebbe suspected him in vain. He wrote that he would therefore have to visit the Rebbe again in order to personally remove any trace of suspicion. When he arrived, in the winter, the Rebbe introduced him to his relative, Rabbi M. M. Schneerson, following which there was a year-long correspondence between them and a meeting in the home of the professor. The Rebbe then forgot all about him and his lifework and didn’t give him another thought.

In the winter of 5687 (1927), something terrible happened in the Rebbe’s household. One Wednesday night, on the eve of the 15th of the month of Adar I,5 which was February 16, the Rebbe’s senior secretary, R. Elchanan Dov Morozov,6 was arrested and incarcerated in the harshest of Russia’s prisons, which was locally nicknamed Shpalerka.7

The chassidim, and so too the Rebbe’s household, were dumbstruck. They knew that he had not been arrested for any wrongdoing, nor had he ever been involved in politics, nor had he ever tried his hand in business.8 Nevertheless, he had now been locked up together with the heavyweight political prisoners. It was thus clear to everyone that he had been arrested on account of his involvement with the Rebbe’s activities.

The Rebbe was not at home at the time, having gone to Moscow for two days. He was advised to remain there until a courier reached him, and when he heard the terrifying news from the courier, he too was alarmed. Not for even a moment did he consider remaining in Moscow, in hiding. Hurrying home, he learned that R. Elchanan was confined in a solitary, unlit cell, under unusually strict guard, as if he were a hardened criminal. Unlike the other prisoners, he was not allowed to receive food from home, and his family’s official request that he be given at least the medications that his weak state of health required, were rejected. His family was driven out without a word. Nor was he allowed to take his tallis and tefillin with him. All the extensive efforts, including those of the prisoners’ welfare society, were of no avail. They had asked only that he be allowed to receive a little kosher food and some clothing, and that he be informed of the reason for his arrest.

For some days this fearful situation affected the Rebbe’s health so seriously that it affected his work, because it was clear to everyone that R. Elchanan had been arrested for his role in operating the Rebbe’s network of chadarim and yeshivos throughout Russia. All their addresses, recorded in a booklet that had always been hidden in a plate belonging to R. Elchanan, were taken from him when his home was searched. As soon as the officers of the dreaded GPU arrived at his home to present him with their search warrant, he had the presence of mind to quickly hand the Rebbe’s correspondence relating to the chadarim and yeshivos, and to other such activities, to his son. Though only four years old at the time, this child was canny enough to grasp the situation: he stuffed the letters into his schoolbag and left the house. The officers who stood guard at the door took no particular notice of the little boy and let him leave freely.9

Blessed be He Who sanctifies His Name – secretly.10 Through this little boy, thousands of pupils were saved, in these days and at this time.11

News of the arrest spread quickly throughout the whole of Russia and struck terror in the heart of every melamed who taught in the clandestine chadarim. Yet not one of them allowed it to interfere with his holy work. From the day that the Yevsektsia was founded, these teachers had grown used to literally risking their lives in order to enable even one more child to study G‑d’s Torah, and thus to save him from the cruel hands of those latter-day Inquisitors.

The Rebbe heard from various quarters that R. Elchanan had been arrested because of his connection with the Rebbe. Some people added that the first question that they had asked R. Elchanan when they came to his home was whether he was the senior secretary of Rabbi Schneersohn – sure proof that this was the reason for his arrest. Nevertheless, we chassidim who were closest to the Rebbe heard explicitly from his lips that R. Elchanan’s arrest was utterly unconnected with the Rebbe or with his work. We assumed at the time that the Rebbe had said this only in order to allay the fears of the activists, so that their work should not be affected. After some time, however, it became known – and it was publicized – that what the Rebbe had said was literally true.

It transpired that R. Elchanan’s arrest in fact had no connection with the Rebbe or with his work; it resulted from the deceitful slanders of a wicked informer against R. Elchanan and against some other chassidim from Nevl. In fact, even according to the law of the land, he had no connection whatever with the alleged crime and did not even know of it, yet he was being more cruelly persecuted than a robber in the forest or a murderer. Any normal person could see that the very notion of linking him with that crime was so absurd as to be unthinkable. It was no more plausible than the blood libels concocted by fanatical Christian priests a hundred years ago. All we can say is that it was decreed Above that R. Elchanan, too, was to drink the bitter waters of that year, 5687 (1927). Sadly, his darkness has not yet been brought to an end. Until this day, he and his friends are still imprisoned in the gloom of some remote Siberian town, in that parched and weary wasteland. May G‑d, “Who avenges us against our persecutors,”12 soon show them mercy, take them out of the dark shadow of death, and break their shackles.13

That winter saw another foul incident, which in turn brought about another unpleasant event that has remained an unsolved mystery to this day.

The courtyard in which the Rebbe lived for over three years in Leningrad had a gentile manager, an uncouth and illiterate alcoholic who could not tell his right hand from his left. He was entrusted with the task of collecting the monthly rent from all the local apartments, including the Rebbe’s apartment.

According to the current practice in our country, every big city has a Kamchoz, a commission for communally-owned property, which by force became the sole heir, so to speak, of all the courtyards and buildings in the city.14 This commission in turn established a “residential partnership agency” called Zhakat to control each local group of apartments. The Comrades who participated were empowered to do as they pleased with all real estate – to build or demolish, to repair or to damage, to plant in the apartments whatever persons they chose, or to evict them if they so desired – all with the sanction of their document of authorization.

In keeping with its regulations, all residents were divided according to their social status into four categories. The highest category was reserved for laborers. Their rights were sacrosanct and they were given free rein to wreak havoc. Nine of them were chosen in each courtyard to manage all the affairs of its residents in every detail, at their discretion – renovation, demolition, arrivals and departures, as well as all monetary affairs. Above all, (a) they staunchly safeguarded the rights of their fellow laborers, while (b) pressuring and tormenting those who comprised “the unproductive element.” These two activities they held to be complementary and indivisible components of the same ideal. Indeed, whoever excelled in hounding the non-workers was assured of peer approval and a position of leadership. According to their principles, they were always innocent, regardless of whatever harm they may have inflicted on others, whereas anyone who harmed them was automatically guilty.

The lowest of the four categories was reserved for individuals who had a connection with something holy or with the local religion. To incriminate, defame, abuse, disgrace or maltreat a rabbi or (lehavdil)15 a priest or a colleague of theirs was held to be a praiseworthy virtue. Such individuals were not to be pitied. If anyone with a gentle nature was caught showing such a person compassion or secretly doing him a favor, his transgression was publicly exposed at an annual meeting. He was utterly ostracized and became a social outcast.

At this point, that is as much as we need to know about Zhakat, the “partnership agency.” Further details of the principles and exploits of its Comrades may be found in the regulations of its document of authorization….

In the courtyard in which the Rebbe lived, the rent that they extorted for his apartment exceeded their total income from all of the other fifty-nine apartments. The rationale was that rent was calculated according to each tenant’s category and social status. If he was not a laborer, he had to pay a hundred times more than a laborer. How much more so, if a tenant was a believer, the entire burden of rents and taxes for the entire courtyard was thrust onto his shoulders. One can just imagine what painful suffering the Rebbe’s household underwent in connection with Zhakat, the managers of his apartment. The present canvas is too limited to accommodate a description of even one of the thousand overt miracles that we residents of Leningrad, who lived in his shadow, witnessed with our own eyes throughout the three-and-a-half years that he lived there.16

For a start, there was a regular minyan in that apartment three times a day. On Shabbos, as many as a hundred chassidim17 gathered there to daven with the Rebbe, and even more were present when the hour came for him to deliver a discourse of Chassidus. As to the fixed seasons at which chassidim from out of town traditionally traveled to be in his presence – Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkos, Yud-Tes Kislev, Purim and Shavuos – the number of arrivals from towns near and far sometimes reached five hundred,18 with a similar number of local chassidim.

We members of the chassidic fraternity19 were of course extremely conspicuous – in our dress, in our appearance, in the way we davened and in the way we rejoiced on festive occasions. All the large rooms were packed with hundreds of people, and our vigorous dancing and full-throated singing were more than audible out in the street and most certainly in the courtyard.

Beneath the Rebbe’s apartment was a large store that belonged to the GPU, the governmental bureau for affairs of state that was previously known as Cheka, the so-called Emergency Committee. In the apartment adjoining the Rebbe’s lived a senior official of the GPU who headed the department for secret affairs, and the doors of the two apartments were very near each other. Thus it happened more than once that some innocent village scholar who was not schooled in the sophistication of big cities, where people are expected to know which doorbell to ring, rang the wrong doorbell. To make things worse, a villager doesn’t ring a doorbell like a seasoned city dweller. He sticks his finger firmly in position and doesn’t let go until he sees the door opening up before him. Every time this happens, someone comes to the door and very politely explains the mistake.... And upstairs from the Rebbe’s apartment there were two attics, both occupied by tenants who likewise were not of our kind.

The apartment was situated on the corner of the two best-known streets in Leningrad, at Machavaye Street #22 and Pantilomanskaya Street #12.20 Whoever knows Leningrad knows that those two streets were considered so prestigious that no Jew ever set foot on that corner: its residences were exclusively reserved for ministers and nobles. In fact this apartment had previously been occupied by Baron Mekas, the former governor of Bessarabia, who had personally written the rental document. That was in Sivan, 5684 (June, 1924), when the [new] law of the land expelled him from Leningrad and exiled him to some city of refuge. The contract included many furnishings, all of which remained intact in the Rebbe’s household.

The apartment was beautiful and spacious, with access to the attics. It had seven windows overlooking Pantilomanskaya Street and ten windows overlooking Machavaye Street, as well as a corner window with a view in both directions. The chamber in which we davened and in which the Rebbe delivered maamarim was as big as the second study hall in Lubavitch. There was no official permit to gather there and to conduct prayer services, because whenever such a request was made, it was forcefully rejected by the subcommittee known as the Ispalcom.

The people who davened there, and likewise the local residents, were no doubt certain that a permit had been given; after all, this informal congregation was as numerous as all the major synagogues in the city, and was talked about just as widely and freely. Even the militia knew that a regular minyan was conducted in the Rebbe’s house, so they too were no doubt sure that the Ispalcom had granted it a permit. The same applied to the notorious “residential partnership agency” mentioned above, because a clause in the rental document stipulated that they would allow this apartment to serve as a house of prayer on the explicit condition that it received an official permit from the Ispalcom. And since this house of prayer was conducted so publicly and overtly, it never occurred to those officials throughout all those three-and-a-half years to even raise the question! A mistake in such a matter was surely unthinkable….

Let me state it plainly: the survival of that whole household hung on a miracle. We chassidim, who were part of that miracle, did not recognize at the time what a miracle it all was.21 Yet now, as I write to you, looking back on those past events and reliving them in my mind’s eye, it is all a marvel that defies reason. I recall Rosh HaShanah, with its crowds of visitors, so conspicuous with their clothes, beards and long peyos; with over a hundred fine and lovable young temimim converging from the Rebbe’s widespread yeshivos in order to spend a month there, dressed as we used to dress in Lubavitch thirty years ago. They ask bypassers how to find the home of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, and at that busy intersection, a local official and the policeman on duty gaze upon these oddly-garbed strangers and respectfully show each one how to find his way to the entrance they all desire!

Thanks to a kind Providence, this situation continued calmly and peacefully – and supernaturally – until the winter. At that time, in January 5687 (1927), word got out that the Opravdom, the person responsible for the funds of the local residential commission, had embezzled some four thousand gold rubles. When he was crossexamined, this fellow was so illiterate and so clumsy with figures and so drunk, that he recalled nothing and had nothing to answer.

Now in fact he was not the thief. The thief was the bookkeeper, a wicked and wily individual who knew how to manipulate figures. He saved his own skin by casting the whole guilt on the drunkard, knowing that any accusation involving him would be credible. Nevertheless, what if someone should suspect him? So in order to feel doubly safe, he hit upon a sure way to confuse the issue and cover up the longstanding gaping chasm in the accounts: he would implicate the Rebbe! He explained to his interrogators as follows: the entire missing sum was owed by the Rebbe; “the holy household” realized that they could easily secure inflated receipts from this drunkard; and anyway, the receipts they had were forged. He also told that simple fellow to make the same claims. The interrogators accepted this story with glee, and proceeded to search the Rebbe’s apartment….

Then suddenly, a letter arrived there from the agency that controlled the courtyard. It carried a stern warning: if the Rebbe did not pay up the debt of a few thousand rubles within a few days, the matter would be transferred to the court, which would compel him to pay the whole sum and to leave the apartment.

The chassid in the Rebbe’s household who was responsible for the accounts and regularly paid the monthly rent was an honest man. He knew full well that nothing was owing and that this was a false plot. He also knew who must have concocted it. Being a man of unruly temperament, he went straight to that agency with a loud protest. He showed them that this malicious libel was born in the mind of their own bookkeeper and demanded that they submit all their documents to their chairman, who alone would sort things out.

His truthful words, straight from the heart, had to find their way into the heart of the chairman. At this point it would be ungrateful of me not to give him an honorable mention. He was quite a simple fellow, formerly a baker and now director of a factory. In between he had been a prominent member of the Cheka, the Emergency Committee, and was reputed to still function in it in a secret capacity. He was also a Communist – but a meritorious deed came his way. He gathered that the Rebbe’s household was innocent, even though throughout all the three-odd years that he had lived in the neighborhood he had never seen the Rebbe even once. However, he had observed the people who surrounded him and visited him, and from outside he had heard the voices raised in prayer. He was certain beyond all doubt that the Rebbe had no connection with politics, being occupied day and night with study and prayer. The fact that the Rebbe connected his brethren with their Father in Heaven and established chadarim and yeshivos did not disturb him at all, because he was not a member of the Yevsektsia, the “Jewish Section” of the Communist Party….

Indeed, we should be thankful that the gentile Communists do not concern themselves at all with Jewish religious matters. Torah would have been studied unconcealed throughout this country and the entire House of Jacob would have survived intact – if not for the accursed Yevsektsia. (May their name be blotted out!) They are the offspring of the mixed multitude who attached themselves to our forefathers when they left Egypt,22 and whose impurity never ceased, or at least has resurfaced in them. As we know full well, the entire Cooperative (that is, the Communist) Party can’t stand the Yevsektsia. This was once stated explicitly by the famous Lukhatcharske at a mass meeting in Moscow, where he dubbed the Yevsektsia “a blood-red plague in the flesh of the Party.” Waxing eloquent on another platform, he once described the Yevsektsia as “a cataract in the eye of the Party.”

The gentile Communists are different. One of those was the above-mentioned chairman of the local residential agency. He was a plain, ordinary Communist in every sense of the word: he did not seek imagined glory, nor did he elbow his way up, nor did he boast that he was utterly free of faith, nor did he seek to impose his freethinking on others. He was not “a Communist on paper,” like many a member of the Yevsektsia, who exerts himself to the utmost to secure the Party’s membership card, and then flaunts it loudly on all sides so that everyone will know that he is a Communist. After all, deep down he realizes that his loyalty is likely to be questioned. Hence, in order that people should not suspect that he has other notions hidden in his heart and that he is merely “a Communist on paper,” he clangs and clamors all day that he is a confirmed disbeliever in anything religious or holy, and makes it his business to hound and harass anyone who observes the Torah and its mitzvos.

In fact, even that stance is a lie. This is proved by what we have repeatedly seen, for when such a Jew is surprised by violent thunder and lightning and is frightened out of his wits, he spontaneously utters the berachah in full: “Blessed are You, L‑rd our G‑d, King of the universe, Whose power and might fill the world!” Now, he knows exactly Whom he is addressing, and at that moment he believes and knows, just like any ordinary Jew, that this all comes from the One Above. Nevertheless, as soon as the clouds disperse and the thunder fades away, he recalls that he has a Party membership card in his pocket. Hence, since the first mitzvah in Hilchos Communism is that one should not believe in the Creator but should deny Him entirely, he begins to give lip service to that holy law…. And in that battle he engages constantly, all day long.

It is utterly impossible to understand the character of this petty superman and his comrades – who, in exchange for a pot of lentils, sell both their body and soul, and in one moment destroy their share in This World and in the World to Come; who, because of their antipathy towards believers in G‑d and His Torah, exploit their temporary superiority to ruin and uproot and crush Jews at large; who rob thousands of Jews of their synagogues, which they convert to clubs and theaters, replacing the Holy Ark with a statue of Lenin or the like. In one shul, on the first night of Pesach, they made a derisive mockery of the occasion by placing a pig in the Holy Ark and painting PASCHAL SACRIFICE on it. This profane sacrilege was perpetrated in Minsk some time ago by the local branch of the Yevsektsia. Now the same people are digging up the Jewish cemeteries there and exhuming the bones of the departed in order to replace that holy site by a grassy park. That is only one out of a thousand of their evil exploits. (May G‑d bring them to judgment!) This is what those wicked individuals do day after day, only in order to demonstrate to the Party that their loyalty can be trusted.

The chairman whom we are talking about was different. From birth he never believed in G‑d, and today, too, his freethinking is genuine, not two-faced. He interferes in no one’s beliefs and harms no Jew nor his faith. He does not identify with his exploits and what they entail, because he respects those who observe their religion and does not boast to a believing Jew about what a great disbeliever he himself is. In fact, whenever a request reached him from the Rebbe’s household to build a sukkah – a big one – in the courtyard, he not only granted the permit but also instructed the watchman to keep away children who might damage it.

So it was in this case, too. As soon as this chairman heard about the attempt to cast the blame for the scandalous theft on the Rebbe’s household and thereby to besmirch his name, he took hold of all the bookkeeper’s documents and brought them to his home. Moreover, he tried not to allow the matter to be publicized until he had thoroughly and honestly checked all the documents, together with us and in our presence. Throughout one of those long winter nights we sat in his apartment – the chairman himself, the bookkeeper, two members of the control board, the person in charge of accounts in the Rebbe’s household, and us. By morning we had fairly and patiently checked all the payments over the past three years. It became clearly apparent that we were innocent, and that the accusations laid by those two men against the Rebbe’s household were false libels.

The chairman stood up in a rage and in our presence addressed the bookkeeper: “Now it’s perfectly clear who is responsible for this theft! What can you say now? Now I can see Rabbi Schneersohn’s upright honesty, and your crooked ways! I’ll know exactly what to do with you!”

The bookkeeper and his friend left in disgrace, while I, together with the person in charge of the Rebbe’s household accounts, thanked G‑d for having been so kind to us, by freeing the Rebbe’s name from the wiles of those villains. The Divine Name was thus not only spared from desecration, but was publicly sanctified. We showered our grateful blessings on the chairman, and left like victors.

The chairman did not leave it at that. He immediately wrote up a detailed report, signed it together with the members of the control board, and handed over the case to the Secret Department of the Police Investigators of Serious Crimes. Within days the chairman was arrested and imprisoned. The Rebbe for his part received an invitation from that Department to testify that the report was authentic, including the reference to himself. This was a painful requirement, for it would not be respectful to put the Rebbe in that situation. I asked the chairman if he could persuade the Department to waive their demand, on the grounds that the Rebbe had no knowledge of the financial affairs of the household and never became involved in them. I suggested that I appear in his place, because only I and the person in charge of the accounts were familiar with their details.

This time, too, thank G‑d, the chairman granted my request. He called the officer in charge, whom he knew, and handed me a letter addressed to him. I went there alone, and thanks to Heaven’s mercies, everything ended smoothly. That officer received me warmly. On the summons that had been addressed to the Rebbe he noted that I would substitute for him at the interrogation, and so it was. I was thankful that the interrogator was not a Jew, a member of the Yevsektsia, but a simple gentile. He did not address me harshly, but cross-examined me respectfully. I answered all his questions truthfully, and departed in peace. The bottom line was that those who had sought to ensnare the tzaddik, and who had dug a pit to entrap him, were vanquished; indeed, they themselves fell deep, deep into it.

As a result of this episode, the police officer of the Serious Crimes Department realized that the chairman of our apartments had done a favor to the Rebbe. He made a mental note of it so that one day, when the occasion presented itself, he would do him a favor. As to you, my dear ones, you too should make a mental note of this, because it is relevant to another episode that I will share with you later.

Purim last year, 5687 (1927),23 did not resemble in the slightest any Purim that we had ever experienced throughout all the years. What we heard and witnessed during that seudas Purim neither we, nor our fathers, nor our grandfathers, had ever heard or witnessed. The words and the events were awesome and frightening. Admittedly, that unique Purim, with all its extraordinary grief and anguish, did not surprise us, because from the beginning of that year, and right through that winter, we had all felt that the obstructions and obstacles disrupting the Rebbe’s work at every step were more intense than ever before. Those obstacles were placed not only by the accursed Yevsektsia at the left. Painful as it is to recount, almost as much suffering was caused by the right, just as in the times of the Alter Rebbe, with informers, slanderers, Avigdors,24 learned and zealous25 rabbis, hatred, deathly war-cries, complaints, claims, controversy, correspondence, pride, flattery – but we shouldn’t yet elaborate publicly. The time has not yet come to record all of this on paper, for fear of adding fuel to a fire that has not yet been extinguished. It would be a pity if sparks from the red-hot coals were to flare up into an even greater flame than the previous one. As in every generation, there is no Yaakov without a brother Eisav who speaks craftily, and then, after the blessings have been given, utters a loud and bitter cry that his brother has come and cheated him of his blessing.

A major turning point was the big conference of a hundred rabbis in Cheshvan 5687 (1926) that was held in Korastin, in the province of Volhynia. At the impressive inaugural session, the Rebbe was unanimously elected – in his absence – as honorary president. Such an honor, and in a region that was not within his sphere of influence, was previously unheard of. People there had never seen the Rebbe, and almost no members of Anash lived in that region, because Volhynia is far from Reissin.26 The Rebbe’s predecessors likewise had had no influence in Volhynia and Podolia.

Nevertheless, the Rebbe changed this in the years 5685-5687 (1925-1927), as he learned of the spiritual demolition of the House of Jacob. Many towns in those regions had been left without a single melamed for the local children, and thus the Torah could have been forgotten (G‑d forbid!) by the Jewish people – thanks to the Yevsektsia, whose ugly exploits flourished in those communities. The faithful Jews stood in a unique dread of the Yevsektsia, because its members were the judges and the policemen and the government officials, and some of them were responsible for the prisons. Little wonder, then, that Jews were mortally afraid not only of serving as teachers, but also of enrolling their children in a cheder, for doing so would defy the “judge” and the law-enforcing authorities.