We1 all carry memories of our bygone home. (In fact, of course, we will be at home when Mashiach leads us to Eretz Yisrael – May that take place speedily and in our own days, Amen! – but in common parlance, the Old Country is called di alte heim.2 )

We all recall how twenty years ago all Jews, whether rabbanim or ordinary laymen,3 were prepared to give their very lives for the Torah. For Jews are not only “the descendants of believers:”4 they themselves are believers, who believe in hashgachah peratis, Divine Providence. At all times, Jews have held their sifrei Torah close to their hearts. This is true of living Torah scrolls, as in the phrase, “Write [its words] on the tablet of your heart,”5 alluding to the youngest pupils and continuing to the mature yeshivah students, and it also refers to tangible, written scrolls.

Fifteen years ago, when I was driven out of Russia,6 I saved (Thank G‑d!) two sifrei Torah, both written and living. (It’s hard to say “I,” as is explained in the works of Mussar and Chassidus, but I’m using plain words.) In Latvia and Poland we founded Tomchei Temimim Yeshivos. There had already been such a yeshivah in Poland, but after my arrival things changed considerably. We had seen the self-sacrifice of young married students during the anti-religious decrees in Russia, and later saw it in Poland under the Nazis.

I had no reason to come here to the United States, except for Divine Providence, the Providence that governs the Tomchei Temimim Yeshivos. With G‑d’s help a yeshivah has been established here. In fact it is already short of space – not according to American conceptions of spacious rooms, but according to the poor and cramped conditions in which Torah was studied in Lithuania and Poland.

Thank G‑d, I have good news to share: a Tomchei Temimim Yeshivah has opened in Montreal. In addition to the recent arrivals from Shanghai,7 there are already a few dozen young students.

We would like to request that the rabbanim assembled here extend their help – to us, [and thereby] to yourselves and to all concerned – in order to enable the Tomchei Temimim Yeshivah to branch out further.

* * *

The Torah begins with the Book of Bereishis, which is made up entirely of narratives, apart from a very few mitzvos. Now, sequence within the Torah is itself Torah, and for [the lessons that are derived from the sequence of its mitzvos], Jews have had literal self-sacrifice, both for less fundamental and for more fundamental mitzvos, indiscriminately.

In this spirit the Sages teach8 that one should not presume to evaluate the relative importance of two mitzvos that present themselves. This message is the subtext that they perceive in the verse, “Do not weigh [the Torah’s] path of life, for its paths wander beyond what you can know.”9 [For example:] Rashi says that the Torah should have begun with “This month…,”10 with the passage that spells out the first mitzvah. Now, it is true that some mitzvos appear earlier. Moreover, Sefer Bereishis is almost completely narrative. Nevertheless, Rashi says that arguably, the Torah should have begun with the above mitzvah – whose content, significantly, is the obligation to recount the narrative of the Exodus! That is to say, a Jew’s fundamental obligation is “that you should recount”11 the story of this festival of festivals, the story of the Exodus from Egypt. And it is to this Exodus that the Future Redemption is likened: “As in the days of your Exodus from Egypt, I shall show you wonders.”12

This, then is the mitzvah of recounting the story of the Exodus.

[The Rebbe went on to say: “By a superficial glance…,” – but there is no record of the continuation of this thought.13 ]

* * *

I would like to convey to you my warmest gratitude, and for me the warmest expression of gratitude is… sharing an episode involving my father.

In the winter of 5677 (1916-1917) there was a secret meeting in Petersburg. A considerable sum had been raised,14 and the subject under discussion was the pogroms that the czarist soldiers were perpetrating as they passed through Jewish towns. At that time, the Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Army was Nicholai Nikolaevich.15 Through his business connections, because he dealt in forests, he knew my father personally and once had wanted to buy timber from him.

This Commander-in-Chief had once said that he derived pleasure from the sight of Jewish blood being spilled. In fact, when a delegation of Jews once raised the subject of pogroms in the presence of the Czar, his response was that the more pogroms there were, the happier he would be. The delegates reported back to my father, who meditated for a while and then said: “ ‘We have no one to rely on apart from our Father in Heaven’ – a phrase which itself appears in the context of the curses of the period preceding the approaching footsteps of Mashiach.16 And what else can we do?” He wept for a long time, then again was deep in thought, and finally said: “Within a month, things will change for the better.”

Now, every Purim and Yud-Tes Kislev my father would have a bowl placed for the collection of contributions for his discretionary fund,17 to which he himself contributed heavily. That Purim, the festive seudah was held in the home of R. Shmuel Gourary, and on that occasion, R. Leib […] was appointed treasurer. When they had amassed a certain sum, the collection was repeated, in order to reach a round figure.

At that point my father said: “When it comes to money, you have to know how to count. For example, when a person contributes tzedakah for the support of Torah study, every little coin is worth a thousand coins.”

Thus it was, that after a month had passed – that is, on Purim – things did indeed change.

My father continued: “The sums that were collected here are not amazing, because huge sums are needed, thousands. Nevertheless, what counts is not the quantity but the giving heart. And may the success be a thousand times as great!”

It is certain, beyond any doubt, that the soul and spirit of my father, the Rebbe, is present with us, blessing everyone here with long life, and with every kind of material and spiritual good.

This conference is dear to me, particularly as it relates to a Torah-bastion of self-sacrifice. And by virtue of self-sacrifice, may it continue thus in the future.

It would give me great pleasure if every one of those present would sign his name (not for any obligation).

[All those present then signed their names and presented the list to the Rebbe.]