The 12th and 13th of Tamuz is a chassidic holiday, festively observed by Chabad chassidim worldwide. On the 12th of Tamuz 5687 (1927), the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn (1880-1950), was given permission to leave Kastroma, the distant city of exile where he was dispatched by the Soviets for the "crime" of creating an underground network of yeshivas, mikvahs, and other banned Jewish institutions. On that year, the 12th of Tamuz – which also is the Rebbe's birthday – coincided with a Soviet national holiday, so the actual release papers weren't issued until the next day, the 13th of Tamuz.

Miraculously, the Rebbe survived his harrowing ordeal which also included a lengthy stay in a Leningrad prison, and a commuted death sentence. (Click here for the Rebbe's personal diary, detailing his incarceration and redemption.) But the battle was far from over. In the ensuing six decades, the Communist regime forcibly attempted to destroy all remnants of religious life. Shortly after his liberation the Rebbe was expelled from the USSR, but thousands of his followers continued his holy struggle, valiantly resisting the government's efforts to destroy Soviet Judaism. The consequences were viciously cruel. Thousands of Chabad chassidim spent years in the Soviet gulags for their illegal activities. And they were the "lucky" ones. Countless others were tortured and condemned to death by KGB kangaroo courts and summarily executed in a prison courtyard or cellar. The poor widows and orphans were not notified about their loved one's fate, leaving them to languish for years on the threshold between hope and despair.

Thousands of chassidim spent years in the Soviet gulags. And they were the “lucky” ones...The chassidim were undeterred by the personal risk which went hand-in-hand with their holy work. The soul thrives on adversity—nothing revs its engines like an attack on its beliefs and principles. Indeed this is an age-old phenomenon: our history is replete with men and women who demonstrated incredible courage when confronted with decrees restricting the observance of Torah and mitzvot. More often than not, these heroes were "run-of-the-mill" simple folk who led otherwise non-heroic lives. But every Jew has a Divine soul, a soul which possesses staggering powers. In many a Jew this soul is in hibernation. A little opposition and friction is needed in order to awaken and startle it into action. There is a well-known chassidic adage: "An olive must be crushed to release its oils."

As far-fetched as this may sound, today we face a greater challenge than was faced by Soviet chassidim. In America we have a minimum of external adversity, not nearly enough to provoke our souls into action. Upon escaping the Evil Empire, many erstwhile Soviet Jewish heroes settled in Western countries and lived extremely un-exemplary lives—the gas line which fueled their heroism having gone dry.

Yet our "American" souls aren't doomed to eternal slumber. The final challenge of the Jewish galut (exile) is to awaken the soul without the "benefit" of outside incitement. Today we must "crush" ourselves to release our "soul oils."

A Jew's yearning to connect to G‑d, his burning desire for the Creator to be overtly manifest in His creation, and his frustration with the current state of affairs – when galut places obstacles at every junction of our spiritual journey, when the Divine reality is concealed in a world which instead brims with materialism and falseness – shakes him to the core of his soul, crushing it into action. At that point the soul becomes consumed with one goal—doing whatever necessary to bring an end to galut.

The Previous Rebbe persevered; his sacred work continued despite the KGB's designs. His cause, too, prevailed; Torah Judaism and Chabad are alive and well, while the Iron Curtain has crumbled and the all-mighty USSR is a relic of history. We too will meet today's challenge and prevail. On this Holiday of Redemption may we witness another redemption—the final one.

Based on the very last chassidic discourse edited by the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson. In an unprecedented step, the Rebbe issued a written blessing together with this discourse: "May its words have a proper effect..." May we soon see the realization of this far-sighted blessing!