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Tuesday
Sep272016

5726: ROSH HA’SHANA OF RUSSIAN JEWRY

Rosh HaShana 5726/1965 by the Rebbe was devoted to the Chabad Chassidim who were held captive behind the Iron Curtain under the oppressive communist regime. Throughout Rosh HaShana there were a number of special behaviors that were different than the usual, in which the Rebbe showed that Russian Jews are never far from his thoughts and that on these fateful days in which the Jewish people are inscribed, he was working to remember them before Hashem

The following was related by R’ Yisroel Tzvi Heber:

The first day of Rosh HaShana 5726. My first Rosh HaShana in 770. The crowd disperses and I remain in 770. Each of my brothers-in-law who live locally thought that I was the other one’s guest.

The place, bustling with people, emptied out and I stayed and said T’hillim. R’ Shlomo Reinitz who was then serving upstairs in the inner sanctum asked me where I was staying and suggested that I be a guest at the meal with the Rebbe. One of the Chassidim from Eretz Yisroel who overheard this asked me for the privilege since he was returning to Eretz Yisroel right after Rosh HaShana. But you do not forgo a privilege such as this. In the meantime, my brother-in-law, R’ Shmuel, came to 770 to invite me, fearing nobody had done so. But you do not forgo an invitation to be with the Rebbe!

The first day, the day of the birth of the world, speech is kept to a minimum by the Rebbe. The Rebbe waited until the server sat down to eat and then they all began the meal. The head of the table, the place of the Rebbe Rayatz, remained empty. The Rebbe sat on one side, next to him was R’ Rodstein, the secretary, another two men, R’ Shmaryahu Sasonkin and me. Opposite us sat Rashag, the Rebbe’s brother-in-law, a few guests, and between them was someone who came from Russia. He was asked to tell about Soviet Jewry and he told about the son of one of the Chassidim who kept Shabbos. The boy did not go to school on Shabbos, each time with another excuse, but the teachers and classmates shamed him and degraded him.

R’ Sasonkin, who had left Russia not long before, was also asked to say something on behalf of Russian Jewry but without mentioning the names of Chassidim who were still behind the Iron Curtain. He told about Shabbos in Soviet Russia. The Chassidim worked in a factory that was run by a fellow Chassid so they would not have to work on Shabbos. They set up guards and every Shabbos they davened in a different home. One time, there was an unusual commotion. Someone came and announced that a delegation was about to conduct a tour of the factory. Who would be there to greet them and try to talk to them and bribe them?

There was a moment of silence. The son of the factory owner volunteered. A true act of mesirus nefesh on his part. He took with him a hefty bribe and asked that they wait for him before reading from the Torah. With fear and trembling, with heavy hearts, they all awaited his return. Boruch Hashem, things worked out.

R’ Sasonkin recounted this story and then went on: The factory owner said to me, “R’ Sasonkin, on Rosh HaShana you will be inside the holy and will merit to see the Rebbe. Please tell him we cannot go on any longer like this!”

The meal ended at 4:35.

On the second day of Rosh HaShana there was the regular farbrengen and the Rebbe called for the mashpia R’ Mendel Futerfas, R’ Asher Sasonkin, and R’ Mordechai Aharon Friedman, who just came from Russia. When they went up to the stage, the Rebbe gave each of them two bottles of mashke to distribute to the crowd. It was apparent that the Rebbe asked this of them because he wanted to convey an abundance of blessing through them for the Jews of Russia.

The Rebbe suddenly began singing the moving niggun of “Tzama Lecha Nafshi” while the crowd followed after him. When he finished, he began saying things in connection with this verse which speaks of the great yearning of a Jew for G-d, connecting this to the Jews of Russia. The Rebbe said:

“Machshava Tova HaKadosh Boruch Hu mi’tzarfa l’maaseh (Hashem connects a good thought to deed).” The Rebbe Rayatz explains that Hashem takes a good thought and refines (an alternate meaning of mi’tzarfa) it so that it will indeed come down into maaseh/action. The people behind the Iron Curtain surely resolve that just as there is a thirst in the land of desolation, so too will there be a thirst in the place of holiness – “So [do I long to see] as when I saw You in the Sanctuary, to see Your strength and Your glory” – and this thought Hashem purifies so that it should come down into action.

As he spoke about them, the Rebbe cried.

Then the Rebbe said a maamer which began with the words, “From the straits I called to G-d” and the Chassidim felt that this referred first and foremost to the Jews of Russia who were calling to Hashem and were pleading, “Answer me, G-d, with great expansion.”

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