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Beis Moshiach spoke with Chassidim who were in 770 when the s’farim episode ended in victory for the Rebbe and the Chassidim. We also spoke with Chassidim in Eretz Yisroel whose hearts were in Beis Chayeinu. * About the yechidus for members of Aguch, the bombshell at the 12 Tammuz farbrengen 5745, and the ongoing shock at the five farbrengens where the Rebbe referred to the theft of the s’farim. About the beginning of the court case on 19 Kislev, the Rebbe’s trips to the Ohel all the days of the trial, and the tremendous tension until the news was out – Didan Natzach!

By Menachem Ziegelboim and Avraham Rainitz


On that long, summer day, when the s’farim saga began, it was hot and very humid. Nobody was out on the street. Everybody was indoors or in their cars, well air conditioned, that Erev Rosh Chodesh. It was late afternoon, close to 6:30, when the rumor began to spread: Something unusual was going to happen. All members of Agudas Chassidei Chabad HaOlamis had been called for a private meeting with the Rebbe.

“I saw the members of Aguch entering the Rebbe’s room,” recalled Rabbi Levi Yitzchok Garelik, who was learning in kollel near 770 at the time. “Of course, that made me curious. What was this unusual yechidus about? When they left, they did not say a word. To those who tried asking them questions they said: Soon, everyone will know.”

R’ Yosef Karasik, who was on K’vutza that year, said, “I personally knew a little about what was going on about a week later because a childhood friend, R’ Shmuel Kaminetzky (now the shliach in Dnepropetrovsk), told me that the Rebbe said to quickly establish a big library of Aguch in Eretz Yisroel and the Rebbe would publicly speak about it at the 12 Tammuz farbrengen the following week.”

The news spread quickly and a huge crowd of Anash and T’mimim from all over the world flocked to 770 for the farbrengen.


The farbrengen of 12 Tammuz began at 9:30 in the evening and the satellite broadcast ended, as usual, three hours later, at 12:30. At that point, when the Rebbe’s words would be heard only in-house by the family of Anash, he began to discuss the terrible tragedy and the threatening storm in Lubavitch. This sums up what the Rebbe said:

There are those who secretly broke into the precious treasures of the Malchus Chabad, i.e., the library of Agudas Chabad, which is the “Jewish national treasure,” of our leader and Nasi Ha’dor, the Rebbe. They stole hundreds, perhaps thousands, of old s’farim and rare manuscripts, drushim of Kabbala and Chassidus whose value is incalculable, and whose estimated worth is a vast material and spiritual fortune.

One of the thieves was very clever and wily – a relative who had the keys to the library, sneaked in there, stole the books and sold them in exchange for a lot of money to those who deal in old books. Some of the books and manuscripts taken by that thief made their way to the epitome of impurity and evil, the most impure place in the world, the Vatican, center of worldwide Christianity!

The Rebbe spoke for less than forty-five minutes. He spoke emotionally, with great pain, and then the farbrengen ended. The Rebbe left for his room and then went home. Most of the enormous crowd remained in 770, in utter shock and horror. The Rebbe was in great pain and most of those there were helpless to do anything, and the issue and its severity still remained somewhat unclear to them.

It was clear to all that the Rebbe was relating to the theft of the s’farim in a terrifying manner – the Lubavitch library was, in a certain way, “the hidden, royal treasure,” and the “king’s crown,” and any attack on the library was tantamount to an undermining of and attack upon all Lubavitch Chassidim and the holy of holies himself, the Rebbe! Woe to the ears that hear such a thing.


Two days of stormy passions passed in 770 and on Tuesday, the Rebbe went to the Ohel of the Rebbe Rayatz. He returned late at night and after davening he farbrenged. Once again, he spoke sadly about the terrible situation. The Rebbe emphasized that the theft was a direct attack on our Rebbeim and an attempt to bury the Rebbe Rayatz. He also referred to himself by name in his pleas that the s’farim be returned.

The Rebbe asked for two things: 1) That they place a sign over the entrance to 770 which reads: “Beis Agudas Chassidei Chabad, Ohel Yosef Yitzchak Lubavitch,” and 2) that they build a Beis Agudas Chabad in Kfar Chabad to house a library and the construction should begin before 17 Tammuz.

Less than twenty-four hours later, there was another farbrengen. Once again, the Rebbe devoted a lot of time to the topic and spoke very sharply about it.

Two days later, at the farbrengen on Shabbos Parshas Balak, the Rebbe spoke heatedly about the severity of the matter. The Rebbe used very harsh language – “Whoever has books from this holy library, whether stolen or whether someone bought from him, knowingly or unknowingly, must immediately return them to the owners. He should know that holding on to these stolen books in his house is like holding ‘an extremely dangerous ticking time bomb,’ which could explode and cause terrible damage to him and his family.”

The Rebbe said this subject caused him great sorrow and anguish. “I sit down to learn Gemara, Rambam, etc. and it is hard for me because of the pain in my head and my heart from this terrible situation!”

What the Rebbe said at these four farbrengens was like the preface to the sharp words that he used at the farbrengen on Parshas Pinchas (the last sicha on the matter). The farbrengen began as usual at 1:30 Shabbos afternoon and lasted more than seven hours, until close to eight in the evening. In the final sicha, which lasted two hours, the Rebbe spoke about the theft with special sharpness.

Whoever was present at the farbrengen could not forget what was said and the way in which it was said. “Even the way the Rebbe sat during that sicha was different than usual,” says R’ Zalman Liberow. “Usually, the Rebbe did not lean back in his chair, and he faced the center of 770, and his hands were under the table. With this sicha though, the Rebbe leaned back and against the side of his chair, he faced left, and his hands were above the table.”

“The sicha was said in a very low voice that only a few could hear,” added R’ Karasik. “Entire sentences were obscure and could not be understood. Some claimed that the sicha was directed at the heavenly court, that it cancel the terrible decree.”


The Rebbe treated the theft as a heavenly accusation and decree against all of Lubavitch. The Rebbe said:

“In the heavenly court, accusers arose against Lubavitch Chassidim and their work around the world. As a result of the accusation in the ‘kingdom above,’ the samech-mem himself dragged his emissary, the lowly thief, into the king’s palace and took from him the most hidden treasures. This is to an extent an attempt to undermine the Chabad kingdom, which in turn could cause harm to all of Chabad and the entire Jewish people, may Hashem protect and save us.”

Therefore, said the Rebbe, “As a commensurate response to the heavenly accusation on Lubavitch as a whole, the movement should be made much stronger which would then cancel the decree up above and below, and the s’farim would be returned.”

It is hard to describe in words how anguished the Rebbe looked at that time, during those days.

From that point and on, for many months, the Rebbe did not speak in public about the matter, but people heard that a “Vaad Peula” (working committee) had been formed whose goal was to locate the stolen s’farim and return them to their rightful place. The Rebbe himself was involved in all aspects, with answers given in writing and orally.

When four months had passed, rumors began to spread that the s’farim had been seized. The story of the theft became public knowledge; the thief was caught in possession of dozens of boxes with hundreds of s’farim and manuscripts that he had not yet sold. They were temporarily placed into legal custody and all awaited the court case. The date was set, by divine providence, for Rosh HaShana L’Chassidus – Yud-Tes Kislev.

Anash and the T’mimim began to understand how terrible this was: The thief was a relative who claimed that he was entitled to some of the s’farim as an inheritor. This went against simple logic and Torah opinion that the library was the property of Lubavitch as a whole and the Jewish people as a whole, and was not private property. [In addition to which, the Lubavitcher Admurim were not private individuals but belonged to the Jewish people.]


News about the upcoming court case reached every location where Anash lived. Even if they lived far away, their hearts were always with Beis Chayeinu, and they wanted to know every detail and bit of information. This was before the era of emails and the internet, so even when someone wanted up to the minute news, this wasn’t usually possible.

R’ Yisroel Frishman, who ran the broadcasting room in Yerushalayim together with R’ Eliezer Lichtstein, related:

“People heard things here and there but were not really clued in to what was going on, certainly not about the details. In fact, there was even a rumor that they had lost the court case.

“As far as those not from Anash, they were all sure that it was a lost cause. Among Anash too, there was great skepticism about coming out the winner. People heard that the Rebbe was speaking about the situation and realized it was no simple thing and that a difficult struggle was underway.

“You need to remember that in those days, communication was not as it is today, and phone conversations were very brief because it was so expensive. Those who took an interest heard the Rebbe’s painful sichos and the atmosphere was very despondent. Information was limited. The only source of information was the broadcast room and R’ Chaim Boruch Halberstam did not release much information. The court case itself took place over a long period of time and consequently, the level of tension and interest diminished.

“After the sicha in which the Rebbe spoke about a heavenly accusation, everyone realized that this was not just about s’farim or their monetary worth, but a claim against the very nesius and about who is in charge of Lubavitch. There was also tremendous trepidation after the Rebbe said that anyone having the s’farim in his possession was like having a bomb. I remember that everyone was shocked by this. That was not the Rebbe’s usual way of talking. It created quite a commotion.

“A distinguished group of Anash, including R’ Ashkenazi and R’ Shmuel Greisman, visited those who sell and collect antiques and Judaica to locate s’farim that had already been sold. When they found s’farim from the Library, they informed the sellers and collectors about what the Rebbe said and most of them immediately gave the s’farim back. The Rebbe said that anyone who innocently bought the s’farim should get back his money, but not more than he paid. The Rebbe did not allow them to pay more than was paid even though there were enough rich people willing to pay any price to redeem the s’farim and return them to the library. I remember that one dealer, from Satmar, who was told what the Rebbe said, immediately returned the s’farim in his possession, despite the tension between Satmar and Lubavitch at the time. (At a certain point, the Rebbe repaid the favor, but this is not the place to get into that.)”


R’ Zalman Liberow relates:

“During that year, the Rebbe spoke a lot about the need to increase simcha. Although the Rebbe did not connect it directly, everybody understood that this was connected to the court case. Some of the bachurim decided to dance, and now and then, some of us bachurim would go into 770 and dance joyously.

“During the Kinus HaShluchim 5746, I think it was R’ Shlomo Cunin who asked my wife’s grandfather, R’ Sholom Posner, to get up and scream ‘Didan Natzach’ (our side won) on behalf of the shluchim. Someone lifted R’ Posner onto his shoulders and he called out, ‘Didan Natzach,’ and all the shluchim followed him. From then on, they started using that phrase to express the hope that we would win the court case.

“A week or two later, at one of the spontaneous dances of the bachurim in 770, they sang the niggun known today as ‘Didan Natzach,’ which at that time was a wordless niggun. R’ Berel Lazar, today the chief rabbi of Russia, came in and put the words ‘Didan Natzach’ to that tune. It fit very well and since then, it became known as the ‘Didan Natzach niggun.’”


The court case in Brooklyn took close to a month, and each day the Rebbe went to the Ohel.

“It is difficult to describe the tension we felt at that time,” says R’ Garelik. “On the one hand, we were sure that the Chassidim would prevail. On the other hand, in the normal way of things, even if you win, it’s not a complete victory. In the best-case scenario, Aguch would get back most of the s’farim and the other side would get a smaller percentage of the s’farim. In any other court case, this would be regarded as a victory, but from the Rebbe’s perspective, this would be a loss. The Rebbe wanted a 100% victory, that all the s’farim, no exceptions, be returned to the Lubavitch library. There was enormous tension because there was the fear that the judge would rule to give something to the other side, and to the Rebbe this was a disaster.

“The Rebbe’s trips to the Ohel every day raised the tension level to new heights. Until then, the Rebbe would go to the Ohel only twice a month. If it happened that the Rebbe went twice in one week, the mashpiim and older bachurim would be very concerned: What terrible thing happened, as a result of which the Rebbe went twice in one week? So when the Rebbe went to the Ohel day after day, the tension was tremendous!”

Anash and the T’mimim throughout the world said the entire book of T’hillim daily, gave more tz’daka, and davened for success at the court case. Many bachurim and chassidim went to the courthouse every day.

R’ Yosef Karasik relates:

“It wasn’t obvious which way the court case was going and what the judge was thinking. There were things the judge said, like ‘Although 770 is a stone building, it is also like a transparent glass building that shines light to the outside,’ that made us very happy. But there were also other reactions which made us nervous. And in general, rumor had it that the judge was inclined, in cases like this, to compromise, something which the Rebbe strongly negated.

“One of the emotional highlights of the case was when a video of the Rebbetzin giving testimony was shown in court. Her testimony played a critical role in the case. She said, ‘My father, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn, and his property and the entire library, belong to all the Chassidim.’” [The Rebbe mentioned her testimony in the days after her passing in 5748].


The proceedings ended during Chanuka. At the farbrengens at the end of Chanuka the Rebbe revealed some nuggets from the case, hidden from all human eyes, that was taking place in the heavenly court. The accusing Satan claimed that Chabad did not deserve the treasures of the library because Chabad is not active enough. Opposing him was our beloved Rebbe who fought mightily and begged his Chassidim to increase the spreading of the lights of Chanuka all over the world in order to abolish the harsh heavenly accusation.

Now we all needed to present photographic evidence of Lubavitch activities, said the Rebbe. All menorahs with a sign saying “Chabad Lubavitch” should be photographed and the pictures should be submitted to Kehot. Kehot would then print them all in a beautiful album entitled, Let There be Light. It would be the true “defense” against the enemy.

In the sichos of that time, the Rebbe raised the possibility that the members of the kollel go and learn in the Rebbe Rayatz’s apartment. That did not end up happening, but there was something else that the kollel members were involved in, as related by R’ Levi Garelik:

“The Rebbe said the kollel should work on sources for the Rambam and for the maamarim of the Rebbe Rayatz. During the court case, I committed to publishing booklets of glosses and analyses on the Rambam and the Rebbe Rayatz’s maamarim, and the Rebbe took these booklets to the Ohel.

“The first anthology was published for Yud-Tes Kislev, the day the court case began, and I tried to publish additional anthologies for special dates over the course of the trial. On 28 Teves there arose an opportunity to introduce additional documentation to the court and I prepared another kuntres. I searched for some Lubavitch connection to 28 Teves but without success. Then I met a dear friend, R’ Shimshon Junik, who told me, citing his father, that 28 Teves is the birthday of Rebbetzin Chana a”h!

At that time, people thought her birthday was 28 Tishrei, and that is what is written in the book Eim HaMalchus (translated as Mother of Royalty). We wanted to verify this new information and asked his father, R’ Berel Junik, who said that in his diaries it said that on 28 Teves they went to wish Rebbetzin Chana mazal tov for her birthday. So the booklet revealed to all the correct birthdate of the Rebbetzin.”


Chanuka was over and the album was printed. Days and then months passed and the Chassidim waited nervously for the ruling. An entire year went by and once again, there was intensified activity on Chanuka.

R’ Karasik tells of those unforgettable moments when the good news, Didan Natzach, became known to all:

“It was the Tuesday after Chanuka, 5 Teves, a freezing winter day, and we bachurim woke up early, as usual, for R’ Yoel Kahn’s Chassidus class. After Shacharis and breakfast, my chavrusa, R’ Nechemia Schmerling (now the shliach to Kfar Yona), and I, were sitting in our usual places on the farbrengen platform learning Gemara. It was 11:07 when shouting was heard from the back of the beis midrash. A loud voice that seemed to get louder and stronger, ‘Didan Natzach!’

“It took a few seconds to digest the news and Nechemia jumped up and shouted, ‘We won!’ We ran to the yard outside where a few T’mimim had gathered. The excitement and joy was tremendous, Didan Natzach – the s’farim were returned to the Rebbe!”

“Our joy was a taste of the joy of the Geula,” said R’ Garelik. “Over the years, the Rebbe gave us tastes of inyanei Geula, and that day, he gave us a taste of the joy of the Geula.

“Chassidus discusses the unbounded joy that a person has when he marries off his son. On 5 Teves 5747 we experienced this feeling of joy. The switch from extreme tension to such profound joy was something unforgettable.”

R’ Zalman Liberow heard the good news as he was driving on Kingston Avenue. “Someone knocked on the window and yelled, ‘Didan Natzach!’ At first I was stunned. We had no indication that the ruling would be given at this time so the news was a complete surprise.

“I was so thrilled that I got out of my car and somersaulted my way until I joined the lively circle of dancers near 770.

“Mashke poured like water and I said so many l’chaims that I don’t quite remember everything that ensued, but there are some things that are unforgettable, like that special Mincha, when we heard that the Rebbe was coming down to daven in the big zal downstairs. You have to understand that in those days the Rebbe davened in the small zal upstairs on weekdays, and when the Rebbe came downstairs to daven, it was a festive occasion.

“Then there was an enormous surprise when the Rebbe said a special sicha. I don’t remember exactly, but in the diaries of that time it says that after the sicha I stood and shouted, ‘Ad Masai’ and the Rebbe turned toward me and smiled.”

The rejoicing lasted seven days, nonstop. Day and night the Chassidim sang and danced with praise and thanks to Hashem for the victory of light over darkness and restoration of the crown of royalty to its full glory.


Let us go back to 5 Teves. Four hours of singing and simcha had gone by after the good news was announced and it was time for Mincha. The Rebbe went down to daven in the big zal and the joy reached new heights.

To top it all off, the Rebbe said a sicha after Mincha. After the sicha, the rejoicing continued. People brought musical instruments to 770 which added to the simcha.

The next day, the Rebbe went to the Ohel. Upon his return, he davened Mincha and Maariv in the small zal upstairs and then said a sicha. Among other things, he said, “It is an auspicious time now, and everyone can write a pidyon nefesh with requests and everything will be answered and fulfilled with Hashem’s help. The pidyon could be brought to the Rebbe himself to 770 by tomorrow afternoon before he goes to the Ohel, or can be placed on the graves of tzaddikim since all are connected to the ‘Tree of Life.’”

Says R’ Liberow:

“Right after the sicha, we went to the conference room of Aguch and from there we called all Chabad centers worldwide to tell them what the Rebbe said. This sicha reignited the enormous joy once again and the Chassidim rolled around 770 in great joy.”

In all of Crown Heights at that time there were only three fax machines and they issued forth nonstop requests for brachos from all over the world.

The next day, the Rebbe went to the Ohel with about ten sacks of pidyonos and requests from all over the world.


In the days and years to come, the Rebbe taught three practical lessons from the s’farim episode:

1 – To strengthen the library of Aguch – every author of s’farim and whoever has rare s’farim, was asked to send them to this library.

2 – Everyone in their home should have a library of s’farim and add to it, in Nigleh and Chassidus, so the house becomes a “house full of sifrei kodesh.”

3 – To increase Torah study and the study of Chassidus, in quantity and quality.

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