Saturday, November 17, 2007
Due to the incredible response we have had regarding the beautiful rare images of the Rebbe, many of which have been published here for the very first time, we are pleased to announce that "Rebbe Archive" are making these pictures available for purchase for the very first time. They are great gifts opportunities for child and adult alike, and are sure to be treasured and prized by all. Photos are available framed and in a variety of sizes.
For more information please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
"Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneerson, the Rebbe's father. The Rebbe's father was a great luminary in his own right, an awesome reservoir of Talmudic and Kabbalistic knowledge. But perhaps the most unique dimension of his character was his unflinching commitment to Jewish practice and the total lack of fear with which he expressed that commitment."
"After finishing yeshiva I attended a bookkeeping course which I completed successfully. I got a job as a bookkeeper at the train station in Dnepropetrovsk. And it was through this job that I was able to help Rav Levi Yitzchak. I remember clearly, a few years before the beginning of World War II, I was sitting in my office in the train station when I heard everyone saying that the Rav of the city was being taken away. I left my office and saw the Rav carrying a bundle on his shoulder and two policemen walking at his side. I was able to ascertain that he was being taken to Kiev and notified the family as soon as possible.
How did you feel when you saw the Rav being taken away?
As can be understood, it was very upsetting. But, truthfully, it wasn't a surprise. Everyone in the city was expecting the Rav's imprisonment. We all knew that if it wasn't today it would be tomorrow, or the next day.
What made it so obvious?
You, everyone who never lived in Russia as it was then, don't understand what it is. It was the most terrible time of Stalin, and in all of Russia there was not a strong rabbi like Rav Levi Yitzchak, of blessed memory, who would neither bend nor bow to the government. Everyone in the community worried about him. Everyone in the city. He gave sermons without being at all concerned about the Bolshevik emissaries who infiltrated everywhere. He declared publicly in the synagogue, in a voice filled with fire, that we couldn't give in one drop in areas of Judaism. The Bolsheviks didn't have to send spies. He didn't hint. He spoke clearly and decisively. There was, therefore, no doubt that he would be imprisoned. It was just a matter of when.
Did the Rav's strong words, during that difficult period, have an impact on the Jews of the city?
I remember, for example, in the area of kosher food. If he wasn't absolutely certain that something was 100% kosher, even if the manufacturers became angry or if the government threatened, he wouldn't give his stamp of approval. He always warned them that if they wouldn't accept all of his instructions he would announce that all of the products were not kosher. In Stalin's time even the mightiest warrior was afraid to do this type of thing.
Actually, many people were surprised. This was a great wonder. How he was not afraid to act and judge according to his reckonings at a time when all religious workers were being sent to Siberia. But this is how it was. Total self-sacrifice. He also arranged Jewish weddings with total self-sacrifice.
Did he also officiate at your wedding?
I was married in 1925 and, of course, Rav Levi Yitzchak officiated. He was also the sandek at my oldest son's bris. But the self-sacrifice for "kosher" weddings to which I was specifically referring were in the '30s, when the fear of the government reached new heights. People were afraid of their shadows, but the Rav was very adamant that couples shouldn't get married without a kosher chupa. He also went against the government in his insistence that Jewish bodies be prepared for burial and buried according to Jewish law as opposed to the civil requirements of the government.
How did the Jews react?
You went to the Rav's shul on Shabbat?
Of course! He used to speak each Shabbat afternoon at the third meal, words of Torah, Chasidic discourses. The discourses were lengthy and not everyone understood them for they were filled with much esoteric wisdom. I remember on Rosh Hashana when he would blow the shofar he really looked like an angel. His face was beaming and he seemed to be like a burning flame.
I also remember that on every Simchat Torah he would rejoice with such happiness that words cannot describe it. He would dance for many hours without stopping, with the Torah scroll pressed against his heart. His deep and intense happiness was witnessed by many who came to see the dancing of "Rebbe Levik" on Simchat Torah. Anyone who saw it never forgot it.
Picture description: the Rebbe addresses the children at the Lag Beomer Parade 1957,
Copyright © Menachem Kirschenbaum 2007