Dancing while weeping

Following the chazzanim’s departure, I received a letter from them. After thanking me for various things, they wrote: “This is the first time in our lives we have witnessed such a phenomenon like the Rabbi of Yekatrinoslav, who, even as he rejoiced on Yom Tov with such extraordinarily joyous dancing, was weeping with such indescribable tears. Yet the tears impelled him to dance even more energetically!”

A conversation that requires close study

I recall our stay in Wiesbaden [Germany] in 1912. Late one Shabbat afternoon, the local Rabbi, Dr. Kohn,1 came to visit, spending more than two hours with us. The conversation remained one-sided throughout, as Dr. Kohn listened to my husband’s every word with great excitement.

Late in the evening, he turned to my husband and, with typical German formality, said, “Herr Rabbiner Schneerson: It is time to eat dinner and my wife is already waiting for me. But I cannot pull myself away from your talk. It is Torah that requires close study.”

To me he commented that I should see to it that all my husband’s talks be published.

Train meeting with a famous Yiddish writer

On another occasion, on our journey back from abroad, the writer S. Ansky2 joined our train in Warsaw. He sat down in our compartment, and a conversation ensued as we traveled. The conversation was mainly between my husband and the writer, and the topics included many stories about Chasidic Rebbes, Chasidim of previous times, renowned personalities and Jewish spiritual life in general.

Many Jewish passengers, young and old, from the neighboring train-cars, came into our compartment to listen to the conversation. At night they didn’t return to their compartments to sleep but stayed to listen to the conversation with great interest, for it was an exceptionally rich and wide-ranging discussion.

“My home is your home; I am not afraid!”

In 1946, when I was staying in Kraskovo,3 near Moscow, people were afraid to be seen anywhere near me. I was forced to lodge in a different location almost every night, because residency was granted only to those officially registered, and it would have been even more dangerous for me to show my identity card.4 So I had to seek ways to improve my situation.

I found out that an acquaintance, Dr. Landman, was living in Malakhovka, near Kraskovo. I went to see him in the hope that he could find a way to arrange for my residence to be made legal.

הבית של רבי לוי יצחק וחנה שניאורסאהן
הבית של רבי לוי יצחק וחנה שניאורסאהן

He received me in a most friendly manner, immediately telling me how he recalled the Yom Tov and Simchat Torah he had spent in our home. He had been employed at a hospital as a senior surgeon, and he took his vacation for the month of Tishrei.5 In order to feel the spiritual delight of Yom Tov as he imagined it should be, he chose to spend it in the company of Schneerson, the Rabbi of Yekatrinoslav.

“And now,” he told me, “I declare to you: My home is your home; I am not afraid!”

Selling the leaven one hundred percent

It is already after Passover, 5710 (1950). In the month of Av it will be six years since my husband’s passing. I am always reminded of episodes of his life.6

In order for him to carry out all necessary functions of an official Rav, the Jewish residents had to come to my husband [before Passover] to arrange the sale of their chametz. He always insisted on carrying out all his endeavors in absolute, one hundred percent truth, with profundity and nothing at all superficial. The same applied in this case—his desire was for the chametz to be utterly nullified.

A certain category of Jews, influenced by secular culture, viewed the sale of leaven with a critical eye and participated only in order not to affront the Rav’s religious sensibilities.

I recall how, during the period of the war-refugees,7 Pavel Isakov Kahan8 and all departments of his college were evacuated from Vilna to Yekatrinoslav. The teachers’ seminary of his college numbered more than a thousand students, with many lecturers well known in the world of Jewish scholarship.

Pavel Isakov was a great Yiddish scholar, but he wasn’t religious. Well aware of the honored place he held in the world of secular education, he was of great importance in his own estimation.

Notwithstanding his prominent status, Isakov had great respect for Schneerson and held him in high regard, paying us frequent visits. Accordingly, he “lowered” himself — as he considered it—and came on the day before Pesach to “register” his chametz, as it was popularly called.

I remember noticing how he tried to make it obvious to the Rav that he was doing something really special just for the Rav’s sake. But he didn’t get the reception he expected.

It was already late in the morning,9 but when he jocularly announced “Good morning,” my husband replied sternly and loudly, “Couldn’t you come any earlier? You see how late it is!”

Isakov seemed to lose himself. But he sat down and responded to my husband’s questions as dutifully as the young boys who had been sent by their parents on the same errand.

On Chol Hamoed [the intermediate days of Passover], Isakov and his wife paid us a visit. He related to my husband with the same deep respect as before, showing absolutely no annoyance.

I often witnessed instances like this in which people sensed my husband’s profound sincerity in everything he did.