Monday, July 14, 2008

Yud Beis-Yud Gimmel Tammuz

The 12th and 13th of Tammuz are celebrated by Lubavitcher Chassidim as the anniversary of the release of the Previous Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak, from imprisonment by the Soviet Government. The following passage relates the events that took place when the Rebbe was informed that his original death sentence was commuted:
Thursday, Rosh Chodesh Tammuz, (June 30) eleven o'clock in the morning, a guard entered the Rebbe's cell and commanded him to stand. The guards spoke Russian, but it was the Rebbe's decision to respond to them in Yiddish, and he replied that he would not stand.

Prison procedure required that the prisoners stand whenever they received any kind of information. This was to demonstrate that the prisoner was subject to the authority of his captors; it was for this very reason that the Rebbe refused to stand.

It seems that one of the guards was a Jew who understood the Rebbe's Yiddish reply. To the Rebbe's answer, the guards responded in Russian, "If you will not obey, we will beat you." The Rebbe responded with a non-committal "Nu..." The guards beat him harshly and departed.

Later another group of guards entered the cell, with Lulav among them.

"Rebbe," Lulav said, "why this strange conduct with them? Why are you so stubborn? They have come to inform you that your sentence has been lightened; therefore, if you are told to stand, then do so!"

The Rebbe remained totally unresponsive. Lulav asked, "Should they beat you?" Again the Rebbe did not answer.

Once again the guards began to pummel the Rebbe and then left. One of them struck him under the chin, and the Rebbe suffered pain from this blow for years afterwards. A group of guards came to the cell for the third time; among them was a Jew named Kavelov. They instructed the Rebbe to stand, and he again refused. Kavelov began to beat him, but to no avail.

Kavelov, infuriated, cried out in Russian, "We shall teach you!"

The Rebbe replied in Yiddish, "We shall see who will teach whom."

After a while some guards came to the cell and told the Rebbe to proceed to the office. There he was informed that his sentence had been reduced, as Lulav had mentioned. He was to be freed from prison and sent for three years exile to the city of Kastroma.

As the Rebbe approached the table, he observed the documents of his case lying there. He noticed that the first line had been crossed out, nullifying the original death sentence. The next line stated that the Rebbe should be sent away to prison for ten years to Solovaki; next to it was written, Nyet! ("no!) On the last line was written: "Three years Kastroma."

When the Rebbe was told he was being sent to Kastroma for a three-year term, he was asked at the same time which class train accommodations he desired, and he answered, Mezhdunarodni -- international -- the top class reserved for high government officials and affluent businessmen. He was asked if he was capable of paying the high price, and the Rebbe replied that if the money confiscated from his bureau at the time of his arrest was inadequate, he would instruct the members of his household to pay the remainder.

It was Thursday; the Rebbe asked when the train would arrive in Kastroma, and he was told on Shabbat. The Rebbe declared that he would not travel on Shabbat under any circumstances, so he remained in Spalerka [prison] over Shabbat.
The rest of the Rebbe's Prison Diary is equally gripping.

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