by Rabbi Sholom DovBer Avtzon
Being that this Shabbos is Parshas Titzaveh and most Anash will be reviewing the maamar V’Atah Tetzaveh, the maamar that the Rebbe personally distributed on Purim Koton 5572 (1992), just two weeks before his stroke on chof-zayin Adar Rishon. In the beginning of the maamar the Rebbe notes that it is based on the maamar that the Frierdiker Rebbe said during the farbrengen of Purim Koton 5687 (1927). I therefore thought it would be appropriate to relate part of the story of that era, which lends an insight of the intent of the Frierdiker Rebbe’s maamar, and according to many it also gives insight into the intent of the Rebbe, of why he chose to publish this maamar (which he said eleven years earlier, on Parshas Teyzaveh 5781 (1981).
Please keep in mind that 1927, was ten years since the overthrow of the Czar by the communists and they were flexing their authority with brutal force and intimidation. A prime objective of theirs was to eradicate religious observance, and their intelligence agents informed them that Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn, the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe was the inspiration and driving force for Jewish religious activity and therefore he was to be carefully watched and monitored.
The Communists plan was to close down all of the religious chadorim (schools) for young children, and force all of the children to attend their schools where they would indoctrinate the children with their atheist approach. The Frierdiker Rebbe opened up hundreds of underground chadorim to teach these children. Yet there was tremendous fear in not registering ones child(ren) in the official schools. The regime could take the children away from their parents or send the father to exile.
In 5680 (1920), (during the year of aveilus (mourning) for his father the Rebbe Rashab), the authorities began monitoring the Frierdiker Rebbe, by sending three armed officers to bring him in for questioning or as they would refer it, “A friendly get to know you.” Their intention was to intimidate him.
In 5684 (1924), while he was returning from a meeting with supporters and participants of his “illegal” activities, he was informed that agents of the hated G.P.U. were awaiting his return in order to arrest him. They claimed his trip was connected to his counter-revolutionary activities. So he returned to Leningrad and came back with documents showing that he was interviewing for a rabbinical position. After lengthy and delicate negotiations, it was agree that if the Lubavitcher Rebbe would move out of Rostov, they would not arrest him. Based on that agreement, he moved and settled in Leningrad.
He expanded his activities, and the Yevsektzia (the Jewish division in the Communist party), began recording as much of his activities as possible. On Rosh Hashanah of 5627 (Sept ember 1926), as the Rebbe was reading the verses preceding the blowing of the Shofar, a heart-felt “Oy Gevald”, burst from deep within him. The cry penetrated those davening with him, instilling fear in everyone’s heart. They realized the situation was indeed precarious and dangerous.
Five months later, the Frierdiker Rebbe traveled to Moscow. While there, on Purim Koton, he was informed that his secretary Reb Elchonon DovBer Morosow was arrested. Realizing that people are going to draw their own conclusions from his response or a lack of a response, the Frierdiker Rebbe publicized that he will farbreng the following evening, and will also say a maamar Chassidus.
Many Jews, included some spies of the government, came to hear him, and see what his response will be. He spoke forcefully and passionately about the fact that Mordechai gathered twenty-two thousand Jewish children, at a most troubling and dangerous time. A time of severe prosecution, by Haman.
He then said the historic maamar of V’kibel Hayihudim. That is the maamar on which the Rebbe expounded upon in his maamar of V’atah Tetzaveh.
One of the points of the maamar is explaining the saying of our sages, that during the time of Haman’s decree, the Jewish people came to a higher level than they were by Mattan Torah. Now they actually fulfilled what they accepted upon themselves hundreds of years before.
The obvious question is, Mattan Torah came immediately after the splitting of the sea, when everyone, saw the tremendous glory of Hashem, recognizing that He is indeed the Creator and Master of the entire world. The Jews experienced a revelation of G-dliness that was only duplicated in the Beis Hamikdash. So we can definitely say that the Jews were at an extremely high level. By contrast, our sages inform us, that Haman’s decree came as a result of the improper actions of the Jewish people. It was a time of exile and Hashem’s glory was concealed. So how can we say that even though they were on a lower spiritual level, yet only then did they truly accept and indeed fulfill what they accepted by Matan Torah?!
The explanation the Frierdiker Rebbe gives is that because at that time they stood with mesiras nefesh (self-sacrifice) to withstand the decree. Mesiras nefesh is an expression of the essence of the neshoma, and they revealed their true connection to Hashem. He then connected it to the Torah that was taught to the children, which is what gives us the strength to overcome our adversaries.
In the Rebbe’s maamar, the Rebbe expounds on the point that this was accomplished through the efforts of Mordechai – the Moshe Rabbeinu of that generation. As Moshe Rabbeinu is called the raya mehemna, which is usually translated as “the faithful shepherd,” but also has the deeper meaning of “the one that nurtures our faith.”
So through retaining and strengthening our connection to the Rebbe and following his directives, our Emunah in Hashem is sustained and strengthened.
Rabbi Avtzon is a veteran mechench and the author of numerous books on the Rebbeim and their chassidim.He is available to farbreng in your community and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org