The Frierdiker (Previous) Rebbe, R’ Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, of sainted memory, was born on the twelfth of Tammuz in the year 5640 (1880) to his parents the 5th Rebbe of Chabad R’ Sholom DovBer and Rebbetzin Sterna Sarah, in the town of Lubavitch, in what was then White Russia.
On this very same date, in the year 5687 (1927), the Rebbe was informed that he is freed from the exile which followed a harsh imprisonment in the former Soviet Union, for his self-sacrifice and courageous struggle in strengthening Torah study and the practice of Yiddishkeit throughout the land of Russia.
The following is an excerpt from a letter of the Previous Rebbe following his liberation on the 12th of Tammuz. (Courtesy of Sichos in English)
“G-d’s acts of kindness are never-ending, and the merit of our holy ancestors has not been exhausted — and will never be exhausted — in protection of those who walk in their paths. Thus, it was that freedom was granted to me on the twelfth day of Tammuz, on the Tuesday preceding the Shabbos on which one reads the verse [in Parshas Pinchas], ‘I hereby grant him My covenant of peace.’ “It was not myself alone that the Holy One, blessed be He, redeemed on Yud-Beis Tammuz, but also those who love the Torah and observe its commands, and so too all those who merely bear the name ‘Jew’ — for the heart of every man of Israel (irrespective of his particular level in the observance of the mitzvos) is perfectly bound with G-D and His Torah.
“This is the day on which the light of the merit of public Torah study banished the misty gloom of calumnies and libels. It is fitting that such a day be set aside as a day of farbrengen — a day on which people arouse each other to fortify Torah study and the practice of Yiddishkeit in every place according to its needs, a day on which to offer blessings to our brethren in Russia (who are suffering from such libelers and informers), that G-d strengthen their hearts and the hearts of their children so that they will remain faithful Jews, and never again be persecuted by the above-mentioned evildoers.”
The Rebbe visits Eretz Yisroel
The following year the Rebbe visited Eretz Yisrael and was greeted by thousands who came to greet this champion of Russian and world Jewry. Chief Rabbi Kook zt”l proclaimed that the penitential prayer of Tachnun be omitted on Yud Beis Tammuz, in honor and in celebration of the Rebbe’s miraculous survival from the hands of murderous NKVD and their henchman. The Rebbe visited Hebron, Jerusalem, and Tel Aviv, as the Rebbe describes in a letter to his daughter Rebbetzin Shaina – that at the train station he noticed elderly Chabad Chassidim – who had made Aliyah to Eretz Yisroel many years before –when seeing him reminded themselves of the fourth Rebbe R’ Shmuel of Lubavitch (the Rebbe’s appearance resembled his grandfathers) and their faces became transfixed and exuded a youthful fire and excitement as they recalled the days of their youth as enthused dedicated Chassidim.
The Rebbe's first sojourn to America
The Rebbe continued his journey by ship from Israel to the United States. The Rebbe tarried nine months on the American shores – visiting many Jewish communities all over the USA, and tens of thousands of Jewish people were reminded of their responsibilities as Jews, as they were inspired, and many brought back to a greater observance of Torah and Mitzvoth. In a letter written to his legendary secretary R’ Chatche Feigin, the Rebbe indicated that American Jewry, were sincere and ready to take on the challenge of observance. However, the Rebbe indicated, “we at this moment - lack the Generals, to carry through this transformation in America.”
The Rebbe returned to Riga, Latvia and then for the next decade set the seat of the Chabad dynasty in Poland.
The rebirth of Judaism in America
With the outbreak of WWII, the Rebbe escaped from the European inferno under most dangerous and arduous conditions. Upon the Rebbe's arrival at New York harbor, on the ninth day of Adar II, 1940 - his very first announcement was “America is not different; Judaism of the Old Country (Alter Heim) is applicable here in America as well.”
The next day, Yeshivah Tomchei Temimim Lubavitch opened with ten Talmudical students, in the basement hall of Congregation Oneg Shabbos of East Flatbush, Brooklyn, NY. Amongst this group of dedicated students was my unforgettable father.
My father, Rabbi Abraham B. Hecht, of blessed memory, Spiritual leader (for nearly fifty years) of Congregation Sharre Zion, America’s largest Sephardic Shul, was an emissary of the Rebbe during 1943-47, establishing Jewish Day Schools (Achei Temimim Lubavitch) in Buffalo, NY, Newark, NJ, New Haven, CT and finally Boston, MA, With the blessings of the Rebbe he was eminently successful in enrolling hundreds of children in these Jewish parochial day schools, all under the leadership of the Rebbe.
When invited to address a prominent Bnai Brith International gathering as keynote speaker on the topic “Is there a future for hassidism in America?” he began by suggesting renaming his presentation as “Is there a future for American Jewry without hassidism?”
Indeed, this third generation American Jew, in 1947 was convinced beyond doubt, that the future of American Jewry and indeed world Jewry, would lean on the teachings and inspiration of hassidism, to overcome the coldness and antipathy of American materialism; for living a robust Jewish life, centered on Torah and Mitzvah observance.
Now, the seventh generation of Chabad led by our Rebbe and the thousands of the Rebbe's dedicated Shluchim – men and women -spanning the globe, serving with self-sacrifice, every continent and nearly every country, has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt, that hassidism and the wellsprings of the holy Bal Shem Tov, are preparing and readying the world for the Redemption.
So this Shabbat, let us all wish each other and proclaim happy Yud Beit Tammuz, 12th of Tammuz, a day that sets in motion the salvation and redemption of the world. May it be now, Amen.