Girl in Chabad school near village Antebka near Kiev in Ukraine
Girl in Chabad school near village Antebka near Kiev in UkraineFlash 90

Today, on the 12th of Tammuz, Chabad and the entire Jewish world celebrate 91 years of the "Redemption Festival" of the former Rebbe of Chabad, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson - the Rebbe Rayatz.

For those whose strength is not in history, I will only mention that the previous Rebbe was the most well-known Jewish leader who dared to stand up to the communist regime in post-revolutionary Soviet Russia and established a huge underground of chasidim who worked to preserve the spark of Judaism even at the cost of death.

This activity took place throughout the years of the communist regime, and thanks to it, Jewish life existed throughout the entire Soviet Union.

The Communists identified the Rayatz as the enemy of the new revolution, categorizing him as "dangerous to the welfare of the Soviet nation" and generally standing as the last barricade between their great dream of shutting down Judaism and banning it totally, and the reality on the ground.

And what do Communists who rule a huge country do when they reach such a conclusion? What can only be imagined: Investigations, endless surveillance, blatant and concrete threats, harassment of relatives and loved ones, and brutal violence. In the end, the Jewish department of the GPUs Yevsektzia (early version of the KGB) decided it was enough for the Rebbe to establish Talmud Torahs for Jewish children, conduct covert circumcisions and build ritual baths, to throw the Rayatz into prison with no trial and a sentence: death by shooting.

Rebbe Rayatz (C)
Rebbe Rayatz (C)Flash 90

But the Jewish People are not alone, and after a chain of miracles including world-wide diplomatic efforts and mainly help from Heaven, the Russians agreed to mitigate the punishment and annul the sentence, but conditioned it on the expulsion of the Chassidic Rebbe from the land of the "Sun of Nations".

The Rebbe received the announcement of his release from a Communist official in the city of Kostroma, and in a letter he sent to his followers upon his release he wrote: "Not me alone did G-d save, but also all those who love our holy Torah ... all who are called by the name 'Jew'." In other words, not only was I saved here but perhaps the entire future of Judaism as we know it.

In one chassidic farbrengen get-together organized by his son-in-law and successor, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, to commemorate the special day of redemption, he spoke of his father-in-law's courage and determination to continue his activities even when it was clear beyond any doubt that he was on the radar of the Soviet espionage services. But the Rayatz did not change any of his ways and as if to spite them, he expressed himself in a way that made it clear to the Jew-haters what he really thought of them and wished for them. "There's nothing to be impressed by; one must ensure that children get a Jewish education and live a Jewish life," he summed up his doctrine to the stunned spies.

Chabad house in Pushkar, India
Chabad house in Pushkar, IndiaFlash 90

Ninety-one years have passed, and again there are those who try to exclude Judaism, if not legally, then at least to exclude it from what is considered legitimate. To hide Judaism from the "sacred public space," to minimize tradition from the curriculum, to hide G-d from public discourse.

Again, as if almost a whole hundred years haven't passed, the Chabad movement and its emissaries stand ready to give their souls so that another Jewish boy can undergo circumcision and put on tefillin, so that another Jewish girl will eat kosher food and learn about the holy Matriarchs.

And if there's one message that can be learned today, on the twelfth of Tammuz, 5778, it is that in the end, Judaism always wins. The Glory of Jacob defeats division. And if even the Communists couldn't beat the Rebbe and the Chabad Chassidim, it's truly impossible.

Rabbi Yosef Aharonov is Chairman of the Chabad Youth Movement.

Rabbi Aharonov
Rabbi Aharonovצילום: יח״צ

Translated by Mordechai Sones