The first interrogation took place on Thursday night at ten o'clock. The Rebbe was entering the third day of his hunger strike protesting the withholding of his tefillin. Sick, suffering, weary, broken from physical abuse, and even further weakened by his sustained fast, he was brought for interrogation. While this interrogation, as well as those that followed were prolonged and derailed, we present all the facts known to us to date.
There were four interrogators: two Russians and two Jews, Lulav and Nachmanson. The chief interrogator was a Russian named Dichtriov.
The Rebbe was led into the large hall. The walls were of marble imbedded with large tubes. These were the notorious "walls with ears," for by means of the tubes, the conversation of interrogator and prisoner could be listened to and transcribed by the G.P.U. agents sitting in adjacent rooms.
As the Rebbe entered, he turned to the interrogators and commented: "This is the first time that I have come into a room and not a single person has arisen from his place!"
"Do you know where you are?" his interrogators asked.
"Most assuredly," he answered, "I am in a place that is not obligated to have a mezuzah. There are various such places which are not required to have one, as, for example, a stable or a bathroom."
The Rebbe began by saying that he would like to relate a story. The interrogators, their hands resting on the weapons of destruction lying on the table, stared at him with daggers in their eyes and replied, "Answer the questions posed to you, nothing else!
The Rebbe answered calmly that he was accustomed that even mitnagdim would listen to him tell a story...and without hesitating the Rebbe began:
"A maskil (proponent of the 'enlightenment') an apikores (an atheist), once visited my [great] grandfather, the 'Tzemach Tzedek'"
Nachmanson interrupted: "In all probability a person like myself who does not believe."
"No," answered the Rebbe, "he was a person well-versed in Jewish knowledge, and you are a simple ignoramus...."This person," continued the Rebbe, "asked the Tzemach Tzedek: 'why it is that in the Megillah, when Mordechai sent word by messenger to Esther of Haman's evil decree, the word yehudim (Jews) is spelled to include the letter yud twice; whereas in the later verse of the Megillah, describing the Jewish deliverance, 'And for the Jews there was light,' the word 'yehudim' is spelled with one yud?'"
"The Tzemach Tzedek replied: 'The two yuds correspond to the Inclinations, the Virtuous and Evil. Both the Evil and Virtuous Inclinations contain the ten qualities of the soul.
" 'There are two kinds of yuds: the yud of the Virtuous Inclination and the yud of the Evil Inclination. Haman's decree was not directed specifically against G-d-fearing Jews, those of the Virtuous Inclination; he sought also to destroy those who were irreligious, who acted in accord with the Evil Inclination. They, too, were included in his edict.'"
"The visitor then asked: 'Why is it that in a later verse, "And the Jews in Shushan gathered," we once again find a spelling of two yuds?'
"The Tzemach Tzedek replied: 'This is because the Jews in Shushan, being in the center of all the events, perceived and were profoundly influenced by both the danger and the miracle of Purim, so much so that even non-observant Jews returned to the ways of Torah and Judaism.' The Tzemach Tzedek concluded: 'The same is true of you; when you will suffer greatly, then you, too, will change greatly.'
"Afterwards, the maskil was afflicted with fever which lasted three months; affected by his suffering, he repented and returned to Judaism."
The Rebbe concluded his narrative and then added, "When you will also suffer, you, too, will change."
- (Back to text) From this point the narrative is based on Yisurim, pp. 35 ff., and the Rebbe is referred to in the third person.
- (Back to text) This story and the one following, were recounted by the Rebbe in 1942, as recorded in Sefer HaSichot 5702 pp. 82ff, and elucidated in Likkutei Sichot, Vol. 19, P. 126.
- (Back to text) See Berachot 61a and Kitzurim V'He'arot L'Tanya, p. 81ff.
- (Back to text) The numerical value of the letter yud is ten.
- (Back to text) The word "yud" here means "Jew."