Today marks 27 Years of “Hei Teves,” the victory in which a Brooklyn Federal Judge gave ruling that all books that were taken from the Previous Rebbe’s library Agudas Chassdei Chabad be returned.
How did this story first break? What was the Rebbe’s reaction? What happened during the long days in court? The Avner Institute presents a fascinating Diary that was written at the time by Rabbi Yisroel Noach Vogel.
Thursday, Tammuz 1, 5745 (1985)
The Rebbe said he wants to speak to a group of older chassidim, and he gave the names of all those he wanted to speak to. [Those that I remember: Rabbi Binyomin Gorodetzky, Rabbi Mordechai Chodakov, Rabbi Mordechai Mentlick, Rabbi Moshe Pinchas Katz, Rabbi Zalman Gourarie, Rabbi Dovid Raskin]. Everyone was very anxious to know what the Rebbe told them, but all they would say was that the Rebbe would speak about it on Yud Beis Tamuz during the Farbrengen.
Naturally, everyone around the world was very eagerly expecting to hear something new and exciting during the Yud Beis Tamuz Farbrengen, maybe a new Mivtza, or who knows…
It was almost the end of the Farbrengen, during which the Rebbe had told a Geshmake story about the Frierdiker Rebbe’s Mesiras Nefesh, and the lesson we could learn from it, and had said a Maamor and other Sichos, when suddenly the Rebbe revealed something very shocking: three people had entered the Frierdiker Rebbe’s property, and had stolen Seforim belonging to the Frierdiker Rebbe. The Frierdiker Rebbe immediately showed a miracle, because people saw them as they were leaving. Two of them later returned what they had taken, and the Rebbe hoped that the third would also soon return what he took.
The Rebbe stated very strongly: anyone who thinks that the Frierdike Rebbe’s Seforim and belongings are for sale, because he has already passed away, is wrong! The Frierdike Rebbe is alive, as the Gemara says “Ma zaro bachaim af hu bachaim (just as his children – talmidim are alive so too he is alive)”.
The Rebbe also warned, those who buy seforim or belongings of the Frierdike Rebbe are buying a bomb. Imagine a bomb coated with sugar so it should look like a sweet apple, it is a bomb nevertheless. Anyone who foolishly bought one of these should make sure to return it immediately to the Frierdike Rebbe’s house where it belongs.
Wednesday, Tammuz 14, 5745
Two nights later on the 14th of Tamuz, during the public Yechidus for the guests who came for Yud Beis Tamuz, the Rebbe again spoke about it with great pain, and in the middle the Rebbe’s voice choked, it was very hard for him to continue.
Thursday, Tammuz 15, 5745
The Rebbe wanted, before he went to the Ohel, there should be a sign on the front of 770, stating that this house belongs to Agudas Chassidei Chabad, and it be named for the Frierdiker Rebbe: Ohel Yosef Yitzchok Lubavitch.
That night (Tamuz 15th) there was a surprise Farbrengen after the Rebbe came back from the Ohel. At the beginning of the Farbrengen the Rebbe asked for all the nigunim of the Rabbeim to be sung, which was unusual. During the Farbrengen, the Rebbe spoke for about an hour and a half about the seforim, and the ownership of 770.
During the next few days, the chassidim started realizing, that this was more than just a simple robbery, but it was someone who thought he had a legitimate claim to the Frierdiker Rebbe’s belongings.
During the next two Shabbosim (Balak and Pinchas), the Rebbe again spoke at length about the Seforim, among the things the Rebbe said was that he himself was scared to touch the Baal Shem Tov’s Siddur, he only looked at it twice when the Frierdiker Rebbe told him to, so how could someone even dare to think of taking it away and selling it.
Among the Seforim that were taken away and sold were some handwritten and hand-illustrated 500-year-old Hagados, which the Vatican was trying to buy. The Rebbe referred to this with great anguish, saying that wherever there is great Kedusha, the Klipa always tries to get hold of it.
Shabbos, Tammuz 24, 5745
On that particular Shabbos (Pinchos), the Farbrengen finished at 8:00 pm, the latest ever. After this Shabbos, the Rebbe did not speak about the Seforim again in public.
The whole story affected the Rebbe’s health, on Shabbos Parshas Devorim, the Rebbe was obviously not well, during the Haftorah, even those who were standing very close could hardly hear, (R’ Binyomin Klein was standing behind the Rebbe and crying the whole Haftorah).
Shabbos, Av 9, 5745
The next day, Tisha B’av morning, it was also very hard to hear the Haftorah, as the Rebbe‘s voice was very bad, and also because of his crying. By Mincha however, the Rebbe’s voice sounded a little stronger.
After it was decided to take the case to court, depositions had to be taken from anyone who had any connection to the library.
During this period, the Rebbe had another number of meetings with the older chassidim, who were members of Agudas Chassidei Chabad, and the Rebbe also added another two people, Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky and Rabbi Abraham Shemtov, to Agudas Chassidei Chabad.
Towards the end of Cheshvan 5746, it became known, that a date had been set for the court case, the Hebrew date was Yud Tes Kislev.
It was understood, that everyone who had to give a deposition, also had to go to court, if requested to, and be a witness. One of those people was the Rebbe.
It seems the Rebbe was very upset about having to go to court, but nevertheless he was ready to do so. [The Rebbe was also quoted as having said: what will the bochurim say].
Shabbos Vayeitzei, Kislev 10, 5746
On Shabbos Yud Kislev during the Farbrengen, the Rashag went over to the Rebbe with a bottle of mashke, (probably in connection with the Lubavitch Yeshiva dinner), and started to speak about this issue.
In the beginning, the Rebbe seemed to say that this has no connection to here and afterwards the Rebbe began to shout very loud. The bochurim were singing as loud as they could, yet you were able to hear the Rebbes’ voice at times. The Rebbe was speaking with his hands, his hands were going up and down. His hands were trembling, his face alternating from white to red. The Rebbe was pointing to himself as he was talking, and so was the Rashag.
In short: the Rashag asked that he not have to go to court, to which the Rebbe first replied that this not the place or time. The only reason I do not speak about this (publicly) is in your honor. If I will not have to go to court then you will also not have to. During their conversation the Rebbe exclaimed very loudly this is important [es iz nogea] for the whole Lubavitch! At the end of the discussion the Rashag asked what’s going to be with me? The Rebbe answered, you will have long life, good years and success in your work.
Monday, Kislev 12, 5746
At 6:00 am the whole Tehillim was said in the Zal upstairs, and many Anash and Tmimim fasted until Chatzos (according to the suggestion of the Shluchim). Later during the day, it became known that a decision would be made tomorrow (Tuesday), so a lot of people accepted upon themselves a half day fast for tomorrow as well.
Tuesday, Kislev 13, 5746
The news arrived that B”H the Rebbe will not have to go to court, and everyone became very happy and freilech, (this was the first positive breakthrough), a number of people made kules etc. etc.
When the Rebbe came in to Mincha (upstairs), everyone was singing “Didan Notzach” (I think this is the first time this song was sung in front of the Rebbe), and the Rebbe encouraged the song just once with his hand – but that was enough. (It was very unusual that the Rebbe should encourage singing upstairs).
After Mincha, they began singing, dancing and whistling again, until Rabbi Mentlik got scared it would continue, and told everyone to stop. They say that at the beginning of this week, or during last week, the Rebbe asked why they are dancing in the middle of Seder.
The Rebbe then went to the library from 4:10 until 6:00, and talked there to the lawyers.
In the evening, the Rebbe did not seem so happy, and he encouraged the singing very weakly on his way home. (The other side threatened to turn the situation over again, but “Boruch Hashem who disturbs the plans of the wicked”, there was no reason for fear).
That night there was one of the most freileche farbrengens I remember in 770. the Zal upstairs was full of bochurim and yungeleit, there were hardly any words spoken, just the feeling of gratitude, that B”H the Rebbe was saved from a bad situation, and that this is IY”H the first step to a complete victory. We sung one nigun for probably two hours straight.
Sunday, Kislev 18, 5746
A minyan of bochurim went at 6:00 am to the Ohel to daven for hatzlocho of the case. Sunday evening, when the Rebbe came back from the Ohel, he encouraged the singing once on his way into 770 (usually when the Rebbe came back from the Ohel he was very serious).
Monday, Kislev 19, 5746
The preliminaries of the trial began. Although many people wanted to go to court, everyone was asked not to go on this first day. From this day on, the Rebbe began going to the Ohel every day, from Sunday to Thursday, and this went on for three entire weeks, as I shall mention later.
At the Rebbes Farbrengen on Monday night, for the first time since the beginning of the Rebbes Nesius, the Rebbe did not say a Maamor on Yud Tes Kislev (with a nigun). This was a tremendous shock to a lot of people, and showed how serious the Rebbe regarded the situation. Another sign seemed to be, that the Rebbe did not say how many times to sing the Alter Rebbe’s nigun.
Tuesday, Kislev 20, 5746
The trial opened up to the public. As everyone wanted to be there, and the courtroom was not that big, there was a raffle every day to choose who would go.
One of the first interesting things I noticed, was that on the table of the plaintiff’s side (Aguch), was a complete set of Igrois Kodesh of the Frierdiker Rebbe. I also noticed that the witness that afternoon, Rabbi Krinsky, managed to mention all the Rabbeim during his testimony, which seemed to me like a Horo’oh.
[I’m not going to go into all the testimony in detail, but one could see extraordinary Hashgocho Protis on every step.]
One of the most impressive moments, was when one of the lawyers was reading out part of the Rebbetzin’s deposition, and the lawyer on the other side made an objection, (because the klipoh did not want the Rebbetzin’s holy words to be read), the Judge smiled and apologized, saying, that the objection is irrelevant now, because he had already read further, and he said how impressed he was by these words. [These were the words, that the Rebbe quoted on the Motzoei Shabbos after the Shiva, “My father and all the Seforim belonged to chassidim”, words that had a major effect on the decision of the case.]
Starting from Sunday 18th Kislev, the Rebbe went to the Ohel 5 days a week, (instead of twice or three times a month), and this had a noticeable effect on the Rebbe’s health. During Chanukah I noticed how thin the Rebbe had become, his cheeks seemed sunken in. It was very noticeable that the Rebbe had lost a lot of weight. [I heard that in a certain country, a psychic who had occasional discussions with the Shliach there, told the Shliach: Your Rabbi is fasting a lot lately, isn’t he? The Shliach was shocked to hear this, which just showed that it was a real fight with the Klipoh not just a court case about expensive books.]
Shabbos, Teves 2, 5746
On Motzoei Shabbos Zos Chanukah, the Rebbe referred indirectly to the court case, by saying that there is a strange charge that (Agudas) Chassidei Chabad are not active. Even though it is not true, Chabad has been active since the time of the Alter Rebbe, but it is probably a sign from above that we have to add in our activities. Therefore, every Shliach should send a report and pictures of his activities from Yud Kislev till Yud Teves, and these should be printed in a book, no later than Yud Shvat (the book is called “Let there be light..”).
During the two Farbrengens of Zos Chanukah (Motzoei Shabbos and Sunday night) the Rebbe spoke a lot about the Kitrug there was against the Alter Rebbe during the story of Yud Tes Kislev, which gave one to understand that the same was happening now again.
After three weeks of the court case, everyone was hoping that the Rebbe will stop going to the Ohel every day, and would go back to his custom of going a few times a month, but to everyone’s surprise, though the court case had finished, the Rebbe went to the Ohel again on the following Sunday. Neshei Chabad wrote a letter to the Rebbe, begging him to watch his health. On Monday the Rebbe again said he wants to go the Ohel, and everyone started to get very worried, but some time after noon, the Rebbe said that Mincha will be at 3:15. (Whenever the Rebbe went to the Ohel, Mincha would be later, when the Rebbe came back to 770).
That Shabbos the Rebbe referred to this indirectly, saying: I get letters that I should guard my health, I am Mochel health! I am Mochel everything! We need Moshiach Lematoh me’asoroh tefochim!!
[In Adar 5746, the two sides completed their post-trial submissions, and awaited a decision. Judge Charles P. Sifton (the judge for this case), was by reputation methodical and careful.
He promised a judgment within three to four months. This seemed like a long time to wait. Then, almost immediately, Sifton presided over a criminal trial, and months began to drag by without a verdict.]
Time passed, and chassidim were wondering, when is the decision going to be given? Everyone had no doubt who would win, but why is it taking so long?
Tuesday, Teves 5, 5747 (1987)
A year after the court case, at about 12:00 pm, rumors began circulating around 770, Didan Notzach! Did you hear? There is verdict from court! Unbelievable!
People started dancing, in 770, then outside 770. A few minutes later the dancing stopped, but they continued to say Lechayim. But a few minutes later, the dancing started full force.
[The rumor is, Rabbi Leibel Groner was inside the Rebbe’s room, arranging things as he usually did, when Rabbi Binyomin Klein heard that there is a verdict from court, so he went in to the Rebbe’s room. The Rebbe was busy learning, and he did not dare disturb the Rebbe directly, so he said to Rabbi Groner: Leibel, did you hear? The verdict is in! The Rebbe continued learning. So Rabbi Klein said again, Did you hear? There is an answer from court. The Rebbe looked up and said: Vos tumelt zich (what’s the noise about)? So they said there is a verdict! The Rebbe asked, do you know what the verdict is? They said no, and the Rebbe asked: so why are they dancing? But a few minutes later they heard a full report, and told the Rebbe that it was B”H a complete victory.]
The dancing on Eastern Parkway was in full force. Every few moments another bunch of people arrived, and joined the dancing. To everyone’s surprise, there was no shortage of Mashke even quite early on. It seems, two bochurim said to themselves, what will happen when there will be Didan Notzach, it will take a long time to get Mashke. So for a whole year, from after the court case, they collected leftover Mashke from any simcha, and so about ten minutes after the news arrived, a station wagon pulled up with loads of Mashke inside.
One of the Rabonim said: one should make a Brocho shehecheyanu and Hatov Vehameitiv. [I went over to a Mashpia and told him what the Rov said, and he immediately said the Brochos. I figured I needed someone more charismatic, so I went over to a Bochur who was a loudmouth, and told him what the Rov had said, the Bochur jumped onto the wall, and said loudly everyone repeat after me, and a lot of people said the brochos together].
The Piamentas came and set up their music, and everyone danced till Mincha. During the dancing, there were a few rumors, the first rumor was that the Rebbe will be going to the Ohel, the second rumor was that Mincha will be downstairs at 3:15.
It was the second rumor that was right. As the Rebbe came in, the noise, the chanting and screaming Didan Notzach, was deafening, but the Rebbe did not even react. He came in, gave Tzedokoh to kids under Barmitzva as usual, and went up to his place to daven Mincha.
The chazan started Ashrei, and everyone began singing the camp song for Ashrei. In the middle of Ashrei the Rebbe turned round to Rabbi Groner, who understood the Rebbe wanted to tell him something. Everyone held their breath, was the Rebbe upset at all the singing and the noise? Rabbi Groner bent down to one of bochurim and asked him for a Chumash. A Chumash! A sure sign there is going to be a Sicha! The singing of Ashrei picked up with a new Chayus! This day is acknowledged as a Yom Tov!
After Shmone Esrei, the Chazan started to say Kaddish, but the Rebbe started to say Tachanun, so the Chazan stopped until the Rebbe was told there was a Choson there, and the Chazan continued Kaddish.
After Mincha, the Rebbe went over to the other Shtender that was prepared for him, and said a Sicha for about a half an hour. During the Sicha the Rebbe spoke about the Posuk “Vatechi ruach Yaakov avihem”, which was obviously the situation here. The Rebbe also mentioned that everyone should add in giving Tzedakah.
Maariv was about an hour later, and then 770 was closed, to prepare for a big Seudas hodo’oh that night. There were a number of speeches, among them Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky and Rabbi Shlomo Kunin, and then the dancing continued the whole night. People came flying in from all over America, some places in Canada, and a group of bochurim even flew in from Caracas Venezuela.
Wednesday, Teves 6, 5747
The Rebbe went to the Ohel. After the Ohel, when the Rebbe came out of his room to daven Mincha, the Rebbe asked Rabbi Groner where is Mincha (upstairs or downstairs)? And when the Rebbe was told Mincha would be upstairs, the Rebbe made a sign with his hand as if to say: what a pity.
After Mincha and Maariv the Rebbe suddenly started saying a Sicha. It was such a surprise, that there was no microphone available. B”H one of the bochurim had a small micro-cassette recorder on him, so only the first few words were lost.
Rabbi Groner was standing in the hall outside, when someone told the Rebbe is speaking inside, and as soon as R’ Yonasan Hackner arrived with a microphone, he opened the door and put the microphone on the table, and then the Rebbe’s voice was heard all over 770 (and eventually the world).
The Rebbe continued yesterdays Sicha about “Vatechi ruach Yaakov avihem”, and then the Rebbe added, that all those that did not send in Tzedaka the day before on Hey Teves, should do so before he goes to the Ohel tomorrow (Thursday 7th Teves).
And since it is an Es Rotzon, surely everyone will want to send in Tzedokoh and a Pan to the Frierdike Rebbe. There will surely be a lot of people giving Panim and Tzedokoh, so they should separate them and have separate envelopes for the Panim and the Tzedokoh.
Everyone can write whatever they want in their Pan, because – said the Rebbe – I will not read them, so they are writing directly to the Aibershter, through the Frierdike Rebbe. Those places that will not be able to send their Panim in time, should go to a Beis Hachayim where they live, because all Beis Hachayim are connected through the tunnels (of Techiyas Hameisim).
Everyone now understood that these days were a moiradike Eis Rotzon, and everyone rushed to send in Panim before the Rebbe would go to the Ohel. All fax machines in 770 ran out of paper in the middle of the night, and some of them refilled paper a few times. A bank of telephones (usually used for the televised Farbrengens), was made available, and the phones were ringing off the hooks the whole Thursday.
(I went into that room not long before the Rebbe got back from the Ohel, at about 7:00 pm, and I pick up a phone, and I hear this Israeli lady from Miami, she says: Shamaati Shehakol Patuach, in other words, you can ask for whatever you want… I just asked her for the names she wanted to mention for a Brocho, as we were instructed to do).
Thursday, Teves 7, 5747
After Shacharis, a lot of big paper shopping bags were placed in the upstairs Shul, some for Panim, and some for Tzedokoh. Before the Rebbe went to the Ohel, his car was filled with 14 bags of Panim. The back seat and floor were full of the bags.
Meanwhile, people were flying in from all over the world, Rabonim, Roshei Yeshivos, Shluchim, and everyone who could, 770 was becoming freileche from minute to minute.
When the Rebbe got back from the Ohel, he came in downstairs to daven Mincha and Maariv, and after Maariv again said a Sicha.
[It is told, that the Gerer Rebbe the Lev Simcha, who was then very weak and uncommunicative, suddenly woke up on Zayin Teves and said everyone can come through (for a Brochoh), because now it is an Eis Rotzon!).
That night, there was another Seudas Hodo’oh, Rabonim from all over the world spoke, and one of the lawyers [Nat Lewin] came in specially from Washington D.C. to join in the celebration. And then, the singing and dancing continued al night long.
Shabbos, Teves 9, 5747
On Shabbos morning, when the Rebbe came into Shul for Shacharis, he turned to Rabbi Groner with a smile, and said there will be a Farbengen, and everyone understood it was in connection with Didan Notzach.
That night, Motzoei Shabbos, there was again dancing a whole night, until Alos Hashachar, when the fast of Asoroh Beteves began.
Sunday, Teves 10, 5747
The next morning, before the Rebbe went in to Slichos, the Bes-Din went over to the Rebbe, (in Gan Eden Hatachton), and gave him a Psak din that Moshiach has to come, and the Rebbe answered with a Brocho.
After mincha, the Rebbe again said a Sicha, and unusually for a Taanis, it was a very happy Sicha, during which the Rebbe thanked everyone who had traveled to join in this Simcha.
That night, there again was dancing, singing and rejoicing, but it seemed to get a little out of hand.
Monday, Teves 11, 5747
After the Rebbe came back from the Ohel, there was again a Sicha, but this time the Rebbe demanded Chassidim should understand, that Didan Notzach means the Rebbe Nesi Doreinu is victorious, and not Chas Vesholom our Nefesh Habahamis is victorious.
The Rebbe also mentioned the story from the Midrash, about a bad spirit who wanted to harm a certain, and everyone was told to come to the river with pots and pans, or anything that makes noise, and shout “Didan Notzach”!
The Rebbe also reminded everyone about the Gzeirah of Mashke, and said that since it is now 30 days before Yud Shvat, everyone must make a Hachono by adding in learning. The Rebbe demanded that everyone, get tested by their Rav once evry 10 days, i.e. 3 times before Yud Shvat, and the results should be sent in to the Rebbe. If The Rebbe will not get someone’s name on the reports, it can mean only one thing: this person did not learn anything. This Sicha was subsequently Mugah by the Rebbe.
So this was the culmination of the seven days of rejoicing, get down to the business of learning!
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