On the fifth of Tevet, 5747 (1987), U.S. Federal Court issued a decision in favor of Agudas Chassidei Chabad regarding the ownership of the priceless library of the 6th Rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn.
The ruling was based on the idea that a Rebbe is not a private individual but a communal figure synonymous with the body of Chassidim.
The Rebbe saw the attempt to wrest ownership of the books from Chabad as an attack on the very institution of a Rebbe and the Rebbe-Chassid relationship.
Hey Teves is celebrated as a day of great rejoicing in the Chabad community, with extra time devoted to studying Torah books as well as acquiring new books.
The Rebbe’s Meeting With The Lawyers:
In their meeting with the Rebbe immediately before the opening of the court proceedings, the lawyers representing the Rebbe received last minute instructions:
“The first thing the Rebbe stressed was that the lawyers make it clear: books are not a personal heritage of the Previous Rebbe, and this should be explained and understood according to ‘human logic.’
“The Rebbe stressed many times that their desire to dedicate themselves to the Rebbe’s will should be in line with nature, and the society’s system. The Rebbe told them, ‘I want you to do your work – not as a Chassid, but as a lawyer.'”
Elie Wiesel’s Testimony:
The core of the Rebbe’s claim was based on the unique and intimate Rebbe-Chassid relationship – an absolutely foreign concept to the minds of many involved in the case. One of three participants chosen to convey this concept in terms understandable to the secular mind was Elie Wiesel; here is an excerpt from his testimony:
“Strangely enough, the choice of (involvement) is made by the Chassid and not the Rebbe. It is not the Rebbe who chooses the Chassid; it is the Chassid who chooses the Rebbe.
“But once the choice is made, it is boundless. It is total loyalty. And therefore, the Rebbe owes the Chassid total loyalty. So, for the community, the Rebbe must have total generosity and compassion. Also, he has even more responsibility. That is why he is a Rebbe.”
News of victory in court hit Chabad Headquarters at 770 Eastern Parkway like a bolt of illumination; here is an excerpt from the dairy of a student present in 770:
“When the news came that we won the court case, it was 11:40 in the morning and we were sitting in the upstairs zal [study hall].
“For me to picture what went on in these moments is impossible. We all went outside 770 and began dancing and singing ‘Didan Notzach.’ Before I knew it, bachurim [yeshiva students] got hold of bottles of mashke [liquor] and guys were dancing and doing flips!”
“Chassidim from Crown Heights began crowding at 770. A bunch of mitzvah tanks were driving around playing ‘Didan Notzach’ on the loudspeakers.
“When the Rebbe’s secretaries came out of the Rebbe’s room, there was tremendous joy on their faces. Avi Piamenta and Eli Lipsker were playing with their bands. In the middle of the dancing, someone got up and made the bracha of Shehechiyanu. [blessing of good news].”
Hey Teves 5770: