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A Prince in Prison

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A Prince in Prison

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A Prince in Prison
It was the author, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn of Lubavitch, who spearheaded the underground Jewish resistance to Stalin's ideological Final Solution - and paid for it by brutal incarceration and a capital sentence. From this he was miraculously liberated on Yud-Beis Tammuz, 1927, exactly 70 years ago.

In this unparalleled historic first-person description the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe graphically documents the cold truth behind the cynical Stalinist facade of religious tolerance - midnight arrest, intimidation and interrogation, incarceration without trial, the humiliation of prison routine, the torture of dissidents, and so on.

This description, which he entitled Reshimas HaMaasar ("An Account of the Imprisonment"), appears as part of Volume IV of Likkutei Dibburim, both in the Hebrew original and in its English translation. Unfortunately, not all of the author's manuscript has come to light.

An invaluable companion volume to the above document is Defiance and Devotion (Kehot, N.Y., 1996), selected discourses delivered by the same illustrious author during the period of his arrest and liberation. Fearlessly, he called on his chassidim to defy the mighty Soviet regime, even at the cost of literal self-sacrifice, in order to secure the survival of meaningful Jewish life.

Part III of the present work concludes by appending the colorful Chronicles of the First Three Generations of Chabad Chassidism. Part IV consists of the heartwarming and often whimsical Recollections of the Author's Childhood Between the Ages of Six and Eleven, when he was being groomed by his father to succeed him as Lubavitcher Rebbe.

This volume was translated and annotated[1] by Uri Kaploun; its layout and typography were entrusted to Yosef Yitzchok Turner; its cover was produced by 20/20 Digital Design Group; while all along Rabbi Yonah Avtzon,  kept a critical eye on the old wine as well as on its appealing vessel.

The Rebbe introduced the publication of each part of this document with a quotation from the letter which the Rebbe Rayatz wrote on 15 Sivan in 5688 (1928) in anticipation of the first anniversary of Yud-Beis Tammuz, the day of his liberation. In it the Rebbe Rayatz urges that this day be set aside as a day of farbrengen - "a day on which people arouse each other to buttress the Torah and Yiddishkeit in every place according to its needs."[2]

The Rebbe notes[3] that in one's eagerness to reach out and make Yiddishkeit accessible "in every place according to its needs," one might be tempted to dilute or compromise it. For this reason, the Rebbe points out, the Rebbe Rayatz stipulates that one's first task is "to buttress the Torah" - to make it clear to oneself and one's listeners that the only content and defining determinant of Yiddishkeit is the unchangeable Torah given by G-d. Balanced outreach in Torah and mitzvos should be sensitive to the recipient, and gradual, but without compromise.

It is the publisher's hope that A Prince in Prison, a story of self-sacrifice for unchanging principles, will remind its readers to strike this balance whenever they throw themselves energetically into the Rebbe's outreach campaigns.

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