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Prison Chronicle

Dovid Zaklikowski

The Rebbe Rayatz’s dramatic diary of imprisonment was rescued, but thousands of missing handwritten pages remain the shrouded legacy of a lost era.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

There’s an almost otherworldly pull that animates the bearded scholar sitting behind a desk piled with manuscripts, as he contemplates the figure that gave his own family life. Rabbi Aharon Leib Raskin, with his encyclopedic knowledge of Shas, poskim, Kabbalah, and chassidus has spent the last three decades sourcing the teachings and history of the rebbes of Chabad. Yet when it comes to the writings of Rav Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe (known as the Rebbe Rayatz), the unassuming talmid chacham springs to life. Rabbi Raskin’s parents and grandparents fought the onslaught of Communism in Stalinist Russia as courageous soldiers of the Rebbe Rayatz, and the Rebbe’s name was a repeated motif throughout his childhood. But it’s his ongoing search for the Rebbe Rayatz’s thousands of handwritten pages of Torah, chassidus, and personal chronicles — buried somewhere in Russian archives — that keeps the Rebbe Rayatz ztz”l in the forefront of Rabbi Raksin’s present-day consciousness. 

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