Reb Mendel Futerfas, the mashpia of the Lubavitcher yeshivah in Kfar Chabad, was imprisoned for fourteen years in Soviet prisons. During his time in prison, he spent most of his free time in prayer and study. Nevertheless, for a variety of reasons, he chose not to remain totally aloof from the gentiles who shared his lot and spent a few hours a day in conversation with them.

Included in this group were many different types of people: political idealists who had fallen out of favor with the Stalinist regime, university professors, and many ordinary people jailed for “crimes,” which neither they (nor for that matter, many others) understood the criminal nature of.

Among the latter category was a circus performer whose claim to fame was his feats as a tight-rope walker. He and Rav Mendel had a standing argument. For this was before safety nets had become standard circus practice and Rav Mendel could not understand why a person would risk his life walking on a rope extended several storeys above the ground. “There must be,” Rav Mendel maintained, “some hidden ropes holding you in case you slip.”

The tight-rope walker for his part maintained that there was no need for ropes. It was not all that dangerous. One began practicing on low ropes and once a person gained experience, the chance of falling was minimal.

The argument continued for years until, after Stalin died, the prison authorities relaxed their rules slightly. Several months prior to May Day, they told the prisoners that they would be allowed to prepare a makeshift circus in celebration of the day. Our circus performer suddenly came alive, becoming the center of attention in the prison. He organized various performances, with, needless to say, the highlight of the show to be his tight-rope walk.

He made sure that Rav Mendel was in the audience. After the other performances were completed, as the drums began to beat, he climbed the pole and approached the line. His first steps were somewhat ginger, after all it had been several years since he had walked the ropes, but within a few seconds, he felt at home.

It all came back to him. He began to twirl a hoop with his hands and wave to his friends. As he reached the end of the rope, he hesitated for a moment, made a fast turn, and then proceeded to the other side. On his way back, he exuded confidence; he caught hats thrown to him by his fellow inmates and performed several other stunts. After he reached the end of the rope, he climbed down the pole and ran to Rav Mendel.

“You see, no ropes holding me up,” he gleamed in satisfaction.

“Yes. You’re right, no ropes,” agreed Rav Mendel.

“You’re a smart man,” the performer continued. “Tell me. What is the trick? Is it in the hands, the feet?”

Rav Mendel paused to think. “The performer had moved his hands freely and it appeared that his footwork was not the determining factor.”

After reviewing the scene in his mind several times, Rav Mendel said, “It’s the eyes. From the beginning to the end, your eyes were riveted to the opposite pole.”

The performer nodded in agreement, “When you see your destination in front of you, you know where to put your feet.”

“And what is the most difficult part of the process,” he asked Rav Mendel.

Rav Mendel thought again and replied, “The turn.”

“That’s right,” agreed the performer. “For then, you lose sight of the first pole and there is a gap until the other comes into focus.”

* * *

In the aftermath of the 28th of Adar, everyone who shares a connection with Lubavitch feels a certain sense of identification with the circus performer at the turn. After 42 years of receiving a veritable effulgence of divrei elokim chayim, living words of Torah from the Rebbe Shlita, there has been a temporary pause and for more than a month, the Rebbe has not delivered public teachings.

But there is a difference; we need not lose our focus. Our path is clearly charted out for us. The sichos which the Rebbe has delivered are vibrant and relevant at present and continue to give us direction.

In this spirit, we present this volume, a collection of sichos delivered by the Rebbe Shlita from the 20th of Kislev until the 26th of Adar. This was a particularly rich period, containing an abundance of talks. The insights they contain provide us with a reservoir of knowledge and inspiration until the time when we will merit to hear the Rebbe deliver such teachings again.

There is no question that the most effective medium to arouse the Divine blessings that will enable the Rebbe to deliver such talks in the future is the serious study and application of his teachings. May the study of the teachings in this volume arouse an ever-increasing sequence of blessings, including the complete and speedy recovery of the Rebbe Shlita and the ultimate blessing, the coming of the Redemption.

Sichos In English

11th Day of Nissan, 5752
The Ninetieth Birthday of the Rebbe Shlita