The following is a free translation of a letter by Reb Elyeh Chaim Althoiz to the Friedike Rebbe [Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Shneersohn] describing the tremendous impression made by Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson [son-in-law and later successor of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak] on all the Chassidim who gathered at the Rebbe's court in Riga for the festivities of Simchas Torah, while the Rebbe was absent on a visit to the united states.
Though I have not yet returned to my full strength after the strain of the last two days of Yom Tov [Shmini Atzeres and Simachas Torah], and from all the dancing I am still shattered, there is not a whole limb in my body… I am unable to withhold the good, the gratification and true pleasure from the Rebbe [Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn], who is beloved and dear, for even one moment. I must give satisfaction at the earliest opportunity, while I still stand in a state of great feeling of joy and pleasure; that I merited to see the rising glory of the Rebbe’s household with my own eyes, exalted in spirituality and holiness, may we only merit that it should not cease till the coming of the redeemer.
I thank G-d for his kindness that he did for me, paying me in accordance with my deeds. I was the first who merited undeservingly that the Rebbe should reveal to me, in a private audience during the summer of 5683 , that which was hidden in his pure heart, his early intention – that it was his desire to give his precious and beloved daughter that she should be the wife of this man [the future Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson] about whom I will now speak.
I am the only individual from amongst all of the closest Chassidim, who saw his toil, his pain, how he spilled his bloodlike water, his tremendous humility - unintentional and intentional, his tremendous patience – revealed and hidden, throughout the five years during which his head, the leader and prince of Israel [a reference to the previous Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak] was constantly between two mountains of burning fire [presumably a reference to his prosecution at the hands of the communists in the USSR]. I was the first representative [of the Rebbe in this endeavor] and I was chosen then to make the first step and bring him from Yaketrenislav to Kislovodashk [regarding this meeting see the letter dated Friday of Parshas Pinchos 5683 (1923), printed in the new volume of Igros, page 30-2].
And now too I am the one who merited to see the building of this everlasting edifice. And now too I saw – wonders that I never imagined nor aspired to, G-d has shown me on this occasion. For that which I will now relate, not only do I not exaggerate, but I only reveal a very small portion of the abundant good that we merited to enjoy, I and all the Chassidim here during this festival…
One night of Simachas Beis Hashe’aveh the Chassidim gathered in the Rebbe’s Sukka and Rabbi Menachem Mendel sat with us and we heard many beautiful things from his mouth and it was very pleasurable for all of us… On the night of Shmini Atzeres there was a grand Kiddush in the Rebbe’s Sukka, to which all the Chassidim came, till late into the night, and Rabbi Menachem Mendel, with overwhelming humility and without in any way making himself noticeable, drank a lot and spoke for a few hours without pause – words of Chassidus combined with Medroshim, Kabbalah and Gematriah, in the fashion that he received from his father. His words were sweet and appealing for my ears to hear and all of those gathered where tremendously impressed.
The next day the news spread throughout the city of all that he spoke and is wonderful abilities, as is the way of the world there was much exaggeration, but for the good, such that all the questions and veils [that had obscured Rabbi Menachem Mendel’s true character and provoked speculation] were removed. Each man commented to his fellow “you see, the Rebbe took a son-in-law befitting to him” and even the critics were forced to concur against their will.
In the wake of these report, many more people gathered the next day for Hakofes, before which the older Rebbitzen [Shterna Soreh, wife of the Rebbe Rashab and mother of the Friedike Rebbe] made a Kiddush in the room of Rabbi Yechezkel Feigin. Rabbi Menachem Mendel sat at the head and spoke for four hours straight!
I sat arranged everyone at the table very orderly, Rabbis on one side wealthy laymen on the other, and gave each individual a place befitting to him. The brothers Valshanik, the brothers Chefetz, Vekslir – the father of the young Veksilir – very quiet like his son, a great critic and he considers himself to be a great intellectual. He came the first night to hear with his own ears, what he heard from Berlin of the greatness of the Rebbe’s son-in-law, and he stayed until 2am with all the Chassidim. He left very impressed and told me, “In my entire life I never saw or heard of such a thing! Happy is the one who bore him!” and I heard similar statements from everyone.
The Hakofes were executed with much dancing and joy, with singing and gladness of heart.
Similarly, the next day approximately a hundred men gathered by about 11am and we left three hours after midnight. In other words 3am. The Yom Tov meal was set up in various rooms, we sat down to eat at about 4pm and we Bentched at about midnight. For all those eight hours Rabbi Mencahem Mendel did not move from his place, and the entire time he spoke warm words, arousing Teshuva and Divine Service. He often he mentioned the Rebbe’s name with great respect “I heard from the Rebbe, may he be well…” “the Rebbe, may he be well said…” How good and how pleasurable it was for me to hear all this! Happy are we that we merited this.