The year 1882 was a year of great upheaval for Russian Jewry. A large wave of anti-Jewish riots swept through south-western Imperial Russia from 1881-1884. In that period more than 200 anti-Jewish events occurred in the Russian Empire. During these pogroms, which continued for more than three years, thousands of Jewish homes were destroyed, many families were reduced to poverty, and large numbers of men, women, and children were injured.
The year 1882 was also the last year of Rabbi Shmuel’s leadership, as he passed away in the fall of that year, on 13 Tishrei, 5643.Rabbi Shmuel (1833-1882), known as the Rebbe Maharash, fought very hard for protection of the Jewish population from the pogroms, traveling often to the capital city of Petersburg to meet with and implore high-ranking government officials, and in fact, being instrumental in quelling the disturbances.
The year was also significant in that the Rebbe’s youngest son, R. Menachem Mendel, wed the granddaughter of the renowned Rabbi Moshe Sofer (Schreiber) author of Chatam Sofer.
The present volume, Torat Shmuel Sefer 5642, contains the Chasidic discourses delivered and written by Rabbi Shmuel during this eventful year. The discourses cover a wide variety of topics, such as the Chasidic meaning of the holidays of Sukot, Chanukah, Purim and Pesach; the inner meaning of prayer and study; insights into Biblical figures such as the Patriarchs and Moses. The volume also includes the discourses delivered by the Rebbe at the wedding of his son and a unique discourse (M’eimatai kor’in) which covers the topic of siyum hashas.
The book was expertly annotated by Rabbi Alexander Z. Piekarski, of the Chabad Research Center, and is rounded out with a full index compiled by Rabbi Simcha Zaiontz of Migdal Haemek, Israel.
In a unique effort led by Mordechai Engel and Dovid Blier of Melbourne, Australia, 200 Chabad community members, banded together to dedicate this volume. “Dedicating the publishing of a text by the Rebbes is an extraordinary zechus which benefits the donors and their families in an everlasting way,” said Rabbi Nosson Gurary, the driving force behind this collective effort. The names of the donors are published in the book.
Officials at Kehot noted that this effort has ignited interest in other communities and a group of donors in New York have recently dedicated a volume of Chasidic discourses by the fifth Rebbe, Rabbi Shalom Dovber of Lubavitch, containing the discourses of the following 3 years – Sefer Hamaamarim 5643-45 (1883-84).