Printing A Tanya In Outer Space




    Shifra Vepua

    Printing A Tanya In Outer Space

    In honor of the Chassidishe Chodesh, the month of Kislev, Beis Moshiach went out to explore unique editions of the Tanya. Read about R’ Pinye Altheus’ edition of the Tanya, the Tanya that saved the community leaders in Tehran the Tanya printed under the auspices of the American army and the Tanya that was almost printed in outer space • By Beis Moshiach Magazine • Full Article

    Yisroel Lapidos, Beis Moshiach

    In 5703 (1943), another edition of the Tanya was printed (#46), this time, in Tel Aviv. It was at the end of that year that the activist Rav Pinchos Todros Altheus (R’ Pinye) z”l, decided that the Tanya had to be reprinted. He had a number of reasons for wanting to do so, primarily because of the terrible condition of the Tanyas in Eretz Yisrael at that time. Importing Tanyas was impossible due to the poverty in those days.

    Most of the earlier editions of Tanya had used photo-offset printing, while this new edition of the Tanya, thanks to R’ Pinye’s daring decision, was something entirely new. He arranged the Tanya in a handy format, in a line-by-line copy of the original Tanya, so that it would be an accurate copy of the Tanya printed by his great-uncle, Rav Asher of Nikolaev (which was printed in 5660-1900 in Vilna).

    R’ Pinye, who was an energetic worker in the service of the Rebbeim, threw himself into the work. After getting the permission and approval of the Rebbe Rayatz, he contacted a printing house in Tel Aviv, and together with them, began the complicated job of reprinting the Tanya.

    They spent days and nights on it, with R’ Pinye taking all the responsibility. The work entailed scrutinizing the galleys, correcting mistakes, and most importantly, seeing to it that the new edition was clear and precise.

    R’ Pinye put aside all his other work that occupied his busy days, and devoted himself fully to printing this Tanya. On the frontispiece, he printed, “Published by Pinchos son of Binyamin z”l Altheus” (today, the Kehos symbol replaces that).

    On the other side of the shaar blatt, he put the names of the other members of the Tanya Printing Committee in Tel Aviv: Rabbi Chaim Eliezer Karasik, Rabbi Moshe Gurary, Rabbi Naftali Dulitzky, and Rabbi Dovid Chanzin.

    When R’ Pinye was ready to send a fresh copy of the new Tanya to the Rebbe Rayatz, not only did he select the best one, but he went through it page by page, and when he found a black dot on one of the pages he scraped at it until it disappeared.

    An interesting encounter took place while R’ Pinye visited the Rebbe Rayatz for the first time in 5710. In the course of his stay, R’ Pinye met the Rebbe’s son-in-law, known then as the Ramash.

    The Rebbe asked him where he got the courage to print the Tanya in a new format.

    R’ Pinye answered in his characteristic mischievous way – that he was willing to pay the Rebbe a dollar for every mistake he found in the new Tanya. After a while, R’ Pinye got up the nerve to ask the Rebbe how much he owed him. “Not much,” the Rebbe smiled.


    The 119th edition of the Tanya was printed in 5738 (1978) in “Tehran, Persia” (today, Iran). At the time, the rav of the Jewish community in Persia, Rabbi Yehuda Ezrachian told (in Kfar Chabad magazine) about the miracle in connection with the printing of the Tanya.

    “About a year before the Revolution, two shluchim of the Rebbe came to Iran in order to print the Tanya. The community decided to print many copies of the Tanya in order to distribute them to the Jews of the community.

    “The Tanya was sent to be printed, but there were delays and it took a long time. In the meantime, Khomeini overthrew the Shah. When the work of the community resumed, and I was responsible for the community’s spiritual needs, I tried to get all the copies of the Tanya from the printer in order to bring them to the community’s library. There, in the large hall of the library, they were stored for the meantime, in messy piles.

    “At that time, a new law was announced called ‘cleansing.’ The new law stated that every Iranian citizen and all public organizations had thirty days in which to burn all documents, papers, and books they owned, containing the Shah’s royal emblem, his name, and the like.

    “The law stated that after thirty days, anybody who possessed anything with one of these symbols would be severely punished. And if it was determined that he purposely did not destroy these symbols, he would be executed.

    “We faced a difficult problem in that we had archives over one hundred years old, and most of the papers, documents, and books, had the royal crown on them, as well as the name of the Shah and his government. For example, we had many special gold coins that the kehilla produced in honor of the king’s coronation and in celebration of 2500 years since the coronation of Koresh. On one side of the coin was a menora and on the other side was either Koresh or the royal crown.

    “It was very hard for us to accept the ‘cleansing’ of the entire library and the huge archive, considering its value, but we had no choice. Nevertheless, there was clearly no way we could comply with the law in such a short time.

    “At the end of the month, before we had finished the work, the secretary came into my office and said that two government inspectors had shown up to inspect the offices in order to see whether we had followed the cleansing law.

    “I was terrified. I knew that I was finished and that the entire Jewish community was in great danger. I said Vidui, Shema, and prepared myself for what I knew was coming. When the inspectors entered my office, and I was frightened to death, it occurred to me, for some reason, to take them first to the library.

    “The first thing they saw were piles of books that were thrown all over the place. One of the inspectors bent down and took one of these books, which was a Tanya. He asked me what it was, and I told him about the Baal HaTanya, about the Chabad movement, about Rabbi Yisroel Baal Shem Tov, and about Chassidus. I told him that this was one of the movement’s primary works.

    “He opened the book and asked me to explain to him what it said on the page he opened to. It was the first page of Shaar HaYichud V’HaEmuna. I translated and explained the entire page, from beginning to end. When I was done, the inspector closed it, kissed it, and said, ‘In a place with books like these, and with such a person in charge, there is no need for anything else!’

    “When I had recovered from this pleasant shock, I said to him before he left that we would be extremely happy if he would sign our guest book.”


    In the winter of 5740 (1980), the Rebbe said the Tanya should be printed in every city and town where Jews lived.

    That winter, the American army invaded Grenada. The Jewish chaplain, Rabbi Yaakov Goldstein, was part of the unit sent to the front. He asked the Rebbe for a bracha, and the Rebbe told him to print a Tanya there.

    Rabbi Goldstein left for Grenada, and he hid the plates deep in his kitbag. Upon his arrival, he faced a familiar legal problem. The separation of church and state did not allow soldiers to be involved in printing religious books. He decided to take advantage of the lack of supervision due to the war, and U.S. soldiers printed the Tanya. On the binding, in the olive-green of their uniforms, is the symbol of the American Defense Department. When the Rebbe received a copy, he put on his glasses and examined this symbol.

    A few days later, the gentile major general who oversaw the operation, received a thank-you letter from the Rebbe. The Rebbe wrote that many of the concepts explained in Tanya are part of the American way of life (see copy of letter).

    At this time, the chief rabbi of the IDF, Gad Navon, arrived in the U.S. and had a private audience with the Rebbe. He noticed the military edition of the Tanya on the desk and asked about it. The Rebbe smiled and said, “I also have a soldier,” and he gave Rav Navon the Tanya.


    Occasionally, the printing of Tanyas involves miracles, as in the following story.
    A Lubavitcher couple in Pretoria, South Africa, were told by the doctor in a routine examination that the fetus she was carrying had died, and she needed to undergo an operation. Terribly shaken by this news, they asked the Rebbe for a bracha.

    “They should immediately begin preparations to print the Tanya in their city,” was the Rebbe’s reply.

    They spoke to the members of the Vaad L’Hafotzas Sichos, appointed by the Rebbe to be in charge of printing Tanyas, and told them the Rebbe’s answer. The Vaad members were flabbergasted when they remembered that a certain businessman had taken the plates on one of his trips, and they had remained in South Africa!

    “Take the plates to your city and that will be the preparation the Rebbe was referring to,” they advised the couple.

    The doctors thought the couple was crazy, but the woman gave birth to a healthy son.


    In the early 90s, Rabbi Konikov, shliach in Satellite Beach with connections in NASA, received permission to print the Tanya on the space shuttle Columbia. The Rebbe approved this and the members of the Vaad L’Hafotzas Sichos began working on the technical details.

    Rabbi Sholom Jacobson inquired of the 3M company in Minnesota, which is known for its expertise in developing micro-machinery, whether he could order a miniature printing press which could be attached to the shuttle’s circuitry (where there are severe space limitations, and every inch and ounce counts). They looked into it and concluded that it was impossible. In the end, they decided to print it primitively with a rubber stamp!

    Rabbi Jacobson prepared the “plates” and the shaar blatt, which would say in Hebrew and English, “In Space, Around the Earth – by the astronauts on the space shuttle Columbia of the United States” (see picture).

    The end of the story was that Rabbi Konikov’s contact in NASA, a gentile, didn’t understand what was supposed to be done, and he “printed” it when the shuttle was on the ground. So the Tanya was not printed in outer space after all.


    Rabbi Yitzchok Lifsh, director of a Chabad house in Tzfas, relates:

    During the period that the Rebbe spoke about printing the Tanya, Rabbi Yurkowitz of Tzfas and I went to print the Tanya at the foot of Mt. Chermon. At that time, the approach to the military base on the top of the mountain was difficult, and so we decided to print the Tanya at the foot of the mountain.

    It was a snowy day and very cold throughout the Golan Heights. We somehow managed to set the equipment up and began printing the Tanya. As we stood there, a military jeep pulled up with the commander of the Golan sector sitting in the front seat. He asked, “Are you shluchim of the Lubavitcher Rebbe?”

    When we said that we were, he said, “The Lubavitcher Rebbe wants to conquer the world, so why are you printing here? Print on the top of the mountain!”

    He arranged a permit for us and we continued printing at the military base on the top of the mountain.


    Rabbi Shmuel Beckerman, director of a Chabad house in Be’er Yaakov, relates:

    In addition to the work that I do in Be’er Yaakov, I give Tanya classes in two shuls in two different sections of the city. One of them, the Eretz Mitzrayim shul, is on Meir Baal HaNes Street, in the center of the city, and the other one, is the Chabad shul in the Talmei Menasheh neighborhood.

    Incredibly, despite the many difficulties that came up from time to time, the Tanya shiur is ongoing. Sometimes, even I am amazed by how the shiur is successful despite the enormous difficulties, which I won’t get into now.

    One time, it looked as though one of the shiurim was going to stop. The reason for this was that a few men said that it wasn’t right that I was giving a shiur in the shul when their own rav didn’t give a shiur. They thought this was an insult to the rav, but with Hashem’s help, and the rav’s own involvement, things were straightened out.

    This year I found out, through one of the older men in shul, that years ago, Lubavitchers came to these two shuls and printed Tanyas. I discovered that it was printed in only these two shuls (because each shul is in a different section of the city). Now I understand why my Tanya classes in these two shuls have lasted despite the many obstacles!


    Rabbi Lipa Kurtzweil, director of a Chabad house in Kiryat Malachi, relates:

    When the Rebbe spoke about printing Tanyas everywhere, the Chabad house in Kiryat Malachi began printing Tanyas in about one hundred yishuvim in the south.

    After one of these editions of the Tanya was bound, I would go with a group of tmimim from Yeshivas Beis HaRaM to that yishuv, and we would distribute the Tanya to all the residents. We would be asked many questions by the curious people, such as: Why did you print this? Who wrote it? What should we do with it? What segulos are contained in it?

    Many people were inspired by the printing and distribution of these Tanyas, and I will tell you two stories that I remember well.

    One time, the tmimim went to one of the homes and told the man who lived there that they wanted to give him the Tanya that was printed recently on his yishuv. This elderly man said, “What? A Tanya!?”

    “Yes, a Tanya,” said the tmimim.

    He invited them in and told them, “I learned in Chabad yeshivos in Eastern Europe. For many years I left the life of Torah and mitzvos, and for many years I haven’t stepped foot in a shul. I once decided that if someone came along and learned Tanya with me, that I would begin going to shul to daven.”

    The bachurim were moved by this story and learned a chapter of Tanya with him. From then on, the old man went to shul.


    Rabbi Kurtzweil’s second story:

    There was a man who lived on a moshav in the south who came to daven every day in Nachalat Har Chabad. The residents of the moshav he lived on did not want a shul there, which is why he had to travel every morning to daven Shacharis with a minyan. They didn’t even allow a minyan on the moshav for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur!

    After we printed the Tanya on this moshav, something changed. The next year, a minyan for the Yomim Noraim was arranged on the moshav, thanks to the printing of the Tanya, a minyan that is ongoing till this very day.

    As the Rebbe said on a number of occasions – that printing the Tanya would cause a spiritual arousal of the Jews in that place.


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