On the night of Simchas Torah, 5702, during the Farbrengen before Hakofos, the Frierdiker Rebbe spoke to the Chassidim of writing a Sefer Torah expressly for the purpose of greeting Moshiach.
It is important to note when this took place: At that time, the Jewish people were suffering terribly all across Europe – struggling through more horrifying afflictions than anyone could have imagined would ever occur.
In those darkest of times, the Frierdiker Rebbe initiated new efforts to awaken all of his Jewish brethren to return to Hashem, seeking to seize an opportunity to bring about the ultimate Redemption.
Thus did the project to write a special Sefer Torah to greet Moshiach commence. Originally, the Frierdiker Rebbe requested that the parchment for the Sefer come from Eretz Yisroel, so he sent a telegram to R’ Shlomo Yehudah Leib Eliazarov of Yerushalayim with precise instructions: The parchment must be made from a "Shlil" (i.e., the hide of a calf still in its mother’s stomach) of an animal slaughtered properly through Shechitah; it must be worked specifically for the sake of the Sefer Torah only; and the parchment should be six Tefachim in width.
However, when he realized that the cost of acquiring such a parchment from Israel would be too great, the Frierdiker Rebbe decided that the parchment should be made – and the Sefer Torah written – in America.
The Sofer chosen was R’ Shmaryahu Factor, who began to write the Sefer in the Alter Rebbe’s K’sav. Initially, it was arranged to start writing the Sefer on the 20th of Cheshvan (birthday of the Rebbe Rashab).
For a variety of reasons, however, the writing did not actually begin until the 2nd of Iyar (birthday of the Rebbe Maharash. The actual writing of the Sefer began in a quiet event without fanfare in the Frierdiker Rebbe’s room, with only the Sofer and R’ E. Simpson together there with him.
The Sofer drew the outline of the letters of the first word and the Frierdiker Rebbe filled them in, setting this unique endeavor in motion. Following the completion of the first letters, Chassidim gathered for a special meal in the shul downstairs, where they joined together in saying "L’chaim!" From there, they moved on to Mincha in the room where the Frierdiker Rebbe’s mother had stayed (this was during the year following her passing, in which the Frierdiker Rebbe regularly davened in her room).
After davening, the Frierdiker Rebbe turned to face the crowd and delivered a Sicha. Among the things he said then, the Frierdiker Rebbe related that when a terrible plague struck his city, the Baal Shem Tov instructed that a Sefer Torah be written – and the plague miraculously ended.
Now too, said the Frierdiker Rebbe, the Jewish nation is in dire need of immediate salvation; and he concluded, "May Hashem help that the writing of this Sefer Torah indeed bring it about!"
Later that day, the Frierdiker Rebbe selected three of the elder Chassidim – R’ Shmuel Levitin, R’ Elya Simpson, and R’ Dovid Shifrin – as a committee to supervise the entire project. They were instructed to announce to the public that everyone would be entitled to purchase a letter in this historic Sefer Torah, for the price of one dollar.
In a letter dated that day, the Frierdiker Rebbe writes: ...In the merit of our holy Rebbes, Hashem has granted me the esteemed privilege to carry out the great and exalted Mitzvah of awakening and arousing immediate Teshuvah, preparing ourselves for the imminent redemption, and to write a Sefer Torah expressly to greet Moshiach.Initially, the idea was a personal secret, with intention to perform the act alone. But during the Simchas Torah meal, while speaking about the specialty of Ahavas Yisroel, I had second thoughts as to whether I was correct in my decision to hide the truth and withhold the public from participating in this great and holy opportunity. I have therefore chosen to proclaim openly that, with Hashem’s help, I do plan on writing a Sefer Torah exclusively to greet Moshiach speedily ... All those who wish to participate in the writing are to complete the necessary forms and send them to the committee.
The Frierdiker Rebbe took upon himself all of the costs of the Sefer Torah, as well as the payment due to the Sofer; all of the contributions received from participants in writing the Sefer were given to Merkos L’inyonei Chinuch and Machne Israel Fund.
As soon as this momentous project was launched, the Rebbe (as chairman of Merkos L’inyonei Chinuch and Machne Israel) immediately began promoting the new campaign on a very large scale, enlisting many Jews – including many community leaders – to sign on as participants in the writing.
In the year 5708, the Rebbe wrote R’ Bentzion Shemtov that Moshiach’s Sefer Torah would likely be completed in the near future. Bochurim who learned in the yeshiva in those years recall that every Thursday night they participated in reviewing columns of the Sefer Torah, checking for accuracy.
During this period, R’ Elya Simpson composed a detailed program for the Siyum Sefer Torah ceremony that they had scheduled for the 20th of Cheshvan, 5708. According to his plan, they would bring the Sefer Torah to the Frierdiker Rebbe’s room to request permission to proceed in writing the final Pesukim; from there they planned to continue to the Rebbe’s room downstairs where the writing would take place, and then return to the Frierdiker Rebbe to fill in the last three words – "L’einei Kol Yisroel" – to be followed by a great and joyous celebration.
For reasons unknown, the plan did not materialize; but the Chassidim presumed that the Frierdiker Rebbe had given instructions that the proper time had not yet arrived... And so the Sefer Torah remained unfinished until 5730 - twenty years after the passing of the Frierdiker Rebbe.