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In the Rebbe’s Presence

In the Rebbe’s Presence

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I found a Tehillim in 770 which, on the front piece, was inscribed, “The gematria of Beis Moshiach is 770.” I showed it to the Rebbe who laughed heartily.

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One Shabbos, Yossi (6) and Mendy (4 ½) were standing at the doorway of 770 when the Rebbe arrived. He said “Good Shabbos” to Mendy, who gave the Rebbe his hand to shake whilst answering “Good Shabbos.” The Rebbe also shook hands with Yossi. A large argument and debate ensued on whether the Rebbe had given his hand first or if the boys were rude and had stuck out their hands. Was it correct or was it wrong, and so on. Well, the following day we had just returned to 770; we were all standing at the doorway of 770 when the Rebbe happened to be coming along. The Rebbe touched his hat, smiled at Roselyn and me, and firmly and smartly shook hands with Mendy and Yossi. (Near the end of Chapter Eight, I have included a unique picture of the Rebbe shaking my grandson Yossi Lew’s hand two years ago.)

****

One afternoon we took Yossi and Mendy with us to Utica Avenue. I went to a bank to cash a traveler’s check. What a performance! I thought I was going to be arrested! The bank manager said that he had never seen an English traveler’s check and I should go to Wall Street. I told him a few home truths: that even in the most primitive parts of India, I have been able to cash English banker’s checks; but here in New York, the so-called center of commercial civilization, when every hour or less we could hear on the radio the temperature, humidity and degree of air pollution, we were taken for forgers and thieves! When he explained the troubles he faced in Brooklyn with gangsters, with racial problems and slum conditions (even in the better areas, rubbish lined the streets every day of the week), I had to sympathize with him - as long as he gave me the money.

It was getting late for mincha. I didn’t want to miss the Rebbe’s mincha at 770, but my foot was giving me trouble. So we all dashed down into the subway and caught a train, just in time! It was the express train. (In New York, the slow, or “local,” trains, stop at every station but the “express” trains skip some stations.) Unfortunately, this train went flying right past Kingston Avenue - the whole station vibrating and the train screeching - to the great delight and amusement of Yossi and Mendy.

Ultimately it stopped at Franklin Avenue, the third station, and we had to wait twenty minutes for a train back. We were late for mincha!

On the subject of trains in New York, one day Berel Futerfas invited me to accompany him to see a client somewhere near Jamaica, in Queens, New York. His friend promised to take us by car, but then let us down.

We arrived at station “P”, and it was like a country village. Quiet, silent and dead. Even the station booking office was closed. No one was about anywhere. The town was miles away. Mind you, it was a glorious summer day.

Ah, civilization, a telephone! And just for us, a card advertising a taxi service stuck on the wall. We phoned the number and were told that there was no taxi at this moment, but we should be getting one in twenty minutes. After half an hour we phoned again, and were assured that within ten minutes he would be there, we should wait. Wait? Nebach, where could we go?

Within half an hour the taxi arrived. The driver was very indignant that we called him, and where did we get his name? We explained about the card. He told us that he’d come from miles away and it would cost us double the ordinary taxi fare. Now we were mad!

When we returned to the station we boarded a lovely train back to Brooklyn, all air-conditioning and modern. Berel and I were traveling very nicely and relaxed, except when the conductor would be shrieking “blarty, blarty, blah.” I remarked to Berel that one could never understand a word these people said. Pity, because we should have changed for Brooklyn at the next stop, instead of which we arrived at Penn Station in Manhattan!

Published by PCL Publishing Brooklyn, NY. To learn more about My Encounter with the Rebbe visit: myencounter.com.
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