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Discovering the Rebbe

The Tradition of the Rebbe Speaking to Kids

February 28, 2010 4:13 PM
The Rebbe gives a talk to children at Lubavitch World Headquarters
The Rebbe gives a talk to children at Lubavitch World Headquarters

We arrived in New York by Greyhound Bus, departing from Boston, in middle of the Sukkot holiday in the early 1940s.

On Simchat Torah, there was a kids gathering in the backyard of Lubavitch World Headquarters with approximately forty local children in attendance.

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who would later become the seventh Chabad-Lubavitch Rebbe, was there. He stood on a bench and spoke to the children in Yiddish while someone translated into English. I was told that if you look at the second-floor window, the then Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak (Rayatz), was watching the gathering. I peered up, and saw the Rayatz sitting by the window, wearing a shtreimel, a large fur hat. He rarely appeared in public (due to health considerations), and it was my first time seeing him. I will never forget that moment.

The Rebbe's custom of speaking to children continued even after he became the Rebbe, following the passing of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak in 1950. The Rebbe, of righteous memory, often spoke to children before or after the afternoon services for about fifteen or twenty minutes, and as the years went by this phenomenon actually became more frequent. The Rebbe would address kids of all ages, from babies with their mothers up until bar and bat mitzvah.

The Rebbe also spoke to kids at large parades outside of Lubavitch World Headquarters. By these parades, not only did the Rebbe speak, but he'd attentively watch as the kids filed by.

What is More Important: Money or Tzitzit?

February 25, 2010 8:43 AM

I was nine years old when I went into my first private audience with the Rebbe, of righteous memory.

The Rebbe asked me whether I was wearing tzitzit, and I answered affirmatively. (They were tucked into my pants.)




Then the Rebbe asked me if I knew how many strings are on the tzitzit. I responded that I did not know. "Why not?" the Rebbe gently asked.

"I had never counted them," I responded.

"Have you ever received money?"

"Yes."

"Do you count your money?"

"Of course I do," I responded, finally understanding what the Rebbe was patiently trying to explain.

"What is more important?" the Rebbe continued. "Money that is temporary, or wearing tzitzit, and thereby fulfilling Divine will?"

"What is more important?" the Rebbe continued. "Money that is temporary, or wearing tzitzit, and thereby fulfilling Divine will?"

The Rebbe then asked me what I had learned that day. The hour was around nine in the evening, but my mind suddenly went blank. However, I did remember what I learned the day before, and I told that to the Rebbe. The Rebbe smiled at me and, somehow, I felt the Rebbe knew that it was not that day's learning I was repeating...

I feel that the Rebbe wanted to teach me that we should not just do mitzvot, but contemplate what we are doing, even to the extent of which a child is capable. The Rebbe spoke to me so nicely that I did not feel berated or put down; rather, I felt that the Rebbe truly cared about what I knew and what I was learning.

At the end of the audience, the Rebbe closed his eyes and gave me many blessings and told me to give nachat to my parents.

When the Rebbe Would Need Something of His Wife

February 23, 2010 3:43 PM
Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson, of righteous memory
Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson, of righteous memory

According to two aides who assisted in the Rebbe's home, Rabbis Shalom Ber Gansburg and Chaim Baruch Halberstam, they never heard the Rebbe calling for his wife, the Rebbetzin, when he needed something. Rather, he would approach her and speak directly, face-to-face.

At a Chassidic gathering in Montreal this year in honor of the Rebbetzin's anniversary of passing, Rabbi Leibel Wolowik, a Jew with a big heart, told me, "Many marital issues, arguing and bickering, stem from a spouse screaming across the house demanding something s/he wants. If spouses would approach each other and ask nicely – and perhaps not ask at all if the other spouse is occupied – this would resolve many issues in the home."

What We Did Today Is Not Enough

February 18, 2010 10:13 AM
Speaking to the Rebbe after receiving the dollar bill for charity. (Photo: Marc Asnin)
Speaking to the Rebbe after receiving the dollar bill for charity. (Photo: Marc Asnin)

In his later years, the Rebbe, of righteous memory, would distribute dollars and blessings for many hours every Sunday. The dollar (or an equivalent amount) was to be given to charity.

A few weeks before the Rebbe's 90th birthday, a Canadian journalist arrived at the Sunday afternoon dollar distribution. That day, the Rebbe had been standing and handing out dollars since noon, and now it was nearly 7 p.m.

The journalist waited at the end of the line, approached the Rebbe and asked, "Tell me, of what significance is 90?"

Without hesitation, the Rebbe responded that 90 is the numerical equivalent of the Hebrew letter tzaddik, which means "righteous." He told the journalist that we must always strive to be more righteous. What was adequate for yesterday is not enough for today, and we must prepare for a better tomorrow.

The Rebbe lived up to this message, always striving toward a better world. It says in Job, "Man is created to toil" (5:77); we must battle the challenges of today, and blaze a path to progress, increased goodness and positive change.

The Rebbe on Moving to a New Home

February 15, 2010 9:55 PM

As anyone who has experienced it knows, moving to a new home could be one of the most difficult things one ever does. Stress often reaches peak levels.

It therefore came as no surprise to me that from the select few letters that the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory, would always respond to, was letters informing him regarding moving to a new home.

(The other letters the Rebbe would always respond to were those informing him of a marriage, birth, upsherinish, bar and bat mitzvahs, and the passing of a family member.)

Here is a free translation of the standard Hebrew letter that the Rebbe would send to those informing him of a move. (I am still on the lookout for a letter the Rebbe sent out in English. If anyone has one, please share it in the comment section below).

By the Grace of G‑d
Brooklyn, NY

Greeting and Blessing!

In response to your notification regarding your move to a new home—

May be it be G‑d's will that you should have the fulfillment of the statement "one who changes location changes fortune"—for good and for blessing, Materially and spiritually.

With blessings,

M. Schneerson


In continuation of my previous blog post, The Decision Maker When Purchasing a Home, I am including here a free translation of a letter that the Rebbe sent to that individual when he actually moved into his new home.

By the Grace of G‑d

7 Menachem Av 5713 [July 19, 1953]
Brooklyn

[…]

Greeting and Blessing!

I was pleased to be informed that you have already moved to your home in […].

May be it be G‑d's will that you should have the fulfillment of the statement "one who changes location changes fortune"—for good and for blessing, Materially and spiritually all together, for you and your entire family.

And as it is G‑d's way to repay "measure for measure," in the merit of your activities you should raise your children to Torah, marriage and good deeds, amid true abundance.

With blessing for success Materially and spiritually,

M. Schneerson

Take Life Line by Line

February 10, 2010 12:39 PM
The Rebbe's edits on a draft of one of his talks from the early 1950s.
The Rebbe's edits on a draft of one of his talks from the early 1950s.

It was my first week working as an aide for the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory. I was alone in the secretariat office when the intercom buzzed. I lifted the phone, and the Rebbe, on the other end, requested that I enter his office.

When I walked in, the Rebbe was sitting at his desk, editing the first draft of a letter that had been typed; it was nearly a full page. The Rebbe asked that I wait until he finishes, I stood there for about ten minutes until the Rebbe handed me the edited draft and asked me to retype it. Though I was accustomed to the Rebbe's handwriting, this particular letter was now like a maze, a labyrinth of words; there was writing between the lines, arrows here and arrows there, all leading to even more edits.

The Rebbe said to me, "Just type word after word, line after line. Start from the beginning and you will see that, at the end, everything will work out okay..."

And that's exactly what happened.

The Rebbe taught me that sometimes things seem confusing, disconnected and puzzling. Start from the beginning and go through it letter by letter, word by word, line by line until, ultimately, there will be resolution and clarity.

A Presidential Audience with the Rebbe

February 8, 2010 7:37 AM

As promised, here is an article by Dan Patir, a high-ranking advisor to Israeli politicians, describing Israeli President Zalman Shazar's fist visit to the Rebbe after being elected to the presidency: The Israeli President Visits the Rebbe.

Yitzchak Yehudah Holtzman listens as Dan Patir describes his visits at Lubavitch World Headquaters. (Photo: Kfar Chabad Magazine)
Yitzchak Yehudah Holtzman listens as Dan Patir describes his visits at Lubavitch World Headquaters. (Photo: Kfar Chabad Magazine)

Read here a previous article I wrote about Shazar's last visit with the Rebbe, in 1973: Former Israeli President Joins Chassidic Gathering.


I have previously written about the relationship between Yitzchak Rabin and the Rebbe and Chabad. Click here to read.

Patir relates that Rabin, an intensely private person, related little about the contents of his audience; though he did tell Patir that "the audience strengthened me in my mission."

Is There No G-d if One Can't See Him?

A response to the man who was bored by the world

February 4, 2010 7:48 AM

In the 1940s, Leibel Posner, a student in the central Chabad-Lubavitch yeshivah, met a student, a brilliant individual, who claimed that people bore him. Leibel conversed with the boy in one of their first meetings for over five hours. Leibel did most of the talking. Much of the conversation revolved around the young man's assertion that he found it difficult to accept the existence of a G‑d who cannot be seen by the human eye.

Leibel mentioned the conversation to Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson (later to become the seventh Chabad Rebbe upon the passing of his father-in-law in 1950). The Rebbe said to Leibel that it was recently discovered by scientists that every object is made up of atoms that cannot be seen to the human eye. So even though you can't see the atoms, the human mind has become "intelligent" to apprehend something that cannot be seen. And any person who does not accept this theory is considered one that is not speaking with logic!

He then explained to him how to explain the belief in a G‑d that we cannot grasp in our mind:

"There is a subway here in New York and an elephant in Africa. You have seen both. So could you imagine the elephant in the subway? You can. However if you lived in Poland and you do not know what an elephant or a subway is, could you imagine an elephant in a subway? If you do not know what it is you cannot imagine it. But you cannot imagine it, does it mean that it does not exist?"

Upon Leibel's request the student came to see the Rebbe. They spoke for three hours. The Rebbe convinced him to put on tefillin every day.

A short while later the Rebbe asked Leibel if the young man is putting on tefillin. But when Leibel spoke with him, he said that he hadn't actually promised to put on tefillin, only that he would consider doing so.

Years later, the Rebbe sent Leibel to California to help the Chabad emissary there, Rabbi Shmuel Dovid Raichik. On that occasion, the Rebbe also asked him if he knows what is happening with that young man. Leibel said that he lost contact with him, but he would make an effort to track him down.

Leibel found out that he was in Los Angeles, and decided he would make contact with him there. After finally reaching him on the phone, they made a time to meet, but the man never showed up to the meeting.

When Leibel returned to New York for a visit, the Rebbe asked him, did you meet him? Leibel answered that unfortunately he did not.

On his return to Los Angeles he tried once again to meet with him, again without success. Leibel was still trying to reach him when he found out that the young man committed suicide.

He Came with a Photo Album

February 2, 2010 10:52 AM
Dan Patir with his album
Dan Patir with his album

In a recent interview with Yitzchak Yehudah Holtzman of the Kfar Chabad Magazine, Dan Patir, a high ranking advisor to Israeli government officials in the 1960s and 70s, spoke about his meetings with the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory.

Among his many positions, he advised President Zalman Shazar, and Prime Ministers Yitzchak Rabin and Menachem Begin.

His career in the Israeli government began in 1964 when he started working in the public relations department of the Israeli embassy in Washington, D.C. It was in this capacity that he accompanied Shazar and Rabin to their respective audiences with the Rebbe.

When Rabin became the Israeli ambassador to Washington in 1968, Patir and Rabin bonded, resulting in Patir becoming Rabin's full time advisor. He later followed Rabin to Israel and continued as his advisor when he became Prime Minister in 1974.

When the Likud government came to power, Menachem Begin, the new Prime Minister, asked Patir to continue on as his advisor. It was then that he accompanied Prime Minister Begin to his audience with the Rebbe.

Patir's memories of these historic encounters will, G‑d willing, be published here soon.

What Holtzman was not expecting when Patir arrived for his interview was an album of pictures.

During his tenure as an advisor, Patir became friendly with one of the Israeli journalist photographers, Eliyahu Attar, of blessed memory, who photographed Shazar's 1966 visit and Begin's 1977 visit to the Rebbe. Attar gave the images to Patir as a gift.

Here are two of the photos, the rest to come, G‑d willing, at a future date.


 President Zalman Shazar presents the Rebbe with never before published manuscripts of Chabad philosophy.
President Zalman Shazar presents the Rebbe with never before published manuscripts of Chabad philosophy.


 Dan Patir and the Rebbe conversing during Prime Minister Menachem Begin’s (sitting center) visit.
Dan Patir and the Rebbe conversing during Prime Minister Menachem Begin’s (sitting center) visit.

Many have struggled to describe Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory, the seventh leader of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement. A task so daunting due to the multifariousness of the Rebbe’s personality and achievements.

Rather than attempting to describe the Rebbe, this forum will share hitherto unknown tidbits of information about his life and teachings — information that was recorded in writing, audio and video.

Join us as we explore the Rebbe’s life and teachings. Manuscripts, letters, firsthand experiences and more.
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