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Discovering the Rebbe

Do Married Spouses Have Private Lives Too?

August 17, 2009 6:00 AM

So, you got married, does your spouse need to know everything you do? Could there possibly be certain private matters that you need not share with your soul mate?

In a previous post, I wrote about the "aggrieved woman." The woman read both Yiddish and Hebrew, and the Rebbe wrote many times to her in both these languages. Which led me to wonder, why did the Rebbe write to her numerous times in English, when the Rebbe was certainly more comfortable with Yiddish?

As I wrote in my post on this subject, this couple was very close to the Rebbe, and both spouses received many letters from the Rebbe.

It seems apparent to me that the Rebbe was concerned that sometimes one of the spouses would inadvertently open a letter he addressed to the other. Most of the time, it wouldn't make a difference; at times, however, the contents were intended for the addressee only.

Perhaps those letters written in English were the ones that the Rebbe felt were for the eyes of the wife only; not for the husband, who was an immigrant and did not read English.

In JEM's newest film – Sensitivity: The Rebbe's compassionate attention to "the little things" – there is an anecdote related by Rabbi Shimon Lazaroff, director of Chabad-Lubavitch in Texas, that relays a similar message.

Here is the transcript provided by JEM:

One time, while in a private audience after I got married, I asked the Rebbe a few questions.

The Rebbe answered all of them, aside for one. I realized this after I came out of the Rebbe's room, when I was transcribing the Rebbe's answers—there was this one question that the Rebbe didn't answer. I wondered: Did I not hear? Did I forget what he said?

Sure enough, in the evening the Rebbe's secretary, Rabbi Hodakov, calls me, "In your audience with the Rebbe, you asked a question…" And he relayed to me the Rebbe's answer to the question.

It was a private matter, and my wife was with me in the audience. The Rebbe didn't want to answer in front of my wife.

In other words, the way I saw it, the Rebbe was so sensitive and careful about the most little thing. That answer was not appropriate to be said in front of my wife…"

So, my take is that being married doesn't completely preclude some privacy.

What do you think?

In Whom Do We Put Our Trust

August 12, 2009 5:15 PM

There was a family that experienced a very difficult life. They suffered the death of some of their children, many miscarriages and struggled with raising an unhealthy child. All along, the Rebbe gave the couple advice, guidance and loving encouragement.

Thank G‑d today this couple has many grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and a truly loving family.

My thanks to the family for sharing with me one of the letters that the Rebbe sent to the wife, one that I thought has a fascinating message:


16 Iyar 5711 [May 22, 1951]
Brooklyn, N.Y.

Blessing and Greeting:

I am in receipt of your letter of May 16th. As per your request, I hasten to reply to you, although a great deal of earlier correspondence has not been acknowledged yet.

First of all, I want to correct a wrong attitude on your part as expressed in your letter, to the effect that you put your faith in me and my promise. A Jewish person should put his or her faith only in G‑d, the Creator and Master of the world, who guides all its destinies, who Is the Healer of the sick and the Source of Good.

Because G‑d is good, He wants everybody, and Jews especially, to be happy. It happens, however, that we, with our fleshy eyes, cannot see and understand His ways. But we must be firm in our faith that only good can come from the good G‑d, and that the good will become apparent eventually.

In truth, I should have used stronger words of censure; with regard to your attitude of placing your faith completely in a human being. However, realizing the aching heart of a mother whose child is ailing, and no person can be fully responsible in distress, I wish to repeat again, what I have told your husband […] and requested to convey to you: Be strong in your faith in G‑d, who knows no obstacles or limitations, that He will surely send His help and that you will have lots of Nachos from your daughter and lead her to the Сhuрраh בשעה טובה ומוצלחת [the wedding canopy in a good and auspicious hour].

As I have told your husband, such firm faith in G‑d is the best means of hastening your daughter's cure. Be confident and cheerful, and help cheer others through participation in the preparations for a Chassidishe farbrengen [Chassidic gathering] at the proper times, and similar inspiring occasions.

With blessing,

M. Schneerson

Expecting Instant Results?

August 5, 2009 6:00 AM

Here is a fascinating excerpt from a letter the Rebbe sent to Basya Garelik, co-director of Chabad-Lubavitch in Milan, Italy. I believe that this letter epitomizes the Rebbe's approach to Jewish outreach, and the very human tendency to expect immediate results.

A group picture of the Chabad camp in Milan, Italy, 1961. Basya Garelik is the fourth from the left on the second row from the bottom.
A group picture of the Chabad camp in Milan, Italy, 1961. Basya Garelik is the fourth from the left on the second row from the bottom.

In a broader sense, the letter teaches a fascinating life lesson, how we, as individuals, should expect our efforts – in all areas of life – to bear fruit.

By the Grace of G‑d
18th of Аdar 2, 5725 [March 22, 1965]
Brooklyn, N. Y.

Mгs. Basya Garelik
Milano, Italy

Blessing and Greeting:

This is to acknowledge receipt of your letter of the 21st of Adar 1, as also your previous correspondence.

May G‑d grant that all the matters about which you write, including your activities in progress, as well as those to be undertaken in the future, should all be crowned with Hatzlocho [success], and in a greater measure than expected or anticipated at first glance.

In the literature of Chassidus [hassidisim], such activities are classified and explained under two categories: "seeding" and "planting." The difference is this: In the case of seeding, as, for example, sowing wheat, the fruits take less time to appear than in the case of planting a tree. The reason is that in the case of the former the results, though many times the original effort, are considerably smaller than in the case of planting. Similarly in the efforts and activities of a human being, there are such that come under one category and/or the other. If, therefore, it sometimes takes longer for the efforts to come to fruition, this is no reason for discouragement; on the contrary, the reason may well be that it is a case of "planting," where the ultimate results will be infinitely greater.

In the light of the above, and also in answer to your previous letter, it is surprising to me that you should have any doubt about your ability, or the success of your efforts, etc. [...]

With blessing

M. Schneerson

Rebbe to Jacques Lipchitz: Sculptors and Chabad Emissaries Share Similarities

August 4, 2009 9:30 PM

Featured this week on is an article about the famous sculptor Jacques Lipchitz. The article is the fruit of many years of research and interviews I conducted with tens of Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries as well as members of Lipchitz's family.

My initial interest in Lipchitz was sparked by a rumor I heard that his property in Italy was donated by his family to Lubavitch of Milan.

Campers of Camp Gan Israel, at the estate of Jacques Lipchitz In Lucca, Italy. The sculptor’s wife Yulla donated it to Chabad-Lubavitch of Milan, Italy, following the death of the sculptor.
Campers of Camp Gan Israel, at the estate of Jacques Lipchitz In Lucca, Italy. The sculptor’s wife Yulla donated it to Chabad-Lubavitch of Milan, Italy, following the death of the sculptor.

The relationship between Jacques and Yulla Lipchitz and Chabad of Milan was the product of a letter the Rebbe sent to the sculptor prior to one of his trips to Italy.

In the article, I included an excerpt of the letter; here is the letter in its entirety, with a copy of the original letter provided by Jacques' step-son Hanno Mott.

By the Grace of G‑d
Erev Shovuoth [Eve of the Holiday of Shavuot], 5722 [1962]
Brooklyn, N.Y.

Mr. Chayim Yaakov Lipschitz
168 Warburton Avenue
Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y.

Greeting and Blessing:

I take the opportunity of this auspicious time, on the eve of the Festival of Mattan Torah [the Giving of the Torah], to acknowledge receipt of your letter of May 31st.

And in connection with this central festival, the Season of Our Receiving the Torah, the eternal Torah which is also the Torah of life, I send you the traditional Shovuoth blessing of my father-in-law of saintly memory – to receive the Torah with joy and inwardness, with a goodly measure of inspiration to last through the year.

With prayerful wishes and kindest regards,

With blessing for a Happy Yom Tov [holiday],

M. Schneerson

In view of your mentioning that you plan a trip to Europe and to work in Italy, I trust you may have an opportunity to visit Milan and get acquainted with a young couple, Rabbi and Mrs. Garelik (Via Giulio Uberti 41). Rabbi Garelik was born, and for the first decade of his life brought up, under the Bolshevik regime. His wife is an American born girl, who gave up all the amenities of American life to join her husband in a mission to spread Yiddishkeit [Judaism] in Italy, especially among the young generation. Despite initial difficulties and the language problem, they have succeeded in their work thanks to their dedication and inspiration which have won them recognition and admiration. It goes to emphasize the common bonds which unite Jewish people everywhere by means of the Torah and Mitzvoth which are eternal and know of no boundaries. In a sense, the art of sculpture is analogous, in that by means of the creative idea it animates the inanimate raw material, giving it form and life that evoke responses in the viewer.

I trust Mrs. Lipschitz will find interest in the enclosed copy of my message to the recent convention of the Chabad Women.

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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