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Discovering the Rebbe

What the Rebbe Did Before Prayers

August 10, 2011 4:15 PM
The Rebbe during the morning prayers. (Photo: Marc Asnin/Lubavitch Archives)
The Rebbe during the morning prayers. (Photo: Marc Asnin/Lubavitch Archives)

As a young teenager, I remember noticing that the first thing the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory, did daily, upon arriving at Lubavitch World Headquarters, was pore over the letters that he received from people worldwide. The letters arrived from scholars and laypeople; from children, teachers, scientists, Jewish activists and heads of state. Most letters expressed requests for advice and blessing in regards to the challenges in the letter-writers’ lives.

Before the Rebbe began the morning prayer service, he would ask if anyone had brought additional letters. Sometimes this would happen two or three times before he began his prayers.

From time to time a group of students would join with the renowned Chabad scholar, Rabbi Yoel Kahan, in a chassidic gathering. These gatherings, known as farbrengens, are a time to reflect on our actions and take account of which areas of behavior we need to improve.

“I saw the Rebbe praying intently, with tears falling down his cheeks, as his hands rested on top of a bag of the letters with people’s requests.” Rabbi Kahan explained that one needs to care about another’s heartache and another’s challenges.

Many times in the early 1950s, we peeked through the side window of the Rebbe’s office. There were always many Jewish scholarly volumes on the desk, and the Rebbe was deeply engrossed in studying them.

Rabbi Kahan told us that he also once looked through the window. “I saw the Rebbe praying intently, with tears falling down his cheeks, as his hands rested on top of a bag of the letters with people’s requests.”

One familiar with Chabad philosophy understands that the time before and during prayer is considered one of the most important parts of the day for self-reflection and refinement. It is an appropriate time to contemplate the greatness of G‑d, and study texts that dwarf us in front of the infinite Creator of our universe.

The Rebbe did all of this. Nevertheless, a central part of his service was to pray for others’ needs and to shed tears for the letters that others wrote expressing their difficulties and personal challenges.

From the Rebbe I learnt that while we do need to work on refining our personal character, we must not forget others and their needs.

Advice for Life: Money

Algemeiner Journal/Lubavitch Archives
Algemeiner Journal/Lubavitch Archives

Giving money to charity
elevates it from its monetary value
to spiritual heights.
G‑d gives us the physical object,
and it is our mandate
to make it a vehicle for spirituality
by using it for acts of goodness.


Adapted from a letter of the Rebbe, of righteous memory.1


Footnotes
1.

Igrot Kodesh Vol. 29, p. 95.

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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