My very first encounter with the Rebbe took place in 5712 (1952). It was not a direct face-to-face meeting, but a letter which I received in my capacity as president of our Kahal Chassidim Synagogue in Manchester.

Some of the early students of the Tomchei Temimim yeshiva in the town of Lubavitch had settled in Manchester in the early years of the twentieth century. The Rabbi of our shul – Reb Shmuel Rein – was one of those elder chassidim. He was also my uncle. We wanted to send our rabbi to visit the Rebbe as our emissary. In accordance with the chassidic custom dating back to the first Chabad Rebbe, he wrote to the Rebbe seeking formal permission to take this trip. He was not in very good physical condition; and the journey – by ship – was five days each way (there were no regular air services at that time).

The letter that we received from the Rebbe was written in Yiddish. The following is my translation of this epistle:

7th Elul 5712 (August 28, 1952)

To the Members and Honorary Officers of the Kahal Chassidim Synagogue in Manchester.

I have received your letter just a few days ago, and I am pleased to learn that you appropriately value the work of Rabbi Shmuel Rein for your community. This demonstrates, how you are interested with his work and are internalizing it, and that you desire to maintain a closer liaison and contact with us here, which has found expression in wanting to send him here as your representative.

I hope that, just the same as with every living thing, your good feelings will continue to grow, and indeed permeate, through the members of the synagogue, in their homes and all their activities. This is the principle of our Torah and of our religion, they are not relevant only to a part of the day, while the rest of the time the yiddishkeit is not even noticeable; ours is a living Torah, from a living G‑d, which encompasses the entire life from the first second until - after 120 good years - the last second, not only when a Jew is in shul, at prayer and study, but also at home, in the street, in the office etc., as we recite twice a day - when you sit in your house, and when you walk on the way etc.

Regarding your inquiry whether Rabbi Shmuel Rein should journey here, according to what he has written to me regarding his health. I consider that the strain of the journey and adapting to different living conditions, such as eating and drinking [Rabbi Rein, due to health reasons, was on a strict diet], and general life habits – albeit amidst simcha and happiness – would be too much strain for him. I am sure he has shown you my letter to him [its original is printed in Igros Kodesh of the Rebbe vol. 6, p. 240-242.] in which I have expressed these above-mentioned matters.

I wish to thank you for the good thought to send your representative, especially coming from a congregation which prides itself on the name of “Kahal Chassidim.”

“Good intentions are considered as deeds,” and as the Alter Rebbe points out (Tanya, chapter 16) the sages literally said “good intentions are adjoined to deeds,” that there must be at least some form of action as well, even if far from the thought.

I hope that with you too there be deeds, meaning that the good results which the trip would have afforded will be turned into actions, even though the thought never came into deed.

I conclude with good wishes for a kesiva vachasima tova (written and sealed for good) to all the members of your shul and to their families, everyone according to their needs, materially and spiritually.

This was the first letter I had ever received – indirectly – from the Rebbe.

Until that moment the Rebbe was, to me, some vague personality living thousands of miles away in the USA. Literally, we were worlds apart.

My first recollections of a Rebbe were as a youngster – when the Rebbe was an even vaguer figure who resided thousands of miles away in the village of Lubavitch, in White Russia.