It is now eleven years since I have been personally visiting the Rebbe, mostly with Roselyn, my wife.

I well recall our very first private appointment with the Rebbe – our first “yechidus.” We asked Rabbi Chodakov, the Rebbe’s personal secretary, at what time we were due to see the Rebbe. He replied “chatzos - at midnight!” To an Englishman, eight or even nine o’clock at night was very late for a conference, but midnight? It seemed absolutely crazy.

Today, when I am offered an appointment at 2:00 in the morning, I ask “Why am I so lucky to have such an early yechidus?”

“Quick” Hello

For Shavuos this year we arrived at 770 from England at about 7:00 p.m. Rabbi Chodakov informed me that the Rebbe would be addressing the annual N’shei Chabad conference in about half an hour’s time in the large hall; after which it was proposed that the women and girls, from out of town only, would form a line past the Rebbe who was sitting alone at the table flanked by Rabbi Chodakov and Rabbi Groner. They would be allowed just a couple of moments each to speak to the Rebbe.

Rabbi Chodakov suggested that after the file-past of women and girls had finished, we could then “tag along” and say “Sholom aleichem” to the Rebbe.

We rushed like crazy to get to the hall before 8:00 p.m. There were about 500 women and girls present and all anxious to speak to the Rebbe. Although only the out-of-town ladies were supposed to file past, all the 500 insisted upon joining the queue. Instead of waiting an hour, we waited seven hours, till three in the morning. However, it was well worth it as we enjoyed an unforgettable experience. We were the last in the line. There were now three girls ahead of us. Each would hand the Rebbe a letter, which took the Rebbe a few moments to read. Upon finishing each letter, without any hesitation, the Rebbe would reply. “You must continue to do this or that.” “Stay at college,” “Rabbi Chodakov will loan you 250 dollars to finish the course; pay back when you are able.” “Go to camp this year and take this group and that course.” Each girl was tremendously pleased and uplifted when she moved away. The girl immediately before us burst into tears - of joy, she said - on going to see the Rebbe for the first time.

Then it was our turn. The Rebbe smiled and asked, “Why did you not come before Shabbos Mevorchim and catch another farbrengen?” (Later, I told Berel Futerfas that the Rebbe made a joke about our coming for Shabbos Mevorchim. He said that the Rebbe does not make jokes, so he is now preparing for next year’s flight to arrive in time for that Shabbos.)

The Rebbe asked me whether we farbreng in Manchester. “Yes,” I said, “every Shabbos Mevorchim.”

“Oh, you will have to change your name to Kfar Chabad.”

We were staying at the apartment above the Lubavitcher kollel, which also adjoins the back of 770 in Union Street, and which actually belongs to the Rebbe.

“Where are you staying?” asked the Rebbe.

“Union Street,”

“Ah, good, Unity - Sholom”.

Oh, I am a real chossid now, and I am well and truly at home at 770, where people trample on my feet with relish, and push me with their hard elbows. Especially when it gets really crowded, and the place is jam packed with people, all joining the crush of humanity. Mind you, I am becoming quite an expert myself at this. On the other hand, it is an amazing and unbelievable sight to see the hall jammed tight with people and not an inch to spare. Then, when the lookout gives the signal that the Rebbe is on his way, a sudden hush falls on the assembly and, as if by magic, a large clearing is formed, through which the Rebbe passes on his way either to the platform during a farbrengen or to his own special place during a shul service.

Incidentally, the Rebbe never keeps the congregation waiting at the shema or amidah.

After services on Shabbos and Yom Tov, the Rebbe wishes everyone “Good Shabbos” or “Good Yom Tov” very quietly. A pathway is again miraculously cleared for him. I normally start a niggun so that the Rebbe is “played out” with a happy tune.

To my eternal surprise and astonishment, but also gratification, the Rebbe has continued to bestow upon me much honor. Many years ago, I had asked the Rebbe why he treated me with such honor, when, in fact, I had done nothing much to merit such favors. The Rebbe replied that it was not for the work that I had done, but for what I was going to do.

Last year, I asked the Rebbe again why I was so favored and recalled what he had said to me on the previous occasion - that it was for the work I was going to do and not for what I had done.

The Rebbe smiled and said, “The same applies today!”