The Rebbe Declines Visit

During this winter, the ensuing event took place, which I think is worth putting on record:

Just by chance, by accident, it came to the notice of some of my colleagues that one of our main financial supporters, a millionaire, was within a few days going with his wife on a holiday to Bermuda.

They were traveling by way of New York where they would be staying overnight. We right away made ourselves busy (trying to, and actually) persuading our friends to agree to visit the Rebbe. I cabled and phoned Rabbi Chodakov with the news.

A good few days were spent on international telephone calls to Brooklyn to arrange this matter. Then, on Adar 5, 5732 (February 20, 1972), Rabbi Chodakov read to me over the telephone a four-page written Hebrew memo from the Rebbe.

By a very fortunate stroke of luck, my son-in-law Shmuel was at our home then. So he transcribed the Rebbe’s reply, which was dictated by Rabbi Chodakov, and then translated it for me.

The Rebbe wrote - as translated into English: [Emphases are the Rebbe’s.]

With great amazement, I read your letter: I have said many many times, and decisively, that my friends – should not endeavor that so-and-so visit me, and certainly that they should not pressure them to take of their time and to do a favor to those who pressure them (and also a favor to me) and visit me.

This is no favor for those who press nor for the activities (which they hope that through visiting me – the one who visits will donate a greater donation).

And since it is obvious that I count you amongst my friends – certainly the above directive applies also to you.

The reason for the directive is obvious: there is benefit in visiting me when the one who visits wants to visit me of his own accord, but when he consents to it because many, many people (whom he considers to be my emissaries) - every single one -pressures him about this, and you tell him that you cable about this to me, and telephone about this to me, and speak about it with my head secretary, and many, many times – then, as a courteous man he has no choice and is forced to fulfill my request through many many emissaries, and he upsets his itinerary in order to visit me so that they won’t disturb him any more, and won’t disturb his father and his wife (who, as you write in your letter – will be forced to travel from the pleasant climate of Bermuda to the cold and frost of New York) to fulfill the requests and urging of my emissaries and my friends in Manchester.

[Even if there weren’t this explicit directive – as a Communal worker you will surely agree that this action is not desirable at all and it does not add honor to Lubavitch in Manchester nor to Lubavitch in New York. And my hope and request is, that as a communal worker you will explain all this to all those who, as you wrote, “started” all this].

As to your question, what to answer him [H__ wha]: The truth, and in my name (that I conveyed this to you (to Jaffe wha) that he should transmit it to ___ (prefacing – that those who spoke with him about visiting me – did this on their own and they did not know the calendar of visits, to me here this winter, and when they informed me of it – I asked my head secretary to phone you that you should convey to ___): That I am grieved that despite the fact that he came to New York for a small number of hours, they suggested that he upset his schedule and cause discomfort (and to his wife) to visit me in the middle of the night etc. etc. – And although the intention of those who suggested it was good (out of their great attachment to me and their Chassidus) I rebuked at them that they utilize his eidelkeit [refinement] and his good relationship with Lubavitch – to suggest the above to him, and to cause him bother etc. – and ask him in my name – that he should not alter at all his original schedule, and should not travel to Brooklyn in the middle of the night for a short conversation with me (and particularly in the present weather conditions).

And when he will have occasion to be in New York in a more relaxed time, and in good weather conditions, and one will know of it in good time (in order to reserve more time) and he will want to visit me – surely, it will be a pleasure for me to know him personally, and to convey to him (and through him – to his father wha) thanks for their help to Lubavitch affairs in England personally – help with money and also through their encouragement etc.

The above is final. And surely you will not pressure me further on this.

And also in the future – you should not press people to visit me (not the abovementioned and not others and not the abovementioned’s father).

In short the Rebbe was saying:

No one should be pressured to go and see the Rebbe. Especially when this entailed changing arrangements and to come along in the wee hours of the morning to see the Rebbe for, maybe, just a few minutes.

If friends of ours asked especially for the honor of seeing the Rebbe then the Rebbe could and would see them at a convenient time.

It is no Mitzvah to push people to see the Rebbe.

We tried to arrange yechidus for our friends on the Sunday on their way back from Bermuda. The Rebbe said “no.” As it was again unfair to ask people who had spent two weeks in the tropics to stay over in the New York snow and ice. In the end, they returned home three days earlier than expected and so could NOT have kept this Sunday appointment, even if it had been made for them. Once again the Rebbe was proved right.

It was indeed a very strong letter. I do have the consolation of being referred to as a “friend.” A colleague of mine was actually envious.

“I would have welcomed a letter like that,” he said.