Each of the countless people who come into contact with the Rebbe have interesting stories and anecdotes to share that illustrate the wonderful attributes, humility and greatness of the Rebbe.

What I write, is (obviously) only a fraction of what could be said about the Rebbe. I only spend a few days during any given year with the Rebbe, yet, this year alone [1977] I have managed to fill fifty printed pages of my diary! If every individual were to write down their own impressions of and interactions with the Rebbe, huge volumes could be filled – each year!

Zalmon (top picture) and Roselyn Jaffe, receiving lekach (honey cake) from the Rebbe, Sunday, Hoshana Rabbo 5749 (October 2, 1988).
Zalmon (top picture) and Roselyn Jaffe, receiving lekach (honey cake) from the Rebbe, Sunday, Hoshana Rabbo 5749 (October 2, 1988).

I would like to point out that I generally only write about my own personal experiences with and recollections of the Rebbe. Occasionally, I might recount a story for which a friend has personally vouched. One such person is Dayan Michoel Fisher, Chief of the Beis Din (rabbinical court) of the London Federation of Synagogues. Last year he visited 770 and was most impressed with everything.

The following is an (abridged) article which the Dayan wrote in his quarterly magazine (dated September 1977) distributed to all members of the Federation, titled “My Visit to the Lubavitcher Rebbe”:

I visited Warsaw before the Second World War. There were three and a half million Jews living in Poland then. I wanted to see the gedolei hador (leaders of the generation). I met the Gerer Rebbe, the Bobover Rebbe, the Belzer Rebbe and the Alexander Rebbe. None was compellingly attractive to me.

I say this as a Litvak [Lithuanian; non-chassidic] but words fail to express what I have seen at 770 Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn, the nerve center of Lubavitch – on a global scale – in constant communication with all the five continents.

Although Lubavitch has emissaries everywhere, there are still in the Anglo-Jewish community those who do not realize the achievements and the good the Lubavitch movement has brought… to World Jewry.

I regard the Rebbe as the greatest ohev Yisroel (lover of the Jewish people) I have ever met. With his great love, he sees in every Jew, even those who may be immersed in the penultimate degree of uncleanliness, an uncut diamond. I have seen six-, seven-foot tall cowboys from Dallas, Texas, with their big cowboy hats, standing in the hall, inspired and electrified just by looking at the Rebbe. All types of professional people, some with great learning and secular knowledge, baalei teshuva (returnees to observance), scientists, doctors, lawyers and dentists, divorcing and separating themselves from the past, to start an entirely new life because of the influence of Lubavitch.

Thus, the idea of ahavas Yisroel, practiced to a great extent by the Rebbe and his Lubavitcher movement, has borne fruit. The determination not to abandon even one single Jew – however far from Judaism he has strayed – has helped thousands of people return to Judaism. Such love I have never seen. One of the finest and noblest of the characteristics of the Lubavitcher Rebbe is this ahavas Yisroel, without limitations, which you will not find in any other movement.

I would like people to know that I have also seen the Rebbe in another context. I am not an am ha’aretz (ignoramus), and I can testify that the Lubavitcher Rebbe is one of the greatest geonim (scholars) of our time in nigleh (the revealed Torah). As far as nistar (the hidden Torah) is concerned, I did not understand a word of what the Rebbe said. I need a dictionary for the Lubavitch language.

But what I did understand was halacha (Jewish law). I heard the Rebbe give a hadran (concluding thesis) on mesechta (tractate) Sota that altogether lasted more than eight hours and I noted how he tied up the loose ends at the finish. The Rebbe spoke for eight hours without notes, without a gemora, without a chumash, and not only did he quote everything perfectly, but if there were two readings in the gemora, he precisely quoted both of them!

In the last thirty years, since the destruction of Eastern European Jewry, I have rarely met a man who can learn so well and who is bokki bechol haTorah kulah (proficient in all facets of the Torah) in Bavli, Yerushalmi, Shulchan Aruch, Tosefta, Mechilta, rishonim and achronim, and of course, chassidus.

I was amazed at the Rebbe’s vast knowledge, particularly in the way he built up a subject, from a single word in a seemingly unnecessary gloss of Rashi at the end of mesechta Sota on a remark by Rav Yosef.

The Rebbe went through the whole shass (Talmud) wherever Rav Yosef is mentioned and found the connecting links between all the sayings of Rav Yosef…and everything fell into place, like a jigsaw, in such a masterly way that I have never experienced in my life.

We need in this generation such a man with his energy, vision, enthusiasm, sincerity, dedication and commitment to the ideals which animate him.

Some of the Rebbe’s Mitzvah Campaigns have aroused criticism, but their true value is not fully realized.

The idea, for example, of Nerot Shel Shabbat (lighting Shabbos candles) is a wonderful idea. I myself did not initially realize what a good idea it was. Though I am not a chossid, I advised my daughter that my young granddaughter should light a candle before every Shabbos. She bought her daughter her own special candlestick and it is a wonderful thing. It is chinuch (education), impressive and important, and it is substantiated in halacha.

What a wonderful idea to encourage and insist that people have a [Judaic] library. Let the children see (not only television, or the nonsense and filth in magazines, but rather) holy books and let our children be inquisitive, ask what it is all about. Gradually this is the way Judaism grows and develops; this is the way it ferments.

The Rebbe is very concerned about Eretz Yisroel (Israel) and the important issues that face it…. I could hear the pain in his heart when the Rebbe spoke of the matzav (situation) in Israel.

The Rebbe personally told me how many chadorim (Jewish schools) there are in England, how many teachers and of what type. He knows what is going on in Wales and in Scotland, in the Federation of Synagogues and in Jews’ College. It is amazing how a man so steeped in Torah day and night should find the time and interest to bother himself with Swansea and Cardiff [two cities in Wales with very small Jewish populations].

In conclusion, there is a saying: “Chassidim think they have a Rebbe, and misnagdim think they don’t need a Rebbe.” I won’t make a comment on the first part, but I will comment on the last: I can assure you we do need a Rebbe.

It is my fervent hope that very soon we will once again bask in the Rebbe’s radiant smile, fatherly love and scholarly wisdom, with the revelation of Moshiach speedily in our days. In conclusion, the Rebbe ended many of his sichas with the declaration that “Moshiach should come very soon; may it be now, mamosh, mamosh, mamosh!”

Zalmon Jaffe
Manchester, England