Following maariv the Rebbe made havdalah. We were now at a most rewarding – and interesting – feature of the Shavuos farbrengen: receiving wine directly from the Rebbe.

At this point of the proceedings, for the past number of years, there has been, at best, an undignified scramble, and at worst, absolute mayhem. This year, despite the earlier announcements pleading for seder (order), complete disorder reigned. I even witnessed physical arguments and scuffles here and there. This is no doubt due to the, thank

G‑d, ever increasing number of people coming to spend yom tov with the Rebbe. It is extremely difficult to control so many thousands of people who are all desirous of reaching the Rebbe at the very same time.

A lively tune was started and the Rebbe began pouring wine beginning with those standing nearby. I attempted to make my way to the right-hand stairway per the instructions earlier today, but it was a sheer impossibility. Crowds were pushing in the opposite direction and hordes of bochurim were climbing upon the remaining tables. I looked around and discovered that another line had formed on top of the tables, essentially cutting out the official queue. People were thus resolutely moving forward, towards, and then filing past, the Rebbe. It was just plain ridiculous!

I was clutching a paper bag in my right hand – containing some bread and cake – and in my left hand I held two paper tumblers, which I desired the Rebbe to fill from his wine. In one pocket, I had a small empty bottle, intended to secure the wine after I would receive it. In my other pocket, I had my small siddur which I had used for bentching and maariv.

I was being jostled on all sides and was in danger of being trampled upon. I quickly reached the conclusion that it was safer to be standing on the tables. Easier said than done. In the end I did manage – with considerable difficulty – to heave myself onto the top of a table.

There I now stood completely hemmed in by a mass of people all pushing and jogging when, to my utter dismay, I felt myself being pushed toward the edge of the table. I was under a grave handicap because my hands were full and I could not grab or hold onto anyone. Suddenly there was a great concerted heave and I felt myself slipping off the table. The thought flashed through my mind to jettison the paper bag (or grab someone’s jacket with my teeth), but it was too late.

The next thing I knew, I was lying flat on my back engulfed in complete darkness, with a heavy feeling in my chest and stomach. The heaviness slowly dissipated as the five bochurim – who fell down with, and on top of, me – disentangled themselves and jumped off my body. This coincided with a blinding flash as I found myself staring at the lights on the ceiling.

I was helped up from the floor and in a daze made my way to the “right-hand stairway,” while plucking out handfuls of wooden splinters adhering to my trousers and jacket.

I then encountered Bentzion (Bernard) Rader, who heaved a sigh of relief upon seeing me. He did not know where he was supposed to go. He said, “Since you know the ground well, I will follow you.”

Oy vay, did I know the ground well!

Upon reaching the “official” passageway, I was utterly astounded to find that the stewards had now blocked it off! This was supposed to be the original “one and only” way to the Rebbe. I quite easily got over that hurdle – literally – and then Mr. Rader managed it very well too.

I then made an awful discovery: not only had I lost the paper bag, but what was more important, my empty bottle was missing. It must have dropped out of my pocket during the recent skirmishes. I still held the two paper tumblers in my hand, albeit a little battered.

I needed this bottle; I searched high and low, here, there and everywhere. Some of the bochurim helped me in my search, all to no avail. The bottle had disappeared.

Meanwhile, I was slowly but resolutely moving towards the Rebbe, who seemed quite unperturbed by all this commotion happening. Now and then, the Rebbe would swing his arms to revitalize the singing, which went on non-stop until the last person had received his wine at about 4:15 in the morning.

It was now my turn to be served. I told the Rebbe that I had twenty-one “customers” waiting for this wine. [Roselyn and me, our children and grandchildren.] The Rebbe obliged and poured out twenty-one times into my two cups. I thanked the Rebbe, descended from the platform and made another (unsuccessful) search for my lost bottle.

Roselyn was waiting for me outside. We both had a sip of the wine, returned home, placed the cups in the fridge and retired to bed.

On the following day, Wednesday, Sivan 8 (May 29), I asked Roselyn to purchase another bottle in which to take our wine home to England. “Buy it from a shop that has a mikvah on their premises,” I added. This would save us from having to “toivel” (immerse) it. [Certain new utensils must be ritually immersed in water before their first use. –Ed.]

“By the way,” I asked Roselyn as an afterthought, “where did you toivel the other bottle?” She looked at me in surprise and replied that she had not toiveled it at all. She had assumed that I had done so on one of my routine visits to the mikvah.

It was now apparent that the lost bottle was definitely not immersed and was therefore unfit to use! We would have been very upset to find that we had put wine from the Rebbe into a bottle that was not toiveled. Now, we were very pleased that the first bottle was lost and we considered ourselves very lucky indeed!