Shacharis today would be at 9:30 a.m. This is the usual time for a weekday shacharis at 770.

I was up quite early but I took my time and did not get to the mikvah until about nine. What a mistake! Everyone else had the same idea. Each day, 500 men and yeshiva students use this mikvah. However, can you imagine what it is like when all 500 decide to use it at the exact same time?

The shul was again, thank G‑d, packed tight with people, all of whom wanted to be present to listen to the Rebbe davening at the omud (officiating at the service).

After davening, Bentzion Kravitz introduced me to a friend – another baal teshuva – who was also studying at the yeshiva in Morristown. However, there was something different about this fellow. He was sixty-two years old. What a nice example to prove that anyone has the opportunity to become a baal teshuva!

A young man asked me if I would address the yeshiva students during my stay this week; I usually do so when I come for Shavuos. I looked at him dubiously and questioned whether there was even a kinus hatorah. “No,” replied the young man, “but we can arrange one just for you!”

Following shacharis – with today being the actual yahrtzeit of the previous Rebbe zt”l – we went by car to the beis olam (cemetery) to visit the ohel in which this great tzadik is interred.

As it is our custom not to wear leather shoes at this holy place, we took rubber-soled canvas shoes with us. We also took bottles of water and towels to wash and wipe our hands as is the custom following a visit to a cemetery.

In the middle of this huge beis olam is the resting place of the previous Rebbe. It is a relatively large stone edifice, a mausoleum of sorts. Inside, in the center, is a three-foot high walled-in area outlining and enclosing the hallowed ground wherein the mortal remains of this saintly tzadik lie. The entire edifice is referred to simply as “the ohel.”

Many thousands of people visit the holy site on this day and it is extremely difficult to get through the solid phalanx of people in order to reach the actual graveside. Everyone recites special prayers normally recited at the resting place of a tzadik and begs the soul of the departed to intervene on High on his or her behalf.

A kohen is not usually allowed to even pass through a cemetery. However, a heter (halachic allowance) was instituted allowing him access to the graveside of a holy tzadik without contravening the law. The kohen will have five or six of his non-kohen friends form a ring – a living barrier – around him. In this manner, he may walk through the pathways of a cemetery in order to reach the graveside of a tzadik.