I am constantly asked why it is so difficult to obtain a yechidus with the Rebbe and why should people not anticipate receiving an immediate written response to their letters, if any at all.

Let us consider some of the facts.

The Rebbe heads a huge and successful international organization with many branches that, literally, span the globe.

The Rebbe is personally reported to regarding all the intricate day-to-day details of worldwide Lubavitch activities. He is also constantly involved with all major facets of his representatives’ communal, as well as personal and familial lives. Just imagine the constant stream of reports and queries that are coming in from the scores of branches throughout the USA, Canada, South America, Israel, five branches around Britain, Europe, Australia, and both North and South Africa.

The Rebbe’s talks of Torah are published not less than once a week, but always only after the Rebbe personally edits the publications.

During the course of an average year, the Rebbe presides over approximately forty farbrengens. At each one, the Rebbe speaks for a few hours, often for as many as five hours or longer. These numerous hours of Torah most certainly require intensive and concentrated preparation.

The Rebbe just celebrated his seventy-third birthday, until 120; yet, he continues to spend twelve hours a day in his study. This, besides the countless hours a month spent at the ohel of the previous Rebbe.

There are by now tens of thousands of “correspondents” in almost every major city throughout many countries (including Russia and its satellites) on most continents. Many of these correspondents do not consider themselves followers of Lubavitch; nevertheless, they also know to turn to the Rebbe for advice and help; and they, of course, receive the desired help.

The Rebbe himself insists on personally opening every single letter addressed to him; they number in the hundreds most days. The post office will make two or even three mail deliveries on some days – and many additional letters arrive by hand delivery.

Each week, hundreds of replies are sent out in Hebrew, Yiddish, English, Russian, French or Spanish, but it is humanly impossible to reply to as many as 1,800 letters received a week (about 90,000 letters a year). One thing everyone can be certain of is that every single letter is opened and read by the Rebbe himself.

In these days of easy communications, many people will telephone for blessings or replies to their letters. This method never fails. The four or five telephones are thus constantly and endlessly receiving urgent messages, also for the Rebbe’s personal attention. The Rebbe does not usually talk to people on the phone, but he still has to constantly be available for his response to every caller’s queries and problems which are relayed to him via his secretariat.

The Rebbe has never taken a break. Not even a small (and well-deserved) vacation. For seven days a week, the Rebbe is tethered to 770. Since taking over the helm of Lubavitch in 1950 – over twenty-five years ago – the Rebbe has never traveled beyond the boundaries of New York, nor has he even taken off a few hours as a little mini-vacation. It is obvious that the Rebbe works extremely hard and does not have the time to stop or just “take it easy.”

Thank G‑d the “business” is increasing apace and new members are joining in astronomical proportions.

Everyone wants to speak to the Rebbe privately in yechidus. There is a tremendous pressure of people clamoring for admittance. It would be humanly impossible to see everyone privately.

Furthermore, as is obvious from the foregoing, the Rebbe’s rigorous daily schedule does not permit yechidus to commence before 8:00 in the evening, thus yechidus only ends after 5:00 a.m. (I recall a night of yechidus finishing at 8:00 in the morning!)

Many people travel to New York for a holiday, or on business. En passant, since they are already in the general area, they would love to do the Rebbe a “favor” and pop in for a private audience.

The Rebbe does not need these favors!

The chief Rabbi of England (and of the British Commonwealth), Dr. Rabbi Immanuel Jacobovits, told me recently how he had the occasion to visit New York for a communal matter and while there, would love to have visited with the Rebbe. He tried phoning five times to arrange an appointment and was unsuccessful in even reaching Rabbi Chodakov.

Until last year, everyone was entitled to see the Rebbe for yechidus on his or her birthday. Not anymore. At this past Shabbos Bereishis farbrengen, (October 12, 1974) the Rebbe put a stop to this automatic yechidus. Now, for those living in New York, only couples who are engaged to be married and expectant parents during the ninth month of the pregnancy are allowed a yechidus.

Zalmon Unsdorfer, my nephew, has been learning at 770 for over six months now. He has not been in yechidus yet. He reckons he will have to become engaged in order to see the Rebbe privately. He added, “It is easier to get engaged than to get a yechidus.”

Even visitors from abroad are now only allotted one yechidus every twelve months – irrespective of how far they have traveled or the number of journeys they make. The Rebbe has declared that everyone receives his or her personal brocha and answer at the general farbrengen.

On a personal level, gone forever are those days when Roselyn and I could have expected to have two yechidus appointments, sometimes for over two hours each, during a two- or three-week visit to Brooklyn.

Those who are going to be accepted for a yechidus nowadays must submit in writing – in advance – the particulars for which they require answers. This procedure proves to save more of the Rebbe’s precious time.

One may think they know the Rebbe; that is until they walk into the Rebbe’s study for a yechidus. In yechidus, the Rebbe is surprisingly different from the person you normally see at the farbrengen or during davening; so relaxed and yet so alert. It is almost impossible to believe or discern that he has been at work non-stop for about fifteen hours. Even more amazing is how, during yechidus, the Rebbe gives the impression that he has all the time in the world; he is only interested in you and in your issues and problems.

The Rebbe absolutely loves children. A friend of mine went to see the Rebbe with his two children. The Rebbe asked him, “Are your children always so quiet and serious, or is this because of yechidus?”

My friend replied, “They are generally like this.”

To which the Rebbe rejoined, “My inyan [focus] is to bring simcha to Jews.”

My friend told the Rebbe that his children’s joy is an inner joy.

“Joy may show itself externally, too,” answered the Rebbe.

When Rabbi Leibel Groner has a full quota for a particular night’s yechidus, he has to decide the order of precedence. There is only one fair and correct way to do this: he draws lots. This also simplifies the whole procedure. Each person, family, or group receives a number that is drawn from the lottery. Number 1 will enter at 8:00 p.m. and #65 will follow #64. If someone is not at hand when the preceding one comes out, the next number will immediately enter first.

There is one exception: family groups with young children are allotted early numbers. On the other hand, those who are staying in Brooklyn for an additional length of time are automatically left to the last.

Though the hallway just outside the Rebbe’s room – the waiting room – is crowded with those waiting for yechidus, most will spend that time preparing by solemnly saying Tehillim (Psalms) in hushed undertones. Concerned and/or curious relatives and friends are also on hand waiting to find out what the Rebbe said. Scores of yeshiva students just hover about interested in anybody and anything connected with the Rebbe, but which is not usually their business. I once saw the Rebbe reprimanding some students for wasting their time and he told them to go and learn instead.

Though all present may have allotted numbers, no one knows precisely when they will be entering, because no one can know how long any particular person will actually be inside yechidus – for two minutes, twenty, an hour, or more.