[Ed note: Although the following was not written as an introduction to any specific publication, it is a composite of the author’s writings, culled from various volumes of his “My Encounter with the Rebbe Shlita”. It was compiled as an introduction especially for this publication.]

On Sunday, the 19th of Teves, 5754 (January 2, 1994), a conference of Lubavitcher shluchim from the United Kingdom was held in Manchester.

I was asked to address the assembly. I pointed out that yesterday, Shabbos, we read the sedra Shemos, the beginning of the Exodus, and we learnt that Jacob, our forefather, went down to Egypt with seventy souls.

I continued:

Thank G‑d, I am also the progenitor of seventy souls kein ayin horah and kein yirbu. Roselyn is, of course, the progenitress, the ancestress.

By a coincidence, it is now exactly thirty-five years since our first encounter with the Rebbe at 770.

If our own family, which represents only a minute portion of Lubavitch, has already multiplied so rapidly, then one can readily understand how much the whole Lubavitcher organization has increased during this period. And not only in a natural way - but also by the addition of vast numbers of new adherents and baalei teshuva who have become attracted and then attached to Chabad through the activities, endeavors and encouragement of the Rebbe.

We may therefore now readily comprehend why the Rebbe is the leader of so many hundreds of thousands of chassidim worldwide.

Thirty-five years ago our dear friend, Rabbi Bentzion Shemtov, of blessed memory, had just opened the first Chabad House in his home in Stamford Hill, London. Now, in 1994, we hold a conference of forty shluchim from all over the United Kingdom!

To my eternal surprise and astonishment and, of course, gratification, the Rebbe continually bestowed upon me much honor. I once asked the Rebbe why he treated me so remarkably well when, in fact, I had done nothing to merit such favors. The Rebbe replied that it was not for the work that I had done but for what I was going to do.

Years later, in 1967, I asked the Rebbe again why I was so favored and recalled what he had said to me on the previous occasion. The Rebbe smiled and said, “The same applies today!”

It is always a good time to reflect and to reminisce about forty years of encounters with the Rebbe and to be reminded of some of the more than 230 unique letters which I received during that time. (Besides the Rebbe’s messages, every letter includes words of Torah and blessings.) But that doesn’t explain what I have been asked repeatedly; why I became an author.

It all started in 1961. I organized the first charter flight from the UK to visit the Rebbe. (That was my third visit to the Rebbe.)

A month or so after we returned, I received the following letter from the Rebbe’s personal secretary, Rabbi M. A. Chodakov, dated the 8th day of Elul 5721 (August 20, 1961):

…I would like to take this opportunity to suggest that it would certainly be worthwhile if one of the members of the group that came aboard the chartered flight from England would write a diary containing incidents and information of their visit here. A diary of this kind was kept by one of the visitors who came aboard the chartered flight from Eretz Yisroel last year and it was really of great interest.

[In his capacity as secretary, Rabbi Chodakov had the distinguished reputation of not taking any action without explicit directives from the Rebbe; therefore, it would have been safe for me to presume that his letter was actually a suggestion of the Rebbe.]

I had kept a short dairy of this monumental trip, as I had also kept for my two earlier trips. I therefore decided to personally accept this challenge. I wrote a 12-typed-pages account describing this memorable visit to the Rebbe. I sent a copy to the Rebbe who, in due course, acknowledged this by writing to me as follows:

…I take this opportunity to thank you for sending me the diary, which has revealed to me a new trait in your character, namely – a sense of humor.

I visited the Rebbe in Brooklyn for ten years before I decided, in 1969, to write what became my yearly, “My Encounter with the Rebbe shlita.” By that year, we were traveling to New York about twice yearly. So many interesting and varied occurrences and happenings took place at each of our visits that I decided, for the sake of posterity, to write a personal diary of our visits.

Now, our grandchildren and great-grandchildren will, after “120 years,” be able to read how their Bobby and Zaidy spent their time with the Rebbe in Brooklyn, and to learn of the great humility, humor and humaneness of our most wonderful Rebbe. (The whole world already knows, of course, of his renowned and extraordinary scholarship and learning.)

I printed only fifty copies of the first edition, for family and close friends. I wanted to ascertain the reaction of the Rebbe before I wrote any further material for general distribution amongst my friends. It was an instant success and I was instructed by the Rebbe to “continue writing.” This I dutifully did. Over the next twenty-seven years I wrote and published twenty-six editions.

During the course of over three decades of my writing the diary, the Rebbe continually instructed and encouraged me to write more pages each year. For example, I presented my ninth edition to the Rebbe before Shavuos of 1978. After Yom Tov, during our yechidus, the Rebbe instructed me to continue writing further installments and that “the next edition, being the tenth, should contain at least one hundred pages.” This seemed to be a rather difficult assignment. “On the contrary,” said the Rebbe, “it would be easy.”

Eight months later, during Shevat 5739 (1979), I received a letter from the Rebbe with the following paragraph:

…I thought it would not be necessary to make it more explicit when I expressed my hope that your next diary would contain 100 pages. But let me make it clear that it refers to a minimum, as a prelude to larger ones in the future. Indeed, in view of the farbrengens and events of the current year, it should not be difficult to attain this goal.

I was not sure whether my readers would welcome an edition devoted and confined to the Rebbe’s sichas at the farbrengens, in any case these sichas were published regularly in Yiddish and English and now other languages too. But I did try and always did write more and more pages to satisfy my “customers,” and I always tried to include a synopsis of the sichas of the farbrengens I attended. (Being that I am a layman, I provided them in laymen’s terms.)

It is my fervent hope that through the pages of my numerous, yet not always complete, recollections we will be reminded of the wonderful times and inspired moments we shared with our Rebbe and Rebbetzin, especially for Yom Tovs and other special times; and that very soon we will once again enjoy the Rebbe’s radiant smile, fatherly love and scholarly wisdom, with the revelation of Moshiach speedily in our days. And to end with the way the Rebbe ended most of his sichas: May it be now, Mamosh, Mamosh, Mamosh!

Zalmon Jaffe

Manchester, England