I was invited to join the Rebbe for Yom Tov meals once more, together with about a dozen or so other men. Obviously, this was always a very great honor. Enjoyable, dignified, but oh, so tense! After all, we were dining with our own royalty. This year, however, the atmosphere was happy, thank G‑d, like a family get together!

Someone asked the Rebbe what the Lubavitch custom was in regard to decorating the shul with flowers in honor of Shavuos . This apparently is the custom in most shuls. The Rebbe answered that in his home town (Nikolayev, Ukraine) they did practice this custom. Someone else pointed out that many shuls do not.

The Rebbe said, “The gabbai from Manchester is present, we can verify with him what their custom is.”

I answered, “Indeed all the shuls in Manchester have flower arrangements on Shavuos, besides the Lubavitch shul.” I then asked what the custom was here.

“What is the question?” asked the Rebbe, “you are here yourself!”

I explained to the Rebbe that I was wondering if the beautiful new colorful garden I had seen outside 770 had something to do with this Shavuos custom. The Rebbe informed me that the garden had nothing to do with that custom; in fact they set it up, not shortly before Shavuos, and not even shortly before Lag B’omer, but a while before that, and it had nothing to do with this custom in the Shulchan Aruch.

On the first day of Shavuos, before luncheon, we partook of coffee and cake in the adjoining room. The Rebbe was not present, but the (Previous) Rebbetzin, accompanied by her lady-in-waiting, welcomed her guests and presided over the gathering. She had a warm and gracious smile for everyone, a typical, charming “Queen Mother.”

Earlier during davening shacharis, I was surprised that the “ho’aderes vho’emunah” and “Kalie Atoh” sections were not sung. Therefore, at the meal on the first day, I mentioned to the Rebbe that in Manchester we sing those songs during davening.

“Ess iz ah gleicher zach,” (it is very appropriate) said the Rebbe. “Do you sing it every Shabbos?” (Referring to “Ho’aderes”.)

“No,” I replied, “only on Yom Tov.”

Does the Rebbe think we should sing it every Shabbos? I was trying not to think how many members we would lose if we took an extra ten minutes over the davening each week.

The Rebbe came to my rescue by saying, “Okay, only on Yom Tov.”

So on the second day of Yom Tov, for the first time in a few years, we sang during shacharis. At the meal on the second day, I thanked the Rebbe for giving the green light.

The Rebbe said “You should have mentioned it before, and we would have sung it the first day too. Since you now deserve a commission, sing another song.” (This commission, would later become useful as a bargaining counter for an extra farbrengen.)

We then discussed Lubavitch problems in Manchester . I recounted how we were expecting a £20,000 grant from the government that we desperately needed, and how in the end we got it.

The Rebbe said, “Next time ask for twice as much, £40,000!”

The Rebbe’s brother-in-law, the Rashag, then pointed out that from certain seforim we might be able to learn that we did not need a farbrengen on Shavuos.

“Good,” said the Rebbe. “Then we will all have a rest.”

“Oh no,” I said. “We will not let you off!” This caused a broad smile from the Rebbe and much laughter.

The Rashag said to me, “You must come more often.”

The Rebbe intervened and said, “Everyone has his z’man (time) for coming, and since he has davened Rosh Hashono and Yom Kippur at the omud for so many years, he has a chazoka and cannot come during that time.” The Rebbe paid me some very nice compliments.

I was always given the honor of leading the bentching at one of the four meals of Yom Tov. This means that I had to drink the whole goblet of wine and make a brocha achronah, whilst everyone remained seated and quiet.