My father’s young age, coupled with the distance from home, made it difficult for him to adjust to his new surroundings. As a result, he sometimes found it hard to learn properly, and at times he even joined some friends in getting up to trouble. One practical joke of theirs, for example, took place on Purim. The older students, themselves after a fair amount of drink, found a goat in the courtyard and gave it some vodka to drink until it began to dance and frolic about.

At one point, the student supervisor, or mashgiach, of the yeshiva, R. Yechezkel (Chatche) Himelstein, decided to send my father, along with another boy, away from the yeshiva. The reason as it was recorded: “The child needs his mother.”

The two boys visited the mashgiach numerous times and pleaded with him to reconsider, but to no avail. He didn’t even answer their pleas and just sat there silently. They then decided to entreat R. Chatche’s wife, known to possess a gentle disposition, to intercede on their behalf. She indeed promised to speak to her husband, but this too did not produce any results.

They consulted with their friends in the yeshiva and were told that since the Rebbe Rayatz, the dean of the yeshiva, had agreed to R. Chatche’s decision, the only one that could prevent the verdict from being carried out was the Rebbe Rashab himself. But how were two small boys to succeed in entering to the Rebbe for a private audience? To amplify the problem, overseeing private meetings with the Rebbe was R. Nachman the attendant1, a strict, rigid individual, who would doubtless refuse them entry to the Rebbe’s room.

My father thought of an original idea. A second attendant, R. Mendel, assisted the Rebbe in his house. He was a kindhearted fellow, and among other duties, he was responsible for serving supper to the Rebbe. My father knew that a long passageway separated the kitchen from the dining room where the Rebbe would eat. He decided to wait in the hallway until he saw R. Mendel enter the kitchen and then quickly slip into the dining room and beseech the Rebbe to help him.

Nervous and with a trembling heart, my father crept into the Rebbe’s house and waited in the hallway. As soon as R. Mendel turned into the kitchen, he quickly ran down the hall, and with quivering steps he entered the dining room where the Rebbe sat. He then burst into uncontrollable tears, unable to utter a word.

The Rebbe Rashab was sitting at the table eating a dairy meal. Rebbetzin Shterna Sarah sat at the table as well, while the renowned Chassid R. Shlomo Leib Eliezerov sat to the side, conversing with the Rebbe.

The Rebbe noticed my father, and he turned to him and asked gently, “Yingele, little boy, why are you crying?”

“R. Yechezkel Himelstein sent me away from the school,” my father answered in a tear-choked voice.

“And why did he send you away?”

“I don’t know.”

The Rebbe chuckled. “Nu, so go learn in the yeshiva in Radin!”

My father’s cries intensified. “No! I want to learn in Lubavitch!”

The Rebbe smiled and continued, “So learn in Slabodka, Mir . . .” The Rebbe continued enumerating all the famous Lithuanian yeshivos of the time as my father continued crying and refusing each “proposal”: “I only want to learn in Lubavitch!”

The Rebbetzin then interceded on my father’s behalf. She said to the Rebbe: “What do you want from the boy? Promise him!”

She then turned to my father and said: “Go, yingele. I’ll speak to my husband.”

My father was happy to hear that the Rebbetzin was willing to intercede, but he said that he wanted to hear from the Rebbe himself. The Rebbe then turned to him and said, “I’ll speak to my son [the Rayatz].”

However, my father continued standing and didn’t budge. Seeing this, the Rebbe asked him, “What else?”

“I have a friend who was also sent home, and he also wants to stay here and learn.”

“Where is he?”

“He is standing behind the door.”

“Why doesn’t he want to come in?”

“Because he’s embarrassed.”

Indeed, a short while later, my father was summoned and informed that he had been reaccepted. However, he wouldn’t learn in the actual yeshiva but on the second floor of the building, with the teacher R. Mendel Liadier.

The significance of my father’s steadfast resolution to remain in Lubavitch is clearly apparent now, over one hundred years after this episode. From all of the eleven Zaltzman siblings, my father was the only one that merited to build a true Jewish home with children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. The majority of his brothers and sisters succumbed to the pressures of the time, leaving the path of Torah and developing into staunch Communists.

Years later, my father once sat at a farbrengen together with R. Mendel Futerfas in Eretz Yisrael and repeated this story. In his characteristic style, R. Mendel explained the episode as follows: “Do you think that the Rebbe Rashab acceded to your request because of your cries and entreaties? No. The Rebbe saw that you had love for your fellow Jew. You weren’t concerned only about yourself, but you remembered to mention your friend as well. That’s what enabled you to remain in Tomchei Temimim!”