It was the waning hours of Shavuot 5754 (1994). My older brother Eli Noson and I were young students at the Talmudic Seminary in Kfar Chabad, Israel. As the sun was about to set, my brother asked me to accompany him to the home of the legendary chassid Reb Mendel Futerfass of blessed memory. Reb Mendel, then a frail man in his late eighties, had spent many years in Soviet labor camps for the crime of assisting many of his fellow chassidim escape the Iron Curtain. In fact, he could have escaped himself too, but he resolved to remain behind to facilitate the escape of even more Jews. After he left Russia in the 1960's, the Rebbe appointed him as the spiritual mentor of Kfar Chabad. Very few chassidim are regarded with more love and admiration than "Reb Mendel."

"Come," my brother urged. "Reb Mendel will certainly appreciate some guests""Come," my brother urged me. "Reb Mendel will certainly appreciate some guests with whom to conduct a farbrengen (chassidic gathering) in honor of the outgoing holiday."

Reb Mendel was indeed delighted at our arrival. We sat down around the table as Reb Mendel's wife produced some l'chaims and cake. Shortly thereafter we were joined by Shlomo "Shlomke" Madanchik, the former mayor of Kfar Chabad, and also a beloved personality. The farbrengen commenced.

Ever the unassuming individual, Reb Mendel turned to us and asked, "Nu, can anyone recount a chassidic insight or story?" After being prodded several times, Eli Noson agreed to recount a story he had recently heard; a story about Reb Zalman Moshe Yitzchaki, Reb Mendel's mentor who had passed on some forty years earlier:

"Back in the 1920's, the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, resided in Leningrad, Russia. Reb Zalman Moshe was known for his humility and candor. When he would attend the Rebbe's farbrengens he always opted to stand on the periphery of the crowd, out of the Rebbe's sight, though his seniority and reputation for piety certainly called for a more prominent seat.

"Once, during the course of a farbrengen the Rebbe summoned Reb Zalman Moshe and silently told him a few words. After he quickly scurried back to his place, he was deluged by chassidim who wished to know what the Rebbe had told him.

"'I have no clue what the Rebbe said,' he responded.

"'How is that possible? The Rebbe just spoke to you...'

"'Believe me, I didn't hear what the Rebbe said. Only one thought consumed me all the while I was standing near the Rebbe — when already will the Rebbe remove his holy eyes from my piggish face...'"

Reb Mendel was riveted by the story. When my brother finished the story he gave him a big yasher koach ("well done!") and sat in contemplation. After a few moments of silence, Shlomke interjected:

"Reb Mendel, weren't you there at that farbrengen?"

"Yes, indeed," Reb Mendel responded.

Reb Mendel was riveted. When my brother finished the story he gave him a big yasher koach"And the story didn't transpire exactly as this young man retold it, correct?"

Reb Mendel begrudgingly agreed to this too.

At Shlomke's request, Reb Mendel then repeated the story as he had witnessed it some seventy years beforehand... (The story as written above is the correct version.)


I don't believe that I've ever seen a more powerful demonstration of selflessness and love. He felt no need to correct. No need to make note of the fact that he had been there. No need to interject himself into the conversation.

All that was important at that moment was to listen to another.