At the first meeting with the Rebbe, in 1963, he gave me the marching order, the rules. He said, “You must help Rabbi Feller. You appear to me as a man of the community, as someone who is a little more established, a professor and so forth, and Rabbi Feller is there; you must help him.”

So that’s what we did for the rest of our life, basically.

I was impressed by two things. Number one, the man represented to me as a navi, as a prophet. In fact, we have a book by Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel called The Prophets, in which he is trying to ascertain if there is a unifying characteristic of all the different neviim. Each one was from a different time, they lived in a different period, they had different personalities. Some of them were rich and some of them were prominent; some of them were just peasants, farmers. Heschel put together some of the characteristics of a prophet.

Chaim Nachman Bialik also wrote Yiddish poems about who is a navi. When I saw the Rebbe, my first impression was from the heart. As a little boy, 10, 11 years old, in the Peretz Shul in Winnipeg, I memorized a poem by Bialik. In Hebrew it was called “Im Yesh Et Nafshecha L’Daat”; in Yiddish, “Oib Dyn Neshama Vill Dergayn Dem Kvall”; in English, “If Your Soul Wants to Get to the Bottom Source.”

In it Bialik writes about the history of the Jewish people. What gave the Jews the strength to withstand all of the libels and the punishments and the suffering and the wandering and the banishment and still remain who they are? In his poem Bialik says, “Oy bruder, oib vilst veesen

fun dos altz,” if you want to know where they got the strength to put out their knife to meet their heart and jump into the fires of the Spanish Inquisition, if you want to know, he says, “Bais medrash kumt,” come to the synagogue. And there you will see, on a long winter night, an old man studying the Talmud of thousands of years ago; there you will see a man who can hardly read, pouring out his heart, saying the psalms in Tehillim; there you will see 10 people davening, praying, because they brought down the Shechinah upon them, they brought down the countenance of God to rest on them.

Bialik says if you see this, then you should know — listen to the words in Yiddish, “Dos shtayst du aifen shvell fun unzer lebben,”you’re standing on the threshold of our life, “Un zehn dayn oigen dee neshama,” your eyes are looking into the Jewish soul.

Standing there in 770, in December 1963, all I could think of was this poem. This is the threshold. This is the Jewish soul. Honestly, I recognized that poem. I didn’t need any more propaganda. I didn’t need anymore. This was for me.