I was working in the Lubavitcher Yeshiva in Safed, Israel, in 1980. In addition to our own full-time studies, we were involved in many outreach activities across the city, including running a kindergarten program and giving Torah classes.

On several occasions, the Rebbe had asked that his chasidim report on their outreach activities once a month, preferably at the beginning of each month, on Rosh Chodesh. Usually, I would be the one to write the report of our activities on behalf of the yeshivah administration.

Writing a report to the Rebbe is no simple matter. Several days before, I would begin to to consider what I would report and how I would write it. And you don’t just dash off a letter to the Rebbe in half an hour. You need to find a block of several hours in order to prepare yourself, and then to write it properly. And then you need to decide what to write first, what deserves to be mentioned, and what to leave out. Of course, we used a typewriter – we didn’t have computers in those days.

“That night, I wrote and wrote. It was 3 a.m. when I was finished; I had written eight pages . . .”

The month of Adar had been hectic, with lots of activities. Suddenly we were in the following month of Nissan, and I still hadn’t written the report for Adar. There was so much to report: Purim celebrations, preparations for Pesach, many different outreach projects.

Before I knew it, it was the eleventh of Nissan, the Rebbe’s birthday, and I still hadn’t written the report.

“This is it,” I told myself. “No matter what, I’m writing this report tonight.” That night, I wrote and wrote. It was 3 a.m. when I was finished; I had written eight pages.

I felt so uplifted. There were so many good things in it. So much had been done to spread yiddishkeit, plus a number of activities in honor of the Rebbe’s birthday. I was sure they’d bring the Rebbe much nachas.

But then it occurred to me. “I can’t just sign off. I must finish the letter appropriately, with a blessing for the Rebbe’s birthday!”

Now, this was a problem. As I saw it at the time, a chassid doesn't usually give the Rebbe a brachahhe asks for a brachah from the Rebbe! From time to time, on special occasions, an elder chassid would stand up at a farbrengen, a chasidic gathering, and would bless the Rebbe in the name of the entire community, but never a young chassid!

But then I said to myself, “So what? It doesn’t matter who I am! I’ll give the Rebbe a brachah in the name of the administration.

The envelope in which the two letters arrived
The envelope in which the two letters arrived

“On the other hand, can I give the Rebbe a brachah on their behalf, when I’m really acting on my own? I must ask permission!” This dilemma was raging inside my head.

I knew that if I asked, there would be so many different opinions, that the report would never go out before Pesach. “Okay,” I thought, “I’ll sign the letter in the name of the administration, as I always do, and then I’ll add a brachah in my own name.”

But no, that wouldn’t be nice! Would that mean that they’re not blessing the Rebbe on his birthday, only I, the young chassid?

Back and forth I went. It was almost morning. Finally, I made my decision: I wrote a wholehearted brachah and signed off, “The Administration.

In the morning, I sent the letter off before anyone could ask to see the report, as they occasionally did. I rushed around all morning so that they should see how busy I was with Pesach preparations, too busy to be bothered.

Three weeks went by. One clear day, a letter arrived at the yeshivah from the Rebbe. This was a cause for celebration – the thin blue airmail envelope, with the Rebbe’s name and his return address, 770 Eastern Parkway.

The two almost identical letters. Click to enlarge
The two almost identical letters. Click to enlarge

Inside the envelope were two letters folded separately. This was quite unusual. Sometimes you might receive a two-page letter. But two pieces of paper folded separately?

Inside were two identical letters. One was addressed to the administration,and one was addressed to me personally: “I received your letter…thank you very much. My blessings for the holiday of Pesach; may it bring you freedom from all obstacles, spiritual as well as physical. Serve Hashem with joy…”

But wait! At the end of my letter, at the bottom, there were two more lines. “Thank you for your blessing,” the Rebbe had written, “When you bless another person, G‑d, in turn, blesses you.”

It was there in black and white. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I hadn’t breathed a word about what I had done to a soul. But the Rebbe knew what was in my heart! The Rebbe felt it. It’s that simple.

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Dedicated by Dovid and Maggie Rogatsky. In loving memory of Reb Zev Volf ben Reb Eliyahu Yitzchak Nissalevitch.