I’ll never forget the day I first met the Rebbe. That day was also the day I became a student at Tomchei Temimim, the Chabad yeshivah, so I remember it very well. It was June 23, 1941, and all the yeshivah boys—thirty or forty of us—went to the pier to meet him as he arrived in the United States.

We went to the pier together with a delegation which had been sent by the Previous Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, to greet him. I remember that the Rebbe came off the boat wearing a light-colored suit, with a gray hat to match. He was accompanied by his wife, Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka. I remember that the Rebbe came off the boat wearing a light-colored suit. He was accompanied by his wife, Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka.He greeted all the dignitaries who had come out to meet him on the pier, and then he came over to us boys and greeted each one of us, one by one, with “Shalom Aleichem—Peace be with you.”

The Rebbe always paid special attention to us boys, the young students. I remember him talking to us on the first night of Sukkos as he was going home. At that time he and the Rebbetzin lived in a third-floor apartment on the corner of President Street and New York Avenue. About a dozen of us students were standing around, and he came up to us and, motioning to us, said, “My father-in-law, the Rebbe, wants that you, and you, and you, and you, should be outstanding Talmudic scholars.”

During The Rebbe always paid special attention to us boys, the young students.Chol Hamoed Sukkos, most nights he’d come into the sukkah with a tray of food, and he’d even offer us a bit of wine. I remember that he said to me, “Yitzchok, have some wine.” And I said, “I don’t want.” He said, “My father in-law, the Rebbe, says that every day of Chol Hamoed you have to drink a little bit of wine.”

He’d then sit and talk with us in the sukkah, discussing the Talmudic texts we were learning in yeshivah at the time.

We used to get a Talmud to look up various passages. And we realized that he had a photographic mind—he had a picture of the Talmud in his head. He didn’t have to search for Rashi’s commentary; he just opened it right on the spot. We noticed that he did that with the writings of Maimonides, as well.

On Simchas Torah, because the Previous Rebbe was not well, the circuits with the Torah, the hakafot, took place upstairs in his study. As the room was small, very few people were admitted, and then the door was locked.

When the future Rebbe would go upstairs, a few of us used to follow him. The Rebbe would sit and talk with us, discussing the Talmudic texts we were learning in yeshivah at the time.He’d look at us, and after he’d open the door with his key, he’d walk in and leave the door unlocked; sometimes he even leave it a little bit open. We used to sneak in and hide ourselves in the room adjoining the Previous Rebbe’s study, which had at one time been his mother’s room. From there we couldn’t be seen, but we could observe what was happening.

I remember that in 1940, the Previous Rebbe was still well enough to walk around the table with a Torah scroll. But the next year he wasn’t able to walk anymore. He sat during hakafot, holding the Torah scroll.

The future Rebbe always seemed to notice us, and to help us “skirt the rules” in order to have the chance to see the Previous Rebbe. One year during hakafot there were two of us there peeking in from the Rebbe’s mother’s room—I remember it was me and Moshe Kazarnovsky—and the future Rebbe said to us, “Don’t come in.”

We got frightened. We said, “If you want, we’ll go downstairs!”

“No,” he replied.

Then at the seventh and final hakafah, I felt someone’s hand on my back. It was the Rebbe. He pushed us into the room so we could also participate.

In 1947 I finished yeshivah, and the Previous Rebbe sent me on a mission to Australia for about four and a half months, and to New Zealand for about a month and a half. After I was done, I came back home.

Several years after the Previous Rebbe passed away and the Rebbe assumed leadership, the families in Australia petitioned him to bring me back. This was in 1954. And finally I agreed—it took me a while, but in the end I agreed, and I went to Australia in 1959.

On Simchas Torah of that year, before I was to depart, the Rebbe called me in together with Rabbi Gershon Mendel Garelik, who was going to Milan. And, at the farbrengen, he asked us each to make a l’chaim on a glass of wine, and he said to me, “Kovesh zayn Australia—Influence Australia.”

When it came time for me and Rabbi Garelik to go to the airport, he sent the whole yeshivah to see us offm and he himself came out to stand by the door, waving till our car pulled away.