First Person Encounters

Famous and not-so-famous people describe their experiences with the Rebbe

Famous and not-so-famous people describe their experience of the Rebbe

Fire and Ink
Selected Correspondence Between Chaim Grade and the Rebbe
The Doctors Said We Could Not Have a Child
Read a firsthand account of how an encounter with the Rebbe on Chol Hamoed Sukkot changed a family forever.
The 30-Year-Old Letter That Made Me Cry
We may have been the first openly Torah-observant Jews to visit from outside the USSR in 70 years!
The Rebbe Knew My Wife Had It in Her
Malki’s words were hard for me to accept. I strongly felt this was an opportunity we couldn’t afford to miss.
Meeting the Rebbe, Meeting Myself
We couldn’t understand why there was a need for us to meet yet another rabbi. We were rather satisfied with the acquaintance of Rabbi Shemtov.
Tears on the Rebbe’s Doorstep
I followed along in my prayer book as the service progressed, on high alert for the arrival of the inspiration that was surely imminent. Maybe on the next page? Woven between the notes of the next melody? But alas, I left feeling … the same.
My Moment with the Rebbe
I wished I could have the chance to kiss the Torah. It was impossible. I was just too far. I clumsily stretched out my arm. Suddenly, the Rebbe stopped.
Having travelled around the world in my work as a China scholar, I have had many encounters that were deeply transformative. None, however, match the subtle, enduring change enacted by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, whom I met only briefly three times in my life.
Two Visits to the Ohel
The idea of writing a letter requesting the Rebbe's blessing – and then praying to G-d at his gravesite - seemed almost absurd. I felt I had a much bigger chance of success if I just worked on my resume and interviewing skills some more.
The Rebbe Cared Deeply for My Dying Daughter
I got straight to the point. “Rebbe, I have heard that many miracles come from this room. Please give my daughter a blessing that she should be cured!”
Chasidic Scientist, Solar Energy Pioneer, Passes Away
Yaacov (Jack) Hanoka, 75
Solar energy pioneer Yaacov (Jack) Hanoka, who held patents for 56 of his inventions and was known for his passion and optimism in finding alternative energy sources to fossil fuels, passed away at the age of 75.
Meeting with the Maimonides of Our Generation
One day, after another round of my incessant questioning, the teacher suggested, “Why don’t you write a letter to the Rebbe requesting a private audience?”
Travels Through Time, Space and Beyond
The Scientist and the Rebbe
The Rebbe thought deeply for a few minutes and said, “Keep looking. To sit here, and not look, and say there is nothing out there, is placing a limit on G‑d’s creation. That you can’t do!” . . .
A U.S. Army Chaplain’s Trip to Grenada
Three instructions from the Rebbe during “Operation Urgent Fury”
Flying across Grenada, I receive instructions from the Pentagon to call Lubavitch World Headquarters in Brooklyn.
The Atomic Energy in the Male-Female Relationship
Sitting on the stairs outside the Rebbe’s office, I found myself daydreaming, asking myself, “If I had unlimited time with the Rebbe, what would I ask him?”
Looking for Mr. Right
The Rebbe told me, “You are very different from each other. Remove him from your agenda.”
Of diamonds and students
The Rebbe explains to a London diamond dealer why his investment in education is so important.
Another Form of Charity
The Rebbe's message to an eight-year-old child
I started looking around the Rebbe’s room to find the box of toys. I figured thousands of kids came through this room—there must be toys somewhere.
No Retirement for Me
The Rebbe’s words on retirement
The Rebbe asked about my uncle. I responded by saying that he was well, thank G‑d, and had just retired. The Rebbe shook his head. In Yiddish, he said, “Retired—what does that mean?”
Chess: The Game and its Players
The story of Sammy Reshevsky
The Rebbe's relationship with an international chess champion; the Rebbe's spiritual take on the "Game of Kings"; and the chassidic "kings" who enjoyed the game.
A Feminist's Quest for a Place in Jewish Life
Although I was at peace about my situation, it was still reassuring to hear from someone of the Rebbe’s stature that there is a role for every woman, whether a mother or not, in Judaism.
How Jacques Lipchitz Found G-d
The Rabbi and the Sculptor
He said an artist needs inspiration, that you have to wait for a certain thing to come down--he called it the 'holy spirit'--and for him putting on tefillin gave him his inspiration for the day...
A Match of Faith
No one knew how to tell me the news, and so, although I knew the truth in my heart, for those agonizing minutes I kept on hoping. Hoping that it was just an accident . . .
Inventor's Friendship with the Rebbe
A glass inventor tells of his experiences with the Rebbe in France before and during WWII.
The Rebbe’s Children
The Rebbe himself had no children, yet he gave so many people blessings for children. Who are the Rebbe’s children?
Farewell, My Rebbe
Question: How did you become a rebbe?
Answer: What do you do if they put the key in your pocket and walk away?
Wiring the <em>Missouri</em>
I take a look, and you have three hundred people in white shirts, because in those days most people wore white shirts. And in the middle is sitting a guy with a black beard, earlocks, a black hat and a black suit.
A Jew in Curacao
My father saw himself as a young child, sitting on his grandmother's lap. "Liuvu," she was saying to him, "anytime you are in trouble, the one who can help you is the Lubavitcher Rebbe." This was the first time he had ever heard of the Rebbe
I will forever attribute the first step of my restoration to sanity and self-respect to one man who, with unfathomable intuition and faith in humanity, made a selfless, precise therapeutic intervention in my spirit, and demanded neither my soul nor my bankbook as recompense . . .
The Rebbe and the Rocket Scientist
"There's an old man in Brooklyn," the Rebbe said, "who thinks about you and invites you to come back on your 20th anniversary." To Greene, he seemed more like a loving uncle than the spiritual leader of the Jewish world...
I had never seen such a strong bond and commitment in my life. The mere mention of his name would make their eyes sparkle. I never thought that I would be able to admire and respect someone so much...
A Rehearsal for Redemption
Fallacious arguments flew away like frightened bats as we toned the walls of our hearts to prepare for an all-out war -- fairly fought, wind against wind
He Could Melt A Blizzard
"Now that you have interviewed me," said the Rebbe, "I'd like to interview you. Unless you have any objections?"
Why Tefillin?
"When a Jew in Miami," the Rebbe said to me, "sees pictures of Jews at the Western Wall wearing tefillin, he gets an urge to put on tefillin himself."
A Man Apart
He made of each Chasid a "rebbe," made each Chasid feel that responsibility and love for every Jew, made each Jew sense her or his own greatness and holiness.
The Rebbe and the Artist
An artist relates his personal encounters with the Rebbe, beginning from the age of 15
The Man from Auschwitz
Who was William Guttman, driving a cab through Manhattan on the night shift? Finally I asked him, as he had asked us, "Are you Jewish?"
Still the Rebbe Reaches Out
It was a meeting without preliminaries or conclusion. He said few words and did not encourage me to necessarily become part of his community, yet the meeting redirected my life.
The Day I Became a Chassid
I was quite nervous as I took my place on line in front of the Rebbe's door. I had of course heard the Rebbe speak in public, but this was different, I told myself. This is yechidut...
You Never Know
A spur-of-the-moment visit to Rabbi Menachem Schneerson's tomb brings unexpected and astonishing results.
Another Day Without Tefillin?
In his reply the Rebbe wrote: “Do you think it is right that a Jew who put on tefillin yesterday for the first time in over twenty years should wait another six weeks for you to buy him a pair of tefillin?”
I simply had no more talk left in me. I had spent hours casting about for some suitable activity that could serve as a replacement for the speaking, but thus far, I had come up with nothing.
Turn Over a Town By Creating a University
The Rebbe said, "Build a college in Yeroham. It would transform the image of Yeroham as a town that people longed to leave to a place where people from across Israel and abroad would come to live and learn."
Searching the Novels for Perfect Love?
To my great surprise, the Rebbe asked me about my very personal plans, about my dating to get married.
Stuck in Michigan with a Mission
We were supposed to be back home in New York by now, but a heavy snowfall there made it impossible for any planes to land...
The Londoner Comes to Brooklyn
My introduction to the Chabad-Lubavitch movement in London, UK, and how my meetings with the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory, evolved.
Do Not Forsake The Londoners!
Should we move to Israel?
I purchased a dilapidated old house with a wonderful view overlooking the Old City. My intention was to reconstruct it, in the anticipation of one day moving to Israel. Of course I assumed that the Rebbe would approve.
Is There Place for the Women?
The beginning of a new synagogue
Tthe Rebbe turned to my wife and asked her, "How is the women's section?"
A Lesson in Bookkeeping
Discussing my personal Torah study
The Rebbe told me a lesson from bookkeeping, "You should be aware of the importance of bookkeeping in Jewish thought..."
What Will Be With the Jews of Small Communities?
The Rebbe discusses Britain Jewry
"A rabbi recently said to me," the Rebbe, of righteous memory, told me in a 1972 audience, "that the only solution for Jews in small communities in England, is for them to move to Israel."
Discussing Lubavitch Activities and Expansion
We discuss the salaries, women leadership and the purpose of the new building.
My Daughter’s Academic Choices
The Rebbe discusses with my daughter the issue of her attending art school.
The Rebbe explained to me that when having a positive influence on children, “Sometimes informal contact is more important than formal schooling.”
In my second audience with the Rebbe, I mentioned that a relative of mine was dating a non-Jew...
The Rebbe’s Holiday Guest
A diary from Shavuot, 1969
The author of "My Encounter with the Rebbe" describes highlights of the events that he took part in with the Rebbe, including eating the holiday meals with the Rebbe and a private audience.
Saving Jailed Romanian Jews
Rabbi Eliezer Zusia Portugal, the Rebbe of Skulen, had connections that would enable him to arrange the escape from Romania, at the cost of $2,000 per family
Crying Over the Peoples’ Entreaties
First installment: The High Holidays, 1980
The Rebbe then drew his prayer shawl up over his head, enveloping the podium and its contents as well. He lowered his head onto the podium, meditated, prayed, and wept—appealing to the Almighty to bless all the Jewish people everywhere with a good and happy new year...
Sukkot with the Rebbe and Chabad's Financial Troubles
Second Installment: Sukkot 1979
Our problem – and it is a common one these days – was that although we owned extremely valuable property, we suffered from an acute cash flow shortage, mainly because we were heavily overdrawn in the bank, with interest at over 20%!
Hoshanah Rabbah with Etrog and Cake
Third Installment
Throughout the time we spent at 770, there were strong arguments and counterarguments continuously going on. The subject matter was the health of our Rebbe...
Our Audience with the Rebbe
Fourth Installment
We chose to have the audience on the first night. Five hundred people were expected that evening; one of the Rebbe's aides predicted that our appointment would be very late—maybe around 3 a.m...
The Rebbe: Why Have We Not Heard from Jaffe?
Fifth Installment: Arriving Home
It was one of the Rebbe's aides calling from 770. He informed me that the Rebbe was very worried because he had not heard from me...
Childhood Experiences of My Son, the Rebbe
The mother of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson penned these stories in her diary
I would like to record several of the episodes that I remember. There are many other and greater episodes, yet according to my understanding, it is the small incidents that reveal the greatness and the loftiness of his soul.
You'll find Chabad followers spreading out everywhere.
Two Crucial Words That Changed My Life
During the engagement period, I continued to be pestered with occasional waves of doubt and fear—not based on anything tangible, just phantoms in my mind.
The Rebbe and the Little Girl With a Cast
What mattered to me was my broken arm. And at that moment, that was all that mattered to the Rebbe as well.
Coming Home: The Power of the Rebbe’s Gaze
When he gazed at me so long ago, did the Rebbe see the long line of my ancestors, clamoring to return through me? By the strength of his gaze, did he give us all the ability to come back?
I Last Saw the Rebbe When I Was Seven
When the Rebbe was 89 years old, there were times he greeted people for dozens of hours—all while standing on his feet.
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