סיון תשכ"ח - ר' זלמן יפה (אנגלית)

מתוך Yomanim

קפיצה אל: ניווט, חיפוש

תוכן עניינים

Immediate Yechidus

We arrived at 770 about 9:00 p.m. on Sivan 3, 5728 (May 30, 1968). I was told the Rebbe wanted to see me straight away, before maariv. The Rebbe was still fasting. The Rebbe would fast whenever he visited his father-in-law’s resting place - about three times a week.

We (only) had a half-hour yechidus this time. However, the Rebbe promised that we would have two more yechidus during this visit, “one would be a short one and another a long one.” The Rebbe said that this yechidus, before Shavuos, the holiday celebrating the giving of the Torah, was “in the midbar (desert); the others would be after kabolas hatorah (giving of the Torah).”

(The Rebbe insisted on shaking hands with me during this yechidus!)

I told the Rebbe that I was not prepared to have a yechidus so soon after arrival.

The Rebbe asked me “Is Shmuel here? Hindy? Their children? Avrohom? I was happy to notify the Rebbe that they were indeed all here.

Royal Dining

Until the previous Rebbetzin (Nechomo Dina) - wife of the previous Rebbe and mother-in-law of the Rebbe - passed away, on Teves 10, 5731 (January 7, 1971), the Rebbe gave up the comfort and pleasure of his very own Yom Tov table for the sake of kibud aim (honoring parents - his wife’s mother and his mother-in-law). The Rebbetzin herself never actually attended those meals and, instead, was in a separate room with the women.

At the time, we were puzzled and surprised that the Rebbe did not sit at the head of the table; after all he was our king. Yet it made sense - although, we did not always realize it at that time - as the Rebbe was repasting in the residence of the previous Rebbe, of saintly memory, he preferred to sit in the same seat he had occupied during his predecessor’s lifetime.

Still, Rabbi Shemtov adamantly declined to attend these meals. He could not bear to see the Rebbe take a “back seat.”

The guests would assemble in the large dining room upstairs, on the second floor of 770. This was the residence of the previous Rebbe, and his Rebbetzin was our hostess.

We would sit around a large rectangular table. There were normally six seats on either side, with a chair at each end. Each place was set with a silver goblet for kiddush and two loaves of bread. The table itself was laid with an immaculate snow-white linen cloth, and the finest cutlery, crockery and glassware were provided. Wine, soda and other drinks were at hand when required.

The top, the head of the table, was set exactly the same as all the other places but the chair was to remain unoccupied. This was the Previous Rebbe’s tish (table), and the chair was his too. It was a symbolic gesture. Therefore, the Rebbe, who was the younger son-in-law, sat on the left side, whereas Rabbi Gurary (the older son-in-law known as the “Rashag”) sat on the right. Next to him was Rabbi Simpson. My seat was always the same, next to Rabbi Simpson and almost opposite to the Rebbe.

The Rebbe would make kiddush quietly whilst his Rebbetzin listened at the door, which would be only slightly ajar. We all followed suit, each one in a subdued voice.

Then we would all wash our hands for bread. The Rebbe was served first, of course, but he did not commence eating until everyone was seated and served, even the yeshiva boys who were acting as waiters. I once asked a boy to exchange the beef tongue I was given for chicken. It took seven minutes. It seemed like seven hours, as the Rebbe and everyone present were waiting for me to be served.

The Rebbe would eat very slowly indeed and he would see to it that he finished last. No one ate after the Rebbe put down his cutlery. Therefore, he was always watching and ensuring that all had eaten before he put down his knife and fork. There was no talking or even whispering during the actual courses, which consisted of the usual Yom Tov dishes: fish, soup, chicken or meat, fruit and drinks.

Subsequent to the first meal I had ever attended, when I was in yechidus, I told the Rebbe that I was very disappointed at the atmosphere at the dinner. So quiet, so still, so tense. I said, “tell the chassidim to make the Rebbe freilich.”

The Rebbe said, “Yes, you should tell the chassidim to make the Rebbe freilich.”

So I then felt a special responsibility for trying to enliven the proceedings in between the courses, with the Rebbe’s permission of course, singing niggunim and telling a joke or two. It is a bit embarrassing to have to force oneself to break the uncanny silence. Although the Rebbe normally speaks to me in perfect English, at the meals he would insist I speak in Yiddish so that all will understand.

This Years Meals

This year, on the first night of Shavuos, we started the Yom Tov dinner around 10:00. There were 12 people present on this occasion.

The meal started with the usual somber and dead quiet, that lasted for about ten minutes. There was never any talking or singing until the fish was served and eaten.

I then asked the Rebbe if I may sing a niggun.

The Rebbe said “Of course, but first you need to say l’chaim.”

After saying a l’chaim, I started the old Lubavitcher niggun of “ach lelokim.” (Tehillim 62:6-7) After the next course, we sang “hinei matov” and finally “Uforatzto.” I then remarked that I was pleased that at last, even at 770, we were having “Uforatzto.”

The Rebbe answered “It is only a hascholo (beginning).”

On the first day of Shavuos, before luncheon, we partook of the customary milchig (dairy) kiddush, but we only had coffee and cake (not cheesecake) in an adjoining room. The Rebbe was not present during this “milchig” meal. After a one hour break, we sat down - with the Rebbe, too - for Yom Tov lunch.

A very happy atmosphere prevailed and the Rebbe said many words of Torah.

I mentioned that the Rebbe always stresses that Rashi wrote his commentary, so that even a five year old would understand. I told the Rebbe I would like to ask a question, even though my question may be “ah narishe shaileh” (a silly question).

The Rashi from this weeks parsha (Nosso 87:89), explains a few different points from the posuk, but he does not do so in the order of the verse, which is Rashi’s usual way.

The Rebbe said, “The farbrengen of Shavuos comes before parshas Nosso, if I answer your question now, I too will be answering out of order!”

Today, the Rebbe again asked me to sing a niggun. I said that I wanted to sing “aal achas,” but I did not know it properly. The Rebbe suggested that I ask Hendel Liberman (whom we all called Fetter -uncle - Hendel) to sing it. Fetter Hendel was delighted, but he did not sing the words, only the tune.

The Rebbe interrupted him, “No words? Give him a siddur!”

So Fetter Hendel started again, and once more, without the words, although he now held a siddur in his hands.

I then spoke about those who don’t listen to the Rebbe and then wonder why things are not going the way they should. I connected it with an old Jewish joke about a ganef (thief) who, without knowing whose house he was breaking into, came through the chimney of his Rabbi’s house in the middle of the night.

The Rabbi was learning, and he looked up startled and asked, “What are you doing here, Yankel?”

Yankel answered, “Rebbe, I need to ask you a shaileh (question).”


“Vi azoi kricht men arois fun danent?” (How does one scramble out of here.)

The Rebbe laughed and agreed with me, and said “Too many have the teretz before the shaileh.” (The answer before the question.)

I told the Rebbe that some people studied for twelve months, just to try and catch out the Rebbe.

Someone then said that my earlier story reminded him of the situation with the US army stuck in Vietnam!

We were talking about the situation in Israel that since the Six-Day-War, many non-Jews were entering Israel to work on farms and such. I said it reminded me of another funny story I once heard.

A Jew from the shtetl comes for the first time to the big city. He meets a city Jew in shul. They get to talking and the city slicker asks the shtetl yid, “how many Jews live in your shtetl.”

The yid answers, “500.”

“How many non-Jews live there?”


“What do the Jews do in your shtetl?”

The yid answers. “We have tailors, cobblers, blacksmiths etc.”

“And what do the non-Jews do?”

“They help us on Shabbos with lighting the furnace and other things we are not permitted to do on Shabbos.”

Now the shtetl yid asks the city Jew, “How many Jews live in your city?”


“And how many non-Jews?”


The shtetl Jew is amazed and exclaims, “farvos darf men azoi feel goyim?” (For what do you need so many non-Jews?)

During the meal on the second night of Yom Tov, I related to everyone how in England, the name of Lubavitch and the Rebbe was becoming very well known.

The Rebbe said “We need to start thinking of establishing Lubavitch in an additional city.”

The Rebbe asked about our financial difficulties in England and then he said to me, “Since people think you are rich, in the end you will indeed become rich!”

The best and most wonderful moment was when I quoted someone who had stated to me that if you wanted to erect a new building, you just get the money and put it up!

“Anyone,” I answered, “can put up a building with money. The kuntz (trick) is to put it up without money.”

The Rashag then interposed, “How did you build then?”

“With the Rebbe and his brochos,” I replied.

What a precious moment it was! All were delighted with this answer, because it pointed out that one had to do what the Rebbe instructed and it would be crowned with success.

The Rashag was a little taken aback. Everyone was laughing and the Rebbe had to wipe his eyes because of his laughter.

Incidentally, if I, personally, would have always done what the Rebbe told me to do, I would have had many great successes; I was good at telling others to take heed of the Rebbe’s advice.

At the subsequent farbrengen, the Rashag approached the Rebbe for a brocha for his yeshiva. The Rebbe told him to follow the example of Manchester!


After Shavuos we had our yechidus. Upon entering, the Rebbe rose and asked Roselyn to be seated. She sat, with paper and pencil in her hand, ready to write down the vital points that would arise; but after one and a half hours of our yechidus, Roselyn had written “the Rebbe said that the farbrengen was made especially for me.” That was all she had written down!

We did enjoy a wonderful time with our Rebbe, where our communal and personal affairs were discussed and we got plenty of helpful and friendly advice.

Shabbos Nosso Farbrengen

On Shabbos parshas Nosso, Sivan 12 (June 8), we were privileged to a farbrengen. During this farbrengen, the Rebbe did talk about that Rashi question I had asked during the Shavuos meals.

During the course of the farbrengen, the Rebbe distributed some bottles of mashke to various participants.

Then the Rebbe called me up to the top table and handed me his full tray of cake saying “this is commission for the Rashi”.

I asked the Rebbe, “What should I do with it?”

“Zei vellen dir vaizen vos tzu ton mit dem” (they will show you what to do with it), said the Rebbe, looking at the yeshiva boys.

I was practically mobbed by the yeshiva boys and just managed to salvage a small piece of cake for my wife!

Formally Demanding a Farbrengen

On Tuesday, Sivan 15 (June 11), the Rebbe went to the Ohel. After the Rebbe got back we all davened maariv, after which the Rebbe left 770for home. Roselyn and I met the Rebbe in the street.

The Rebbe touched his hat to Roselyn and asked her if she enjoyed Yom Tov in spite of my leaving her for the meals at the Rebbe’s table, to which Roselyn said, “Yes.”

I then thanked the Rebbe for the previous Shabbos farbrengen, and told the Rebbe it was most enjoyable.

The Rebbe replied, “It was my pleasure.” Always the perfect gentleman is our Rebbe.

Since I have been coming to 770, beginning in 5719 (1959), there has been a farbrengen on almost every Shabbos I have been present. Please G-d, I hope this will continue. I was well aware that there was not meant to be a farbrengen on the upcoming Shabbos, which was the last Shabbos of our stay in New York this year.

If one wants something, then one must ask for it. So, I then requested another farbrengen for the next Shabbos.

“Have a rueker (restful) Shabbos,” said the Rebbe. There is no farbrengen scheduled for this Shabbos.

The Rebbe also told me that he had heard that some wives were actually complaining that we had too many farbrengen, which spoiled their Shabbos meals, and so forth.

So there it was. It seemed quite clear, no farbrengen, definitely no.

Many of the yeshiva boys were telling me that they want a farbrengen; didn’t we all!

As this will also be my last Shabbos with the Rebbe for the next twelve months, I must take home enough to last until next Shavuos! Additionally, some of my friends on the charter flight have come here for their first and only time. They deserve and need another farbrengen too.

On the other hand, I really should have rachmonus (pity) on the Rebbe. I was really stumped! But, a chossid who wants to hear a word of Torah from his Rebbe, must not have rachmonus.

I was meant to go into yechidus Thursday night, and I figured it would be easier to ask the Rebbe personally and not through a written correspondence.

However, Rabbi Chodakov begged me to postpone my yechidus until Sunday night. “Too many people, better for the office, better for the other people and better for the Rebbe.”

I told Rabbi Chodakov that I wanted to talk to the Rebbe about a farbrengen and Sunday would be too late. He suggested that I indeed write this to the Rebbe.

A lengthy correspondence ensued (not through the post office), in which I pointed out that I was resting every day while in New York and the farbrengen was the only time I could hear the Rebbe saying a word of Torah. Besides which, all those people had come from England especially to hear the Rebbe. Two farbrengens, on Shavuos and the following Shabbos, were not enough.

I wrote to the Rebbe that I had stayed in New York especially for this. I could have just as well gone home last week. I don’t need rest on Shabbos. I rest all week while in New York.

Meanwhile, the Rebbe kept indicating that there would not be a farbrengen. So much so that Rabbi Chodakov, when called by the yeshiva in Newark, New Jersey, told them not to come in for this Shabbos as there would not be a farbrengen.

By Friday afternoon there was still no change. The Rebbe, it seemed, would not relent. There was definitely not going to be a farbrengen.

On Friday night, the Rebbe left 700 at 11:30! Which is extremely late. “Pundits” close at hand say that when the Rebbe goes home late on Friday night, there is a good chance of a farbrengen the following day. (Could the Rebbe actually be spending a considerable amount of time preparing? Some would do well to take note and to emulate the Rebbe’s diligence in preparing before public addresses!)

On Shabbos morning, when the Rebbe came down for shacharis, he called over Rabbi Zalman Duchman and showed him a Rashi and said he would be speaking on that Rashi at the farbrengen this afternoon.

So in the end we felt very lucky to have a farbrengen on this Shabbos. This, of course, to the utter dismay of the forty yeshiva students from Newark, New Jersey, and also Moshe Feller of Minneapolis, who stayed at home after being told by the office at 770 not to come, as there would not be any farbrengen.

Listening to the Rebbe

A friend of ours, who lived in the Southern part of England then, wished to adopt a child. They already had a little girl of their own, but the doctors, the entire medical profession, told his wife that it was impossible for her to bear any more children.

Here is the Rebbe’s reply, sent through Rabbi Chodakov, the Rebbe’s head secretary, on Av 3, 5728 (July 28, 1968):

In response to your telephone call and subsequent (undated) letter, the Rebbe replied as follows:

1) You should move to Manchester.

2) (Concerning your inquiry about adoption) You should pray to the Almighty in strong faith that he will bless you with your own healthy offspring.

(Our friend carried out these instructions, and they were blessed with a fine baby boy in 5732 (1972). The bris took place in Lubavitch House, Manchester.)