תמוז תשכ"א - ר' זלמן יפה (אנגלית)

מתוך Yomanim

קפיצה אל: ניווט, חיפוש

תוכן עניינים

(Un)Easy Preparations

One morning in the winter of 5721 (early 1961), I received a telephone call from an excited Rabbi Shemtov who was in London. He informed me of a special charter flight due to leave in a month from London to New York. The cost was only £35 ($100) per passenger, round trip. This included all meals, and transportation to and from the airports. Additionally, he had taken the liberty of reserving three seats for myself my wife Roselyn and our daughter Hindy (our son Avrohom was learning in 770, so we would meet up with him there).

It was undoubtedly an exceptionally cheap price, ridiculously low, an absolute bargain; but I really could not afford the time to leave my business for nearly three weeks. Besides, I had already been to the Rebbe twice, the second time being just twelve months previously.

Rabbi Shemtov was quite upset with my rejection of this wonderful opportunity to visit the Rebbe once again, and he pleaded, urged and finally persuaded me to accept these three super bargain seats. He added that there were still a few available seats and, therefore, I should inform my friends of this opportunity.

I was quite friendly with Frank Harris, the editor of one of our local newspapers, the Jewish Telegraph. I revealed to him the extraordinary and astonishing news that members of Lubavitch were traveling to New York and back, with meals and transportation to the airports, for only £35. The next Friday the newspaper had a write-up about this chartered flight.

I was enjoying my breakfast on Friday morning when the phone rang; it was Mrs. Cohen. She had just read the newspaper and wanted to join the flight. After all, £17.50 was a crazy price to cross the Atlantic. She insisted upon taking advantage of this in order to see her daughter and son-in-law, whom she had last seen thirty years ago, and to meet her grandchildren whom she had never seen. By 11:30 a.m. I was still attempting to finish my breakfast, for I was kept so busy with answering the phone. I rushed to my office and found a similar state of affairs. All day long people were inquiring about the flight. “When are you leaving?” “For how long are you going?” “Put me on the list.” “Take my deposit.” And so on. The same was happening at home and Roselyn was having a hectic time preparing for Shabbos. Some enquirers even called the phone company, thinking our telephone was broken, as they had been trying to get through to our busy phone for hours!

As soon as Shabbos had begun the phones stopped - thank G-d for Shabbos - and we enjoyed a completely quiet and peaceful Shabbos. Then it all started again! When I returned home from shul on Motzoei Shabbos, I found a dozen people waiting for me and the telephone was ringing off the hook. This continued on Sunday and Monday.

By Tuesday morning I had a list of 120 friends desiring to take advantage of the offer to join our group for travel to New York. I had also already received £1,000 as deposits. I telephoned the good news to Rabbi Shemtov and requested him to convey to me as soon as possible the exact details of the trip - date, times etc. - in order to notify my “customers.”

Of course I also wrote to the Rebbe with the details and to ascertain the Rebbe's reaction to us joining another organization for this flight. The Rebbe wrote to me in a postscript to a letter dated 11th of Nissan, 5721 (March 28, 1961):

This is to acknowledge receipt of your letter, in which you ask my opinion about joining another organization for a chartered flight to NYK [NYC].

I presume that such a partnership would not be used by the other party for publicity purposes, and since the food etc. would be under your supervision, there does not seem anything untoward involved. On the other hand, if arrangement would entail the need to register as members in that organization, this might involve complications.

But perhaps there is a possibility to avoid common knowledge about the arrangement, since this is probably a formality which is of interest to the airline. As for dues, perhaps it can take the form of a subsidy by a single individual?

Needless to say, the best solution would be to have an independent flight. Therefore, it would be well to delay a final decision to the latest possible date, and in the meantime see how things develop.

Well, I was waiting to see “how things develop”, but one week went by, two weeks, a month, six weeks and still, Rabbi Shemtov had nothing definite about the flight details.

I was being nagged and pestered continually. The telephone never stopped ringing; but they were not friends anymore and I only received abuse and insults. Lubavitch, as well as I, was getting bad publicity and a tarnished image. The whole idea of an American trip for £35 was being ridiculed everywhere as just a publicity stunt and a bluff. I was becoming desperate, and was terribly upset with Rabbi Shemtov for putting me into this horrible situation. Meanwhile, I returned all the deposit money to the applicants and informed them that I would communicate with them as soon as I had something definite.

One day Rabbi Shemtov came to Manchester on one of his regular periodic visits. He arrived at his Lubavitch of Manchester Headquarters - my office - and I really let him know how I felt about a man who puts a friend into such a position. My reputation was such that people could usually rely on my word and, therefore, I wanted my flight!

Rabbi Shemtov blurted out the whole story. Some Satmar chassidim were anxious to visit New York and had, through a travel agent, chartered a plane for 118 people, but they did not receive the spontaneous response that they had expected, so they invited Lubavitch to join them. That was all he knew about the whole affair. This did not satisfy me, not at all. A decision had to be made. Either we had the flight to New York, or I had to apologize to the Jewish public and admit that we had been a little too ambitious.

Rabbi Shemtov suggested that I telephone the London travel agent who organized this charter to receive an update as to the status of the flight. This I duly did, and received the “latest information”: a cursory denunciation and condemnation, in the most impolite terms, of chassidim in general and Satmar chassidim in particular. The flight was called off, off, off! Mr. M. did confirm that he had a “long” list of intending passengers: six Satmars and six Lubavitchers. He was fed up with it and wiped his hands from this whole sorry and sordid affair.

When I finally managed to get in a word in the middle of his monologue, I explained with a glow of pride that he should not be so impetuous, because I had a list of over one hundred potential travelers for whom I would personally guarantee. Mr. M. would not listen to any of my arguments and entreaties. He would have none of it! He will not waste his valuable time with such fickle and unreliable individuals.

Our Own Flight

I was very disappointed, hurt and surprised, and I again reproved Rabbi Shemtov. I had made myself look very foolish. People were talking about the £35 American flight that would never leave the ground! Suddenly, like an inspiration, Rabbi Shemtov had another great idea: why bother with travel agents, let's contact the Airlines directly.

“We have passengers, money and the organization. Kling up der 'Flying Tiger,' Phone them now, at once.”

I called the Flying Tiger Airlines. Yes, they did charter planes to New York, but for the next year they were fully booked. “Ah, no - just a moment - we do have a cancellation for our July 4th flight.” A quick glance at the calendar confirmed that it was not a Shabbos or Yom Tov, but it would be during the “three weeks” and “nine days.” (This time period corresponds to a period of Jewish national mourning, when the Romans besieged Jerusalem, culminating with the Temple being destroyed in the year 69 c.e.) Rabbi Shemtov hissed into my ear “Nem doss, nem doss” (take it, take it). So I took doss.

I was a little troubled about visiting the Rebbe on these depressing days and not on a Yom Tov; but Rabbi Shemtov explained and made it very clear that, when one sees the Rebbe, sadness becomes gladness and a weekday becomes a Yom Tov. I immediately publicized to all our Lubavitcher friends and supporters the exact times and dates and other particulars.

Of the original 120 applicants 60 had to drop out right away, being that one thing or another didn't suit them.

By the middle of June we had our full complement of 118 passengers, and a waiting list of over twenty. (One of these later offered to travel in the washroom and pay full fare. One woman wished to go one way only to New York; she had received an offer of £40 for her return journey, we told her “which way she could go.”)

We of course wanted Rabbi Shemtov to accompany us on this unique occasion. He desired this too; however he was afraid to ask permission of the Rebbe, lest he receive a rebuff for even asking. So I figured I'd ask for him. The Rebbe's reply came as a postscript added on to a letter to me, dated Rosh Chodesh Sivan, 5721 (May 16, 1961):

...in which you write about your desire and suggestion that Rabbi Shemtov join and lead the group visit. Now, although it is my custom in such a case to hear also directly from the party concerned, but in view of the importance and urgency of the request, I will make an exception. My reply is that the suggestion is a very good one, unless there are some compelling reasons to the contrary. May I add that I am gratified to note that Rabbi Shemtov's work and leadership in the Lubavitch affairs in England is so well appreciated.

Last-Minute Setbacks

Four days before our scheduled departure, I received a bombshell! The airline manager phoned me on Thursday night, Tammuz 15 (June 29) from London to inform me that the flight to New York would have to be canceled. A travel agent had informed (reported) to the Air Authority in London that we were not a bona fide group. We had accepted passengers who were not members of Lubavitch or had not been members for at least six months. This was all nonsense. These travel agents were annoyed that we had potentially started a new era - chartered flights from Manchester to New York - and were frightened that these would interfere with, or actually ruin, their regular business. They decided to put an end to this new type of traffic in its infancy. They therefore made this false accusation at the very last moment, giving us no time to appeal.

This was a shocking blow, especially after all our hard work and after the minutest details had been arranged and settled. I immediately telephoned the Rebbe in Brooklyn and received his reassuring message that I need not worry, “everything would be all right. We are awaiting your arrival with keen and pleasurable anticipation.” I confess, ashamed, that I lacked faith. How could I not worry when so much was at stake? Plus, I did not relish the idea of informing my eager passengers that they had better start to unpack their suitcases.

There were two courses of action open to me: 1) discover who the travel agents were and persuade them to retract their accusations, and 2) prove to the air authority that we were a bona fide group.

Course number one was doomed to failure; but I did try. I appealed to the boss of the travel agency for my sake, for the sake of the 118 passengers, for the sake of the hundreds of friends and relatives who were awaiting our arrival and lastly, for the sake of the £4,200 which we would be collectively losing. The boss just laughed and said that we deserved it for interfering in their business. He was a hard nut and I could not crack it. We therefore concentrated on course number two.

We spent all day on Friday contacting the passengers by phone or telegram and asked them to be at my house on Sunday and bring with them all their old membership forms. We had prepared a new certificate that they would all sign then. Once I had these in my possession I was to telephone the Flying Tiger manager, Mr. Clark, who would contact the air authority and hopefully receive permission to fly to New York.

We spent a hectic, worrisome and uneasy weekend, trying to straighten out these difficulties. On Sunday, everyone was at my home and completed the necessary forms. I had telephoned Mr. Clark, but the flight was still in the balance. We still had to wait for “developments.”

The day before we were due to leave, on Monday Tammuz 19 (July 3), the Manchester Evening Chronicle printed a half-page article about our proposed trip and our difficulties. This was headed by a screaming headline “£35 NEW YORK TRIP IS IN DANGER.”

Lubavitch certainly had plenty of publicity that week. Tension was high and my poor passengers were on the phone to me every minute of the day. Was the trip on or was it off? They had heard a rumor... somebody had told them this - and that. All I could say was “the arrangements still stand” and until they actually heard from MY office they must carry out the instructions already issued to them. Even Halberstadt, the caterer, drove me crazy. If the trip was off - what would he do with the meat - alright he know the answer to that one - PICKLE IT - but what about the plastic cutlery. He would have enough to last him for 20 years.

The Big Day

I awoke very early on Tuesday morning, after a restless night. No news. Well, no news is good news! We had a quick breakfast, when suddenly - shock - a telegram arrived from New York. “MR Z JAFFE... FLIGHT IS CANCELED. WILL BE IN LONDON.”

My mind was in a whirl. In my imagination I was already shepherding the 118 tearful and weeping passengers back from the airport. The £4,300 paid to the airlines was already lost, and I was being sued by everyone for false pretenses and for the return of their money. Then I realized that the sender of the telegram was a Rabbi Halpern, who had been expected to arrive from New York with greetings and good wishes from the Rebbe. He was letting me know that his flight was canceled, not ours!

By the time I revived, it was nearly 9:00 a.m. It was now the arranged time for Bus No. 1 to call at our home for our family and friends of Cavendish Road who had congregated outside. When - shock number two - the bus ordered from the Premier Cabs not only arrived, but came exactly on time!

Up with the luggage and call for Rabbi and Mrs. Unsdorfer on our way to Parksway. We hustled them in, and were a quarter of a mile away, when we had to return. In the excitement, the Unsdorfers had left the front door of their unoccupied house wide open!

From then onward things went almost according to plan. The three buses picked up all the passengers, and, after the usual delays and waiting for latecomers, we were really on our way.

For the occasion of this trip, we printed special bentcher booklets to be distributed to all the passengers. On the front cover of the bentchers was a place to write in the name of the passenger, it was thus also used as a passenger “ticket.”

At the airport, all was chaos and excitement. Crowds came to see us off; perhaps they could not believe we were actually on our way. I introduced myself to the representatives of the Flying Tiger and the BEA [British European Airways] and, with their help and cooperation, it did not take too long to weigh the baggage and check in the travelers. By 11:45 a.m. it was confirmed that everyone had gone through, and we congratulated each other on a job done well and quickly.

I forget about myself

“By the way,” says the person checking us all in, “just as a matter of routine, I better check your passport. Just routine, you know.”

He looks at my passport, and then at me, and he says, “I'm sorry, Mr. Jaffe you will not be allowed to go!”

Of course, I realize, he must be joking. Ha! Ha! I, the group leader, cannot go. Ha! Ha! Must be a joke. It's got to be a joke. Good gracious! The fellow is serious! He says my passport expired two weeks ago, and this invalidates my American visa. If they do allow me to fly, and I am considered to have entered the States illegally, they must bring me straight back. As they are a charter company and have no scheduled flights, they cannot do this and would be liable to a fine of $5,000 for every day I remain in America. So - it's been very nice meeting me, but there is nothing he can do about it.

It is nearly 12:00 p.m. and the plane must be off. I appeal to the immigration officers, but they are not helpful. As far as they are concerned, I can go even on my expired passport. I have an idea: I will phone the American Consul, Hello! Hello! Hello! HELLO! But It's July 4th - American Independence Day - so there is no reply.

The BEA fellow is helpful, very helpful indeed. He had found that I can get to Liverpool, extend my passport, and then get the 10: 00 p.m. BOAC jet that evening, which would arrive only five hours after the group and, for just £85 it was a bargain! My mind was in a daze by then; but I must explain everything to my wife.

Okay, Roselyn, everything is now in order: you and Hindy carry on and I will be along later. All right, don't get excited, relax and keep calm. KEEP CALM, for goodness sake! It's time to leave now. Everyone's going mad, everybody is shouting. Everyone that is except Rabbi Shemtov, who remarks quietly, “Don't worry, everything will be alright!” I feel he must be going crackers, too!

But then, Moishie Pfeffer tugs my arm and says, “Come with me, Zalmon. I had this experience before and I think I know the way out” (I thought yes, that's the way I am going). He took me back to the immigration officers and got permission to speak to the chief of the passport office at Liverpool. He in turn gave permission and instructions to the officers to extend my passport for three months.

So, at last, everything was in order. We eventually took off from Manchester on our four-engine propeller plane at 12:30 p.m., half an hour late.

Airborne

After all the trials and tribulations we were actually airborne. Everyone was seated in his or her allotted place. There was plenty of room and leg space, and all seemed pleased with their neighbors. The first impressive moment was when Rabbi Unsdorfer read the tefilas haderech aloud in Hebrew, and then the English translation. Many of the passengers felt greatly reassured, and all settled down for a pleasant flight to New York.

After traveling for an hour-and-a-half, we landed at Shannon Airport, Ireland, in order to refuel for our long haul to Gander, Newfoundland, Canada, which would be eight hours flying time away. Everyone dashed for the duty-free shops to buy cigarettes, liquor and perfume. The plane was supposed to leave at 4:00, which gave us two hours in Shannon, so meanwhile we davened mincha in the lounge.

I wondered why we remained in Shannon for two hours, when we had only flown for an hour-and-a-half. I discovered later that while in Ringway Airport in Manchester, a forklift truck had crashed into the plane whilst loading up our baggage, and had made a small hole in the fuselage. They were now trying to patch this up.

We left on time, but it was 4:15 before we could unfasten our seat belts and relax. It was over eight hours since most of us had eaten. We were famished, and I could see that it would take the three stewardesses over an hour to serve the 118 passengers. I conscripted my daughter Hindy, DavidKessler, Harold Glickman, Martin Weinberg, Irvin Landau and Mr. Ravits to assist in “Operation Hunger Relief,” and in ten minutes all had received their luscious food parcels. Rabbi Unsdorfer made the official hamotzie, and everyone praised the sumptuous and plentiful food. Fortunately, I had warned the stewardesses to serve black coffee only. (We did, however, receive a complaint from someone who was refused milk for her eleven-month-old baby who made up the 119th passenger.) After lunch, we had communal bentching, everyone using their own bentchers, and singing with gusto and kavono.

I then announced that Dayan Golditch would give a shiur on Tanya in ENGLISH! [In 1961, the Tanya had not yet been translated into English and it was not too often one could participate in an English class onTanya.] Here the stewardesses interrupted and asked the members to please fasten their seatbelts. A storm was expected - but it seems that when it saw a planeload of Lubavitcher chassidim it ran away. Rabbi Spector then treated us to a talk on the sedra, followed by chumash and Rashi by Rabbi Unsdorfer. Tehillim, niggunim and other songs followed. It was remarkable that with such a diversity of characters - twelve rabbonim, men and women, boys and girls, orthodox and not so orthodox, they should all unite and combine together to form one happy family and group of people, all interested in each other and forming and cementing friendships. Only one person complained. He said it was worse than Yom Kippur, when at least one could open the door and leave theshul!

The crew and stewardesses were wonderful. They said they had never had such a happy group of people and it was a lovely experience for them. Afterwards, when I offered them a tip, they refused it. They were not allowed to accept gratuities, but if we insisted on giving them money, they would be honored if we would accept it back - for our synagogue.

We stopped at Gander, Newfoundland to daven maariv - that wasn't the real reason! - and we settled down for the last five-hour journey to Idelwild, New York [now called JFK]. The small hole made by the forklift back in Manchester had affected the air conditioning, and it was now becoming uncommonly hot and stuffy. We had “drunk the plane dry.” Not even a drop of water was to be had. I walked to the front of the plane and, looking along the length of the plane, all I could discern was a sea of red, flushing and perspiring faces, some gasping for air. The coolest place was in the rear. Crowds congregated there, talking and chatting. The Captain kept sending urgent messages, “the plane is dragging due to the additional weight at the back, and it is dangerous.”

My watch showed 6:30 but it was actually only 1:30 a.m. New York time when we arrived there - eighteen-and-a-half hours journey, twenty-one hours since we left our homes.

The plane door was opened and we all filed out, to be greeted by a “heavenly choir” singing Uforatzto and other niggunim. The railing on the roof of the terminal building was lined with over 100 men and boys chanting a welcome. One stewardess was so moved by this reception that she burst into tears. We literally danced our way through immigration and customs and everyone crowded into the buses, which were lined up outside the airport.

Arrival at 770

It was nearly 3:00 in the morning when we finally arrived at 770 Eastern Parkway, the headquarters of the Lubavitcher movement. Refreshments had been thoughtfully provided for us and whilst about 400 people who were present were singing niggunim, friends and relatives were being reunited.

What a thrill and reward it was for me to see families that had in some cases not seen each other in thirty years or more, weeping and crying for joy, and blessing those who had made this £35 flight possible.

Since our last visit, a newshul had been opened at 770. It was below street level, and there was now standing room for about 1500 people. This made it possible to have all the farbrengens in 770; there was no longer a need to book an outside hall.

A Royal Welcome - 3:30 A.M.

About one month before we embarked on this trip I sent a telegram to the Rebbe, inquiring about the possibility of having the Rebbe receive the entire group upon arrival. I received the following letter from the Rebbe's secretary, dated the 27th of Sivan, 5721 (June 11, 1961):

I am directed to acknowledge receipt of your cable about the possibility of the entire group being received by the Rebbe shlita on arrival.

It is difficult to say anything definite at this time, since the date and time of arrival have not been finalized. However, when the group is about to board the plane, and perhaps from the actual flight, you will surely advise us of the exact hour of arrival, and then the question will be given consideration. You should bear in mind, however, that if the actual arrival of the group is at an inconvenient hour, and especially if the travelers may be weary from the journey, it may not be well advised to arrange an immediate reception by the Rebbe shlita. Needless to say, the travelers themselves should also be consulted, as it would not do to make them feel that they have been imposed upon.

I then read the postscript. It stated:

Since writing the above, your letter came with additional information about the trip, the arrival time expected to be between 10 p.m. and 1 a.m. The Rebbe shlita wishes me to state that there would be no objection on his part, but the decision rests with you, in the light of what has been written above. When you have made a decision, please notify, preferably by cable.

A quick consensus revealed that our passengers were very much in favor of such a unique and generous honor immediately upon arrival.

We were now indeed waiting for that moment, the highlight of our visit, our first meeting with our beloved and revered Lubavitcher Rebbe.

At 3:30 a.m. on the dot, there was a sudden hush, an almost unnatural silence, and a passageway was miraculously cleared in the midst of the tightly packed crowd of men and boys who lined the side of the hall.

What a thrilling moment as, with head erect and with light but resolute steps, the Lubavitcher Rebbe strode to the dais and seated himself in solitary state at the table, surrounded by a semi-circle of about fifty rabbonim. He gave a wonderful and welcoming smile to me.

Everyone drank to his health and said “l'chaim” and the Rebbe replied to each one with “L'chaim v'livrocho.” That the Rebbe should welcome us personally at 3:30 in the morning was a remarkable and unprecedented honor and a stimulating experience. We were all very conscious of this extraordinary gesture.

We had come a long way to see this saintly and brilliant person and we were not disappointed. Wearing a black soft felt hat with the brim turned down at the front, a neat black beard tinged with gray, and an occasional humorous twinkle showing in his eyes, he had a vivid personality and looked younger than his fifty-nine years.

He greeted us with “Sholom Aleichem,” and we replied with “Aleichem Sholom.” He then explained that in those two phrases were contained all blessings, including that of B'ruchim Haboim. For it says in the Mishnathat peace is the vessel that contains G-d's blessings. Peace and unity are channels through which the Jew draws down upon himself G-d's blessings in the fullest measure - the kind of blessings which only G-d can bestow and which, therefore, satisfy all our needs both materially and spiritually.

This is so, even when one single Jew meets and greets another single Jew. When, kein ayin horah, so many Jews are greeting each other tonight and hearing a discourse on Torah, then the blessings showered upon them are increased immeasurably.

It is now during the “Three Weeks,” and our sages tell us that the Temple was destroyed because of sinas chinum (baseless hatred). How often do we hear the expression, “Oh, I can't bear the sight of that fellow,” even though we hardly know (and maybe have never spoken to) “that fellow.” We should bear in mind that there is good in every Jew.

Many Jews practice ahavas Hashem and many practice ahavas Yisroel, but they must be practiced simultaneously; one is no good without the other. The Jew who goes to shul three times a day and dislikes his fellow man is no better then the Jew who likes his fellow being but keeps no other mitzvos at all. A truly genuine, honest and religious Jew who loves his Maker will most certainly love his fellow Jew, because G-d says “V'ohavto l'raiacho komocho.”

We must transform sinas chinum into ahavas chinum (baseless love), loving a fellow Jew only because he is a Jew, because he has the potential of performing good deeds and, as a Jew, has the obligation and potential to perform the mitzvos, especially the mitzvos of Shabbos, of tefillin and, above all, of giving tzedakah. [This last, by the way, is of the highest importance and must be given daily. No one can measure the rewards of giving tzedakah, and at least one-penny per day must be donated to charity.]

When that time comes, the Rebbe concluded, when we will love all fellow Jews, not out of gratitude for kindness received or in anticipation of a returned favor, but for absolutely no reason at all, then we can expect the rebuilding of the Temple and the coming of Moshiach. May it be very soon and in our time, Amen.

(This is the basis of the Lubavitcher doctrine. Every Jew is important, whether religious or not, whether male or female, whether he lives in a city or at the outposts of civilization. He can always grow in his spirituality.)

In the last eleven years [since the Rebbe ascended to the leadership in 1950], Lubavitcher yeshivos, Talmudei Torah and schools have been founded in many countries in Europe, North Africa, Canada, Australia, South America and the United States. In Israel, an entire new neighborhood is being built. This is in addition to the Chabad village called Kfar Chabad, and numerous schools and yeshivos are making splendid progress in every part of that country.

In the United States alone, there are fifteen academies that attend to the education of 16,000 youngsters. On June 28 of this year [1961], the New York Herald Tribune stated that “the Lubavitcher educational movement is recognized as the largest international Jewish educational institution of its type in the world, reaching 30,000 youngsters.”

Lubavitch has its own printing and publishing facility, Kehot Publication Society, which is really colossal. Millions of books on every aspect of Judaism are published there, and sent all over the world.

Lubavitch has its own free loan society, summer camps for boys and for girls, and vocational schools where boys learn and study half the day and are taught a trade for the rest of the day.

The Rebbe personally carries out the complicated business of running this huge organization. He has two private secretaries. Rabbi Chodakov, who is also his personal gabbai (assistant), has his own office, keeps long hours and works tremendously hard. He is a brilliant orator and statesman, about sixty years of age. Dr. Nissan Mindel is the other private secretary. He attends to all the English correspondences and is a prolific writer. He is about forty-five years of age and the editor of the famous Lubavitcher Talks and Tales.

Additionally, there are six general secretaries, all rabbonim, in the main office; and the four telephones are constantly ringing day and night.

Besides all this, the Rebbe receives a fantastic amount of private mail from individuals all over the globe, written in many different languages, asking for advice, help, guidance and/or brochos for someone.

All this personal mail is handled by the Rebbe himself. One is astounded to see the huge bundles of unopened letters - mostly in air-mail envelopes - which are taken into the Rebbe's office for attention every day. Yes, even after the conclusion of Shabbos, before he goes home, the Rebbe starts on the bundles. Otherwise he would soon get far behind. When someone is anxiously awaiting the Rebbe's reply, this would never do.

In addition to the personal mail the Rebbe receives, three times a week he has private audiences or yechidus, as it is called. These start at 8:00 in the evening and carry on without a pause until the next morning, sometimes as late as 8:00 a.m.! Neither a drop of water nor a particle of food passes the Rebbe's lips during this period. As soon as one person comes out, the next one goes in. And the next morning, at the end of that “day's” work, the Rebbe is as fit and as fresh as he was at 8:00 the previous evening. He arrives at his office, at about 10:00 a.m., and carries on with his regular daily routines.

Quite a lot has been said and written about the wonderful achievements of the Rebbe and the remarkable insight he has. This holy person has such a tremendous gift of being able to discern the correct way to solve a problem, to give just the right brocha or the correct advice when it is needed. It has been attributed to him that he can perform miracles. I consider myself a common-sense type of guy, who only believes what he can see, and these stories of the supernatural should leave me cold. However, I can talk to you for hours of the wonderful brochos that have materialized. At the beginning it was always “a coincidence,” but it happens too often. Amongst my own friends and acquaintances, practically every week one or two people come into my office asking me to write to the Rebbe for them, for his help, guidance and brochos. For all the miracles, the Rebbe himself never encourages talk about miracles.

(I will now continue with my story).

The Rebbe gave another talk; there was some further singing led by Rabbi Dubov (of Manchester) and at 4:30 a.m., to the lively tune of “kee v'simcha tzei'seiu,” the Rebbe stood up and left the hall. The kabolas ponim was over.

Now the mad rush started for home. Taxis were at a premium and independent, but at 5:30, I finally saw my last passenger on his way. The only casualty was Martin Weinberg. Mrs. Simon had gone off with his suitcase and left hers instead. This was not much use to him, as it contained only ladies' apparel and chocolates. He left with his briefcase which contained only his tallis and tefillin, documents and money. I suppose it could have been worse had Mrs. Simon gone off with the briefcase too. She had his trousers, but to take his tallis and tefillin - well, that would have been too much!

Our friends in Crown Heights had gone on vacation and we had taken over their apartment, so we didn't have very far to go.

It was nearly 6:00, so first we davened shacharis and then we went to bed.

Events and Daily Routine

At 10:00 a.m. the phones started ringing and never seemed to stop until we left for home two weeks later. The BBC wanted to interview us, (they would like to see us singing and dancing! I just felt in that mood!) Reuters wanted to interview me; Martin Weinberg wanted his suitcase. And where was Mrs. Simon? By Thursday, Tammuz 22 (July 6), I had established a routine. Shacharis at 770 was at 9:00 a.m. The students were usually up and learning by 7:30, then had tea and cake. Mondays and Thursdays, the Rebbe came in to hear kriyas hatorah and he always received an aliyah.

There was always so much activity at 770, and I don't mean just all the different minyonim that started before and after the official 9:30 one, (there was an early one at 7:30.) At whatever time you arrived, until 11:30 a.m., you could get a minyan or a borchu or kedusha.

I generally got back home at noon just in time for brunch. Too late for breakfast, yet too early for lunch. Martin Weinberg was still searching for Mrs. Simon. Yes, and he seemed to blame me, too.

At 3:15 p.m. every day the Rebbe davened Mincha and at 9:33 maariv. Yes, 9:33 on the dot. The Rebbe is a terrific timekeeper. He had to have aseder, otherwise he would not get his work done. He says that a good seder halves his work, and it sometimes still takes him twenty-three hours. You can imagine if he had no seder! (Perhaps it is for this very reason that the Rebbe never keeps the minyan waiting at kriyas shema and always is one of the first to finish the amidah.)

Thursday night, Tammuz 22 (July 6), was a yechidus night. The Rebbe's first appointment was at 8:00 p.m. and he had many Manchester people waiting to see him. I had arranged nearly forty meetings for our group, commencing on that night and continuing throughout the following week. These had to fit in with his other appointments. Dayan Golditch went in at 2:45 a.m. and did not leave until 2½ hours later. The Unsdorfers followed and they left at 6:30 a.m.

By the way, the Rebbe speaks many languages fluently.

Shabbos Parshas Pinchas

For Friday night, we had invited fourteen guests for Shabbos dinner. With us that made eighteen. The cooking arrangements were very simple: we ordered the complete dinner, and it was all delivered at 5: 00 p.m. We had a lovely Shabbos meal and everyone was happy. At 12:30 after midnight, we had to wake everybody up to send them home.

Shacharis on Shabbos normally starts at 10:00 but on Shabbos Mevorchim, as per the Lubavitcher custom, the whole book of Tehillim is recited from 8:30 until 10:00, therefore davening starts at 10:30 and ends at about 12:15. On certain Shabbosim, and always on Shabbos Mevorchim, the Rebbe holds a farbrengen at 1: 30. Since today, Tammuz24 (July 8), was Shabbos Mevorchim, as soon as davening was over we dashed home to have lunch. It was eat, when and what you can. We didn't do too badly mind you. (In fact, whilst with the Rebbe in Brooklyn, you had to eat and sleep whenever you could. There was usually not enough time.)

We returned to the hall - to 770 - just a minute before the Rebbe came in at 1:30. The Rebbe made Kiddush silently, and then the procedure was very much like the first meeting we had, but on a larger scale. However, today with most regulars out of town on vacation, there were probably only about 500 people present. On other occasions, such as the Yud Beis Tammuz celebration, there would be as many as 2000 people.

Yud Beis Tammuz - the 12th of Tammuz - is the anniversary of the Previous Rebbe's release from Soviet jail in 1927, where he had been under sentence of death for deliberately and continually ignoring the Communist authorities prohibition of religious instruction to children and teenagers. [Ed. note: For a full account of this historical event, see The Heroic Struggle by Kehot Publication Society.]

At farbrengens, the Rebbe is in complete control. There are no other speakers and no chairman. In any case, we obviously only want to hear the Rebbe when he is there.

This farbrengen lasted until about 5:00 p.m. and the Rebbe delivered six sichas, about twenty minutes each, on the sedra and other timely themes. Additionally, the Rebbe said a maamar for about forty minutes. I confess that I found some of the sichas very tough. Of the maamar I could only understand about 10%. Yet to see the Rebbe giving his maamar, with his eyes closed, in his special maamar niggun, and all the people standing perfectly still for the whole forty minutes, is a most impressive sight, and is an inspiration to everyone present.

On Motzoei Shabbos there was a melave malka in our honor. This was combined with a farewell party to seventy boys who were going out on the Rebbe's shlichus. They are traveling in pairs to Central America, Mexico and all over the United States. My son Avrohom was supposed to go to Texas, but decided to stay with us until we left for home. (He subsequently went to Alabama, Indianapolis and Chicago. He sold seforim, spoke in summer schools and even persuaded one boy to join a Yeshiva in Boston.)

At this melave malka there were about 250 people present and the press was well represented. The Rebbe does not attend these functions. It was really exciting to hear people giving first-hand reports from all over the world: Paris, Milan, Manchester, London, Sidney, Melbourne, Rio de Janeiro and Jerusalem, to name a few.

Finally, a gentleman with a big bushy beard spoke about progress being made. This speaker is a Professor of Philosophy at Rutgers University and had recently become a Lubavitcher chossid.

Many of the American newspapers carried full reports about our activities and meetings. The New York Telegram said, “Mr. Jaffe spoke in clipped English,” while the Yiddish Der Tug Morgan Journal said I spoke in “Oxford English!” No comment.

Postponed Brocha

We had a significant experience on the following day, Sunday Tammuz 25 (July 9). Rabbi and Mrs. Alperin, a young couple, were being sent by the Rebbe to Brazil. The couple was taking over the directorship of the Rio de Janeiro Talmud Torah, where there were over 300 children studying.

Avrohom suggested that we go to 770 and see them off, as the Rebbe was sure to bid them “farewell,” as was his custom with all new emissaries upon their departure from 770. We waited from 2:15 until 3:00, and although the Rebbe was nearby in his office, he never came out or even showed himself at his window, which faces Eastern Parkway. The poor couple had to leave without the Rebbe's brocha. I admitted to Roselyn that I was a little disappointed. After all, here was a couple who were leaving their hometown for a strange land, and probably going there for good! Still I suppose the Rebbe knows his business!

When we returned to 770 at 8:00, the first people we bumped into were Rabbi and Mrs. Alperin. We were dumbfounded. They explained to us that they were already on the plane, and the plane had actually started on the runway, when due to a technical fault they had to disembark. The flight was now delayed for forty-eight hours. When they finally did leave forty-eight hours later, the Rebbe did say the special farewell to them.

Our Yechidus

On Sunday night we entered the Rebbe's room for our private yechidus.

We offered our grateful thanks to the Rebbe for honoring us all (the travelers) with a kabolas ponim at 3:30 in the morning, it was a wonderful gesture.

The Rebbe was keenly interested in some of the behind-the-scene details of the chartered flight. I told the Rebbe, that we had actually made £550 profit for our Lubavitch activities. (This, even with the trip being so ridiculously cheap!) The Rebbe took an interest in the seating plan from the plane, the bentchers we used as tickets and yarmulkahs we distributed among the passengers. I also showed the Rebbe his welcome sicha, now printed up nicely, which we intended to give out on the return flight.

I was very humbled when the Rebbe told me, “you are a 'trail blazer', do not worry about any negative reactions you may get.” The Rebbe also gave me this brocha: “Since everything you do is successful, your business too will be successful.”

The Rebbe conveyed to me that Rabbi Shemtov will be going back with our flight.

The Rebbe was obviously pleased when I mentioned that now, “the entire city of Manchester knows about Lubavitch, no, all of England!”

About our son Avrohom starting to learn for s'micha now, the Rebbe said the yeshiva will allow him a two month s'micha trial period, for which we were very thankful indeed.

The Rebbe said that Hindy should try to get her diploma before age twenty-one, but then added “she will probably be married by twenty-one!”

We always received good advice and guidance from the Rebbe, in our personal as well as communal work. We felt lucky to receive guidance from such a saintly friend.