At 4:00 AM, the Rebbe Pulled a Gemara off the Shelf, and Began Learning with a Passion…
June 5, 2019
Beis Moshiach in #1169, Feature, Shavuos, Talmud Torah

Short stories about the Rebbe’s passion and craving for Torah Study.

By Yaakov Kam


Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Groner, shliach in Charlotte, North Carolina, son of the Rebbe’s secretary, R’ Leibel Groner, related:

As the son of one of the secretaries, my brother and I would play in the hallway next to the Rebbe’s room and I would sometimes notice unusual things. For example, I saw the Rebbe learning in his room. It was on Chol Hamoed. The Rebbe returned from shacharis, went to his room, and immediately sat down to learn with his tallis still on his shoulders. The chair was off to the side, not where it was in yechidus, and the Rebbe opened – I think it was a Gemara or Shulchan Aruch, and began to learn.


Rabbi Ephraim Piekarski related that before the “shalash” (temporary structure between 770 & 784 until they were eventually connected) was built, there were two windows in the Rebbe’s room that faced the back (not the windows that face Eastern Parkway; these two windows were towards Kingston, behind the Rebbe’s seat). Sometimes, the windows were open and you could see into the Rebbe’s room.

One time, after having drunk some mashke, I wanted to see what the Rebbe did after hakafos, all the dancing, the farbrengen, and the niggun that he taught. I wanted to know what the Rebbe does at four in the morning after many hours of presiding over the simcha.

I stood there near the window and saw that when the Rebbe entered his room, he immediately removed his hat, threw it off to the side, and took out a Gemara from the bookcase and simply began learning with such desire…


Rabbi Chaim Sholom Deitsch, rosh kollel of the Kollel Tzemach Tzedek in Yerushalayim, repeated things he heard from the Rebbe while he was in yechidus, which showed how much the Rebbe cared about the kollel members having a chayus in their learning:

“In Lubavitch and Kremenchug there were no kollelim. The founding of kollelim was for those who have a koch (passion) in learning, so they would have the ability to continue doing so. I went through the anthology [that was written and published by the members of the Tzemach Tzedek kollel] from beginning to end and did not see a koch in learning. They raise a difficulty, and a straight head comes up with a straight answer, but where is the challenge to the answer? Where is the proof to rebut the challenge?  It itself (the anthology) is just paper, but this proves that there is no koch in learning.”

The Rebbe went on to say, “They come on time and leave on time. ‘They do their work faithfully,’ but there is no koch in learning. Kollel has turned into a parnassa; true, a refined parnassa. Some deal in diamonds and precious gems but without a koch in diamonds and the same is true for kollel; true, they learn, but there is no koch in learning.”

The Rebbe then said how the learning is supposed to be:

“When he walks in the street, he needs to stop another Jew and say to him: Today, a certain reasoning fell into my mind.” The Rebbe repeated this line again and again and said that a kollel member ought to say, “An idea fell into my mind in the words of Sumchus.”  Still, the Rebbe did not withhold words of encouragement. “If there will be a koch in learning in Tzemach Tzedek, which miraculously remained complete with all its walls [despite the Jordanians having destroyed all the other synagogues in the Old City of Yerushalayim] it will make a tremendous impact throughout the world.” The Rebbe said this line with great emotion and added, “And then money won’t be lacking (for the kollel).”


Rabbi Yitzchok Meir Hertz of England related:

I once submitted to the Rebbe a detailed plan by which the bachurim in yeshiva would finish all of Shas in four years. I prepared this plan after, in my youth, the Rebbe told me to learn all of Shas with Tosfos. From this I learned that the Rebbe wants every bachur to do the same.

The Rebbe answered, “The matter is most correct but seemingly is beyond their abilities.”


R’ Hertz added:

When my father had yechidus in 5721, he said, “If Chabad bachurim would learn, they could conquer the world.”

The Rebbe’s response was: I demand this of them.


Rabbi Yaakov Katz a’h, rosh yeshiva of Tomchei Tmimim in Kfar Chabad, related:

In a yechidus, the Rebbe said: The job of roshei yeshiva, mashgichim, mashpiim is to get the bachurim to learn with energy and enthusiasm.

The Rebbe went on to say with a questioning voice, “Ai, there are other additional things like mivtzaim and spreading the wellsprings?”

He immediately answered in a tone of answering a question: During times that it won’t interfere with the learning schedule, erev Shabbos afternoon etc.


Rabbi Chaim Ciment, principal of Yeshivas Achei Tmimim in Boston told of a yechidus when he was a yeshiva bachur:

In 5711, Rabbi Mentlick, the rosh yeshiva would ask select talmidim to go to the Rebbe right after mincha or maariv. On these occasions, the Rebbe would ask the talmid to choose an area in Nigleh or Chassidus that he voluntarily will delve into with vigor.  After he will choose on his own, the Rebbe will assign him (and the bachur is committed to take upon himself) a specific topic to learn over a period of time, as an addition to his regular studies during the yeshiva schedule.

One day, R’ Mentlick told me to go to the Rebbe. I went, and I think the Rebbe was still holding his gartel (it was right after davening) and sitting at his place and he said: They say you have a good head, and since they have instituted the practice, in order to increase the vigor in learning, to suggest an increase in learning in Nigleh or Chassidus, what would you want?

I asked: Generally, in Chassidus it’s explained that if a person has an inclination or desire for a certain thing, it is usually coming from the animal soul and therefore, he ought to do the opposite of his first inclination. Perhaps that should be the case here too and I should commit to something that is the opposite of what I am initially inclined toward?

The Rebbe said that learning has a rule that a person should learn what he desires, for then he will be more successful in his learning.


R’ Leibel Groner related:

The Rebbe once said to me that a talmid’s actions to hasten the Geula are through diligence in Torah study.

I remember an instance in which the rosh yeshiva complained to me, why does the Rebbe have dollars given out by tankistim (as was the practice at the end of weekday farbrengens) and not by those who learned Gemara and Chassidus or memorized so-and-so many pages of Gemara by heart? This makes it seem as though mivtzaim are more precious to the Rebbe and more important than learning Gemara. He asked me to ask the Rebbe and when I was able to, I conveyed these thoughts without mentioning who asked the question.

The Rebbe said: I don’t understand. That a talmid in yeshiva should learn diligently and review pages of Gemara and maamarei Chassidus by heart, that’s a given. Without that, he is not a yeshiva talmid! But when I came and added a request, that in their free time the talmidim should do mivtzaim, that needs encouragement.

The Rebbe said: I would be embarrassed if I had to talk and demonstrate in public, before all and sundry, that there is a special regard for someone who keeps the sedarim of the yeshiva and learns what is expected of him, so much so that he receives a special reward.  That should be obvious!


In Av 5743, members of the editorial board of “Haoros HaTmimim V’Anash” wrote to the Rebbe that the booklets that had been published until that point had been funded by the tmimim and Anash since there was nobody else to fund it. They said they could no longer carry this burden and had to close down.

The Rebbe answered: Obviously, the financial burden is not meant for your shoulders at all, and their concern is like a donkey to its burden of learning Torah, Nigleh and Chassidus, and to grow in it.  And they should not take upon themselves the burden of others, as should be easily understood.  And they will receive reward for the abstention.


Rabbi Aharon Yaakov Schwei, mara d’asra and member of the beis of Crown Heights, related:

One of the mashgichim in Tomchei Tmimim had yechidus and asked the Rebbe: How can we get the bachurim to be immersed in learning when they have no ambition to become “gedolim?”

The Rebbe answered: My strong, firm, powerful desire is that bachurim know how to learn. Learning Nigleh with a “Chassidishe lo lishma (not for its own sake)”  is possible in three ways: 1) To understand Chassidus better, 2) So that it helps in mivtzaim (“know how to respond…”), and 3) To be mekushar to the Rebbe.


R’ Yehoshua Zelig Feldman a’h related that in a yechidus the Rebbe said to him: Nowadays, the main avoda is to learn a lot of Nigleh and a lot of Chassidus, to flood the world with Torah.


The Rebbe said to a bachur in yechidus that the serious problem associated with three days that pass without Torah study also refers to three days without learning in depth.


In 5744, a Lubavitcher from Brooklyn wrote the Rebbe a question about a personal matter. The matter seemed urgent to him and he wrote “express” on it.

The Rebbe answered the question and then added a handwritten note which said: It would be worthwhile that you write (occasionally) and even express, that you have set times for Torah and they are etc. etc.


To a Chassid who complained of mara shechora (a gloomy temperament), the Rebbe said: Use your mara shechora (which tends to cause a person to be more introverted) for Torah study.


The Rebbe once said in a yechidus to Rabbi Yosef Goldberg, rosh yeshiva of the Chabad yeshiva in Brunoy: It’s shameful when a bachur is asked about a Tosfos, a Shaagas Aryeh, and he doesn’t know it.


The Rebbe told one of the shluchim in connection to his established times for learning that while learning, he should treat the telephone the way he does on Shabbos. â– 

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