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Wednesday
Apr242013

HE’S A NEW REBBE EVERY DAY

Reb Leibel Groner offers us a rare glimpse into the Rebbe’s inner sanctum, along with some lessons we can draw from the Rebbe’s tireless devotion to the welfare of others.

The way of the world, when they want to speak about the Rebbe’s greatness, is to focus on the Rebbe’s achievements and uniqueness as a great leader, tremendous scholar, tzaddik, etc. Allow me, as someone whose job it was to let people in to see the Rebbe, to bring you into the Rebbe’s room. There you can try and see a little bit of how the Rebbe dealt with things and you will be able to learn a lesson about how to conduct your own life.

When R’ Moshe Leib Rodstein, my wife’s uncle, lived in Poland before World War II, he served as the secretary of the Rebbe Rayatz. His job was to type the letters the Rebbe wrote and to send them to the addressees. After the war, when he arrived in the United States, he continued working for the Rebbe Rayatz. After the passing of the Rebbe Rayatz, the Rebbe asked him to stay on in his job, which he did until he passed away.

R’ Moshe Leib once told me, “It is hard to understand. When an apprentice trains under an electrician, carpenter or the like, after a while he learns the trade and opens his own business. I thought that after working for the Rebbeim for many years that I’d learn the profession of Admurus and would be able to open my own Admurus and be a Rebbe.”

I asked him why this hadn’t happened. He said, “I saw a new Rebbe every day! The Rebbe of today is not the Rebbe of yesterday.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Every day, I saw new giluyim and new conduct on the part of the Rebbe. Each day, there were things I had never seen before. So I could never learn the trade and I did not become a Rebbe.”

***

There was a Chassid by the name of R’ Yochanan Gordon. He was the gabbai in 770 and was the treasurer of the Shomrei Shabbos gemach. During his nesius, the Rebbe Rayatz was the president of the gemach. After his histalkus on 10 Shevat, the current Rebbe became the president.

Once a year, R’ Yochanan would give a report to the Rebbe with a list of what had been accomplished. The report included the number of donors and investors in the gemach, how many people received loans, the amounts of the loans, and most importantly – how many borrowers were able to repay their loans.

R’ Yochanan told us that each time he gave a report to the Rebbe Rayatz he was thanked and given a warm smile. In the first year of the nesius, he had to submit a report to the successor, the Rebbe. He wrote up the report and in comparison with the reports of previous years he noticed that that year more people had contributed to the gemach. This enabled him to give out bigger loans to more people and most importantly, many more people repaid their loans than previously.

R’ Yochanan said: I thought to myself that if when the report wasn’t as stellar, I got such a nice smile from the Rebbe Rayatz, it was hard to imagine how the Rebbe would react now! But when I went to the Rebbe and gave him the report, he went over each line and then said, “R’ Yochanan, you couldn’t do more?”

The Rebbe saw the confusion on his face, for he had been expecting a big thank you, and he said: R’ Yochanan, why don’t you learn from me?

R’ Yochanan did not understand what the Rebbe meant and the Rebbe went on: At night, before going to sleep, we say the bedtime Shma. Chassidus tells us to make a spiritual accounting at this time. We sum up our actions and achievements of the previous day: What did we achieve? What more could have been done? Were our actions and achievements worthy? What required change and what required improvement?

R’ Yochanan told us what the Rebbe then said: Every night, when I make an accounting, I say to myself: Is that all you did? You didn’t accomplish more than that?

Let us stop for a moment and describe the Rebbe’s day. The Rebbe worked twenty hours a day! We, members of the secretariat, were witnesses to that. The Rebbe used his time to learn, to read and respond to letters, and much more. On nights when there were no private audiences, the Rebbe would leave 770 between eleven and twelve at night, but he did not leave without taking a big bag of mail that had come that day, that he hadn’t found the time to answer.

The next morning, when he arrived at 770, he would bring a pile of answers that he had taken care of during the night. The Rebbetzin once told us that when she noticed that the Rebbe did not sleep much at night, she asked him how he had the strength to do his work. The Rebbe told her: Do you want me to sleep in a bed when people are waiting for an answer from me? I can’t do that. So the Rebbe took home a pile of letters.

A typical yechidus night ended at three-four in the morning. The Rebbe would go home for a few hours and immediately return to 770.

One year, 1600 guests came from all over the world to spend Tishrei with the Rebbe. One day of Chol HaMoed Sukkos, the Rebbe told me that after Simchas Torah or Shabbos B’Reishis the guests would be going home, and before they left, he wanted to see them.

This was a very brief span of time. I said, Rebbe, 1600 people in one night? How can we do that? I suggested dividing the yechidus over two nights, some on Tuesday night and some on Wednesday night. The Rebbe agreed.

I did a raffle to see who would go in on the first night and who on the second night. The Rebbe began yechidus at eight in the evening and finished at 10:30 in the morning, fourteen and a half hours without a break!

Afterward, I went to the Rebbe and said I had a request. I said I had not anticipated that yechidus would take so long, and I wanted to postpone the second night of yechidus to Thursday night.

“Why?” asked the Rebbe.

“So the Rebbe will have some time to rest.”

The Rebbe said it was a very good idea, but the people who were waiting for yechidus lived overseas. If we postponed yechidus to Thursday, they would not be able to return home in time for Shabbos. In Eretz Yisroel, Sunday is a regular workday. So if they waited until Thursday night for yechidus, they would have to stay over Shabbos and not be with their families for Shabbos and the guests from Eretz Yisroel would lose another workday.

“Do you expect me to do this?” asked the Rebbe. “There will be no changes. We will start yechidus tonight at eight o’clock.”

The Rebbe davened Wednesday morning, went home for a few hours, returned, davened Mincha, and then went to his usual workday schedule, which included learning, reading and responding to mail, and more. At eight o’clock, yechidus began and it ended at eleven Thursday morning – fifteen hours!

***

Since 5711, the Rebbe did not go on vacation for even a single day. When I tell people that the Rebbe never took a day off, they ask me what I mean. I explain that I mean it literally. The Rebbe was in his office every day including Shabbos. On Yomim Tovim he was in his office and also on Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur.

I once spoke to a group of balabatim. One man asked: I don’t understand. I thought the Rebbe was a Shomer Shabbos! How could he be in his office on Shabbos, Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur?

I told him it was a good question and that I would have to describe the Rebbe’s office to him. The Rebbe’s office was not a place of business. The Rebbe learned in his office, davened, gave brachos, advised, and gave instructions. The Rebbe told us (the secretariat) that if on Rosh HaShana or Yom Kippur there was an emergency in which an answer was needed immediately, and he was in the office and not in shul, that we had permission to come in and present the question.

The Rebbe was available to us 24/7; and when I say 24 hours, I mean it. When the Rebbe went home at two or three in the morning and we got a call from Eretz Yisroel where it was already morning, and sometimes it was an emergency, a woman experiencing difficulty in labor or someone who needed an emergency operation, and they wanted an immediate answer, Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka gave us permission to call at any time.

WE WANTED THE REBBE TO TAKE A VACATION

Once, after a few years of work, we secretaries decided we had to give the Rebbe a vacation for a few weeks. We went to Long Island and found an isolated house which we felt was suitable for the Rebbe. We planned on having a minyan but no phone and no mail. We wanted the Rebbe to be cut off from the world so he could rest.

We sent one of the older secretaries to present our request to the Rebbe. When he came out, he told us that the Rebbe had thanked him but then dissected the idea: You mean to say that I should be somewhere without a phone for three weeks? What will you do when you are in the office and you get an urgent call about someone whom the doctors say needs an operation within 24 hours who, without my permission, will not do the operation? What will you tell him? “I’m sorry but you will have to wait two or three weeks?” And what will happen if a bachur and girl want to get engaged, will you tell them they can’t get a bracha for three weeks? And so on, the Rebbe gave other examples.

Then the Rebbe said: I’ll ask you a better question. How many letters arrive daily?

“About 250-300,” he said.

“And how many are 250 pieces of mail times two weeks?”

The Rebbe said: I’ll come back after a vacation and you will bring me all the sacks of mail that accumulated while I was gone and you will tell me, “Rebbe, people are waiting for answers.” Do you call that a vacation?

The Rebbe did not take any days off. And what did the Rebbe tell R’ Yochanan Gordon? That at night, when he made a spiritual accounting, after 20 hours of work, with no personal time, and as the Rebbetzin said – the Rebbe did not take even a handful for himself but was completely devoted to his people, the Rebbe told R’ Yochanan: Learn from me. I am not satisfied with my accomplishments. I need to do more.

The Rebbe went on to say: When Hashem gives us additional life, the purpose is to do more than you did until now. At every stage, and not just every day, you need to think about how to do more. What more can I do? You can’t stand in place but have to continuously grow.

***

When the Rebbe’s father passed away in 1944, the Rebbe had to daven for the amud. He chose to daven with the 13-14 year old boys. Davening was at nine o’clock. The Rebbe would show up at 8:55 in order to start at 9.

The boys were not punctual and were not always ready to begin at 9. Sometimes, it took five minutes and sometimes ten minutes. R’ Shmuel Levitin was at the Rebbe Rayatz for something, and before the end of the yechidus the Rebbe Rayatz said, “R’ Shmuel, my younger son-in-law has a complaint.”

R’ Shmuel asked what it was and the Rebbe said, “My son-in-law wants to daven with the younger boys and they are not ready until 9:05 or even 9:10.”

R’ Shmuel said he told the Rebbe five minutes later wasn’t so terrible. The Rebbe said: To my son-in-law, a minute is a year. If you take five minutes from him, you took five years. If you take ten minutes, you took ten years of life. Why? Because he could have filled every minute with good things.

So we see how much every minute meant to the Rebbe and that is testimony from the Rebbe Rayatz.

LISTENING TO PEOPLE

One of my jobs, thanks to which I acquired many “good friends,” was to make sure that a person who went in for yechidus came out as soon as possible. I would go into the room to hurry the person up, but the Rebbe would often motion to me to leave as though to say, let him stay.

At the end of yechidus one time, the Rebbe quoted a pasuk, “‘Worry in the heart of man, he should speak about it.’ When someone is worried and he talks about it, it makes him feel better. As the saying goes, a stone is rolled off his heart.

“The people who sat here and shared their worries, felt stones roll off their heart. Whenever they repeated their worries, another stone went off their heart. So why should I stop them?”

To the Rebbe, every minute is a year but when it entails helping someone, he did not take himself into consideration. To the person who needed his help, the Rebbe gave his minutes and hours.

TO TRULY HONOR THE REBBE

These are things we need to learn from the Rebbe; having genuine concern for others, using every minute, and not being complacent with what we have already done but to try to do more and more.

The Rebbe cares for every single person, not only Jews but everyone, and not only before Gimmel Tammuz but now too. He is with us and looks out for us all the time.

May Hashem bless us that we carry out the Rebbe’s wishes and continue to be involved in the Rebbe’s inyanim more and more, and as the Rebbe said, by spreading Judaism and Chassidus, it will further hasten the hisgalus of Moshiach and that is the Rebbe’s goal, that Moshiach be here. That will be the ultimate way of honoring the Rebbe.

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