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Wednesday
Jan162013

‘I FELT THAT THE REBBE LOVES ME’

The shliach, R’ Shimon Shaer, director of the Chabad house in Kiryat Moshe for nearly five decades, shares some special stories he had with the Rebbe. * Presented for Yud Shvat.

“My family made aliya from Yemen when I was a little boy. When we arrived in Eretz Yisroel, the Jewish Agency representatives put us on trucks and took us to the Zarnoga transit camp (Kiryat Moshe today), which is near Rechovos. There, my parents and I underwent hair-raising attempts to turn us away from our religion.

“Unlike many others who fell into their nets and sent their children to government schools, our family insisted on not changing anything from the way things were done in Yemen.

“One day, religious Jews showed up at the camp. I later learned that they were the Chabad Chassidim, R’ Itzke Gansburg and R’ Zalman Abelsky. They had come to register children for the school they had founded in the neighborhood. My parents were the first to agree to register their children, me and my brother Avrohom.”

A LETTER FROM THE REBBE TO A YOUNG BOY

That year, 5716/1956 when he was a child in the Chabad school, he wrote his first letter to the Rebbe. He asked for a bracha for good health for his mother and for the rest of the extended family. The Rebbe responded with brachos for the entire family.

“I remember that the letter I received as a young boy affected me deeply and it helped me continue on my way to Chabad. I felt that I was connected to the Rebbe.”

When he graduated, he felt close to Chabad and it was only natural that he would want to continue learning in the Chabad yeshiva in Lud. After years of learning Nigleh and Chassidus, he went on K’vutza at the end of 5722/1962. Because he was young (below draft age), he stayed a year and a half in the K’vutza program. He received many kiruvim (signs of affection) from the Rebbe.

“I will never forget the trip, what dancing there was, what simcha. It’s not like today when you order a ticket in the morning and the next day you are at the Rebbe. Back then, traveling was complicated, so it was much more appreciated. No wonder that the excitement and simcha were enormous.

“When we arrived in New York after the long trip, the local Chassidim were waiting for us with a special bus at the airport. Throughout the trip we did ‘mivtzaim’ with every Jew we met. The first time we saw the Rebbe was at Maariv. We said the SheHechiyanu blessing. After Maariv, the Rebbe farbrenged as it was the yahrtzait of the Tzemach Tzedek. It was the first time I was participating in the Rebbe’s farbrengen. I did not know Yiddish at the time and did not understand a word.

“Right after a Tishrei packed with giluyim (lofty revelations), the secretariat began making appointments for yechidus for all the guests. Before I went to see the Rebbe, I wrote down points of everything I wanted to say, and the Rebbe answered all my questions. The Rebbe laid out for me a path in yiras Shamayim. Among other questions, I asked how to avoid unwanted thoughts and the Rebbe told me to learn chapters 26 and 27 in Tanya and know them thoroughly.

“In that yechidus I also asked what to do about celebrating my birthday since my parents did not know the exact date of my birth, only that it was before Rosh HaShana. The Rebbe told me to observe my birthday on the Shabbos before Rosh HaShana.

“When I returned home, I asked the Rebbe whether I should continue doing this and the answer was: My spoken word remains in force.

“Something interesting happened in my second yechidus. As soon as I walked in, the Rebbe asked me whether we could move on to ‘asei tov’ (doing good), since in the first yechidus we had dealt with ‘sur mei’ra’ (avoiding evil). This time, the Rebbe instructed me to learn chapter 41 and the chapters that follow it. This yechidus took place in 5724, a year later, and I had learned Yiddish for the purpose of understanding the Rebbe’s sichos. Interestingly, the Rebbe asked me at the beginning of the yechidus whether to speak in Yiddish or Hebrew. I replied that we could speak in Yiddish and that is what we did.

“In that yechidus I asked the Rebbe whether I could remain in 770 for a while after my K’vutza returned to Eretz Yisroel. The Rebbe told me to extend my visa and I was ecstatic that the Rebbe approved my staying on. I returned home a week before Shavuos. Before that, I had a rare kiruv, which every time I think about it, thrills me anew. It happened before I left for the airport.

“I went to R’ Leibel Groner and told him how hard it was for me to leave the Rebbe and the atmosphere in 770. He commiserated and suggested that I stand in the hallway and wait. It was after Mincha and the Rebbe suddenly appeared with mashke and told me to farbreng in all the schools of the Reshet throughout Eretz Yisroel.

“The Rebbe blessed me with good news and that I should have a good trip and I answered ‘amen.’ Then the chevra began dancing with me, ‘Ki B’simcha Seitzei’u,’ and the Rebbe encouraged the singing with a wave of his arms. They all expected the Rebbe to enter his room but the Rebbe stood there at the door and watched us. R’ Groner asked me to come closer to the main door to enable the Rebbe to enter his room, but that didn’t help and the Rebbe continued standing there. R’ Groner asked me to leave the building and set out, but the Rebbe did not go to his room and continued to encourage us for many minutes. Everyone, myself included, was stunned by this kiruv from the Rebbe. I wasn’t a shliach but a regular bachur, a graduate of the Reshet, and to get such a kiruv! I could not possibly have expected such a thing.

“When they saw that the Rebbe continued standing there, they felt bad for taking the Rebbe’s time. Although my flight was in a few hours, they announced that I had to get into the car that would take me to the airport. R’ Eliyahu Heber, the wine seller, took me in his car and only then did the Rebbe go to his room.

“Afterward, everyone began speculating about why the Rebbe had parted from me in this way. They said they had never seen such a thing. As for me, I simply felt that the Rebbe loves me.

“The Rebbe’s special gaze when he escorted me accompanies me to this very day. I feel that the Rebbe is always with me, especially in the many decades that I am on his shlichus. In order to run such wide-ranging activities among a population of 30,000 people, you need a lot of inner fortitude. That fortitude I draw from that gaze of the Rebbe.”

THE REASSURING DREAM

When R’ Shaer returned to Eretz Yisroel he immediately carried out his shlichus. He went to all the Reshet schools and farbrenged with the students. He told about the Rebbe’s greatness and the importance in improving in Torah and mitzvos and anticipating the Geula.

“A long time later, the brothers, Rabbi Meir and R’ Chaim Aharon, who learned in the school in Kfar Saba, told me that my farbrengen made a great impact on them and encouraged them to continue to come close to Chabad.”

A short time after he returned, he received various shidduch suggestions but he wanted to learn Yoreh Dei’a and be tested. He set aside all the suggestions and continued learning in Kollel until 5725.

“During that year, R’ Druk, who ran the Chabad school in Rishon L’Tziyon, begged me to fill in for one of the classes. I substituted for a month and did well but then I wanted to return to yeshiva. The hanhala had other plans for me though. I told R’ Druk that I needed the Rebbe’s agreement. A few days later I received this answer: Continue in your class in Rishon L’Tziyon for the upcoming year too and look into a shidduch and be successful.

“I did not expect this. I hadn’t written about a shidduch, but the Rebbe had decided the time had come. That same week, someone by the name of Moshe Mutzafi approached me with a suggestion. He had a very odd condition though, that the meeting take place that same night. He explained that the girl lived in the north of the country and she was in central Israel that day and it was an opportunity to meet. I said no. I wasn’t ready for this. I didn’t even have a decent suit, but he insisted. ‘You have no choice, you are coming with me.’ I joined him reluctantly and we went to Kfar Saba together where she was staying with relatives.

“The girl had not attended a Chabad school but had been in the Chinuch Atzmai system in Bayit Vegan. My first impression of her was positive and we decided that each of us would influence the other with the good things we knew. We ultimately decided to marry, though not before receiving the Rebbe’s bracha which she got immediately and I got a week later. The Rebbe’s response eliminated any doubts I still had: Surely they have decided to establish a faithful home in Israel.

“Afterward, my wife told me about her doubts since she was unfamiliar with Chassidic customs and whatever she had heard about Chassidim up until that point was not positive. Even after the vort, she was still uncertain lest we would not be able to raise our children the way she had been educated. That night she had an astonishing dream. The Rebbe came to her and said, ‘You should know that this is your shidduch from heaven.’ This is what reassured her.”

THE REBBE ENJOYED THE PICTURES

In 5740, R’ Shaer was in the Reserves at the Refidim base in the Sinai. He used the opportunity to do mivtzaim with soldiers and officers. He was a father of four children at the time and had to be released for Shabbos. But he was called to the commander of the base who surprised him with a request. He wanted a Chabad Shabbos on base, in the best Chassidic tradition with simcha and dancing, in order to raise the morale of the soldiers.

“I asked the commander how I could leave my family home alone. I hadn’t seen them in a long time. He said, ‘Bring them here.’

“My wife agreed and the commander sent tickets for the entire family so they could fly to the base. That was a very special Shabbos which I will never forget. All the soldiers wore kippos. We made Kiddush at night and by day and we danced and rejoiced as though it was Simchas Torah. The soldiers loved the children and wanted to take pictures with them on the tanks and military vehicles. A while later they sent us the pictures in the mail.

“That was a Hakhel year and my entire family flew to the Rebbe. After an exciting month, we all had yechidus. My wife was pregnant at the time with our fifth child and the Rebbe blessed us that we merit to raise him to Torah, chuppa and good deeds. When we left the yechidus, we were excited over the fact that the Rebbe had made it clear that we were going to have a boy, which we had not known. We brought the soldiers’ pictures with us to the yechidus but did not mention them in the letter.

“At the end of the yechidus we put the pictures on the desk and got ready to leave. We were in the doorway when the Rebbe called us back. ‘How can you leave after such pictures?’ said the Rebbe, after looking at each picture and the attached description. The Rebbe looked pleased and he blessed us with an abundance of brachos. The Rebbe said that the pictures gave him much nachas and he blessed us that we see nachas from our children.”

ON SHLICHUS

R’ Shaer is emotional as he recalls all those special moments, moments that gave him the strength to found the Chabad house that he runs in Rechovos, in the section that used to be Zarnoga.

“I never left the neighborhood. When I was younger, I had several choices of where to go to school, but my parents chose Chabad. I’ll never forget the teachers, R’ Avrohom Lisson, R’ Dovid Lesselbaum, R’ Folya Khan, R’ Nissim Shitrit and of course, R’ Itzke Gansburg.”

Over the years Zarnoga turned into a large residential area, which today is populated by 30,000 people. It is called Kiryat Moshe. When he married, he chose to return to this area.

“I started out small, working one-on-one by checking mezuzos, buying new t’fillin, making house calls and the like. There was something new added every year. When the Rebbe said to make kollelim for the elderly, I started Tiferes Z’keinim Levi Yitzchok. In 5747, when the Rebbe spoke about opening Chabad houses everywhere, I decided to formally organize the activities in the framework of a Chabad house. That is when the official Chabad house of Kiryat Moshe was founded. I saw there was a great interest in Judaism and a willingness to be inspired if there was someone to do the inspiring. I decided to regularly work in Kiryat Moshe, Shechunat Efraim, and Shikun Selah as well as the western neighborhoods of Rechovos. I started in a small building where we had activities for kids, a small Chabad minyan and farbrengens on special days.

“The work rapidly expanded. With the Rebbe’s bracha we decided to continue growing. We began working on a beautiful three story building where the Chabad house is located today. In 5752 I got the Rebbe’s bracha to put up a building. Two years later we laid the cornerstone and at the end of 5758 we inaugurated the building.”

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