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Tuesday
Sep192017

THE ENCOUNTER BETWEEN THE REBBE AND THE PHILANTHROPISTS

These days, between kesseh lasor (Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur), were special ones in 770. Beyond the Yomim Noraim atmosphere and the preparations for Shabbos Shuva and Yom Kippur, 770 had a festive atmosphere, thanks to the yechidus for wealthy people which took place during this time

On one of these days, 770 would be cleared out, even though thousands of guests wanted to be in 770. The place was thoroughly cleaned and spruced up, inside and outside, in honor of those wealthy Jews who opened their hearts and wallets for the Rebbe’s mosdos. A beautiful purplish carpet was laid down on the floor of the shul and decorative round tables were made ready inside, taking the place of the old, brown, wooden benches which were used by hundreds of Chassidim.

This event took place twice a year, between Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur, and then before 11 Nissan, the Rebbe’s birthday.

The preparations for this event began long beforehand, when the Rebbe approved the date for the event and the invitation was sent out. Each of them presided over a business empire and the only way to reach them was through a maze of secretaries, but when they arrived at the Rebbe, they all set aside their prestige, donned a yarmulke, and melted before the glowing image of the Rebbe who beamed his great light at them in appreciation for their good works.

The encounter began with an exclusive event at Oholei Torah’s hall, and the highlight took place in 770. The guests walked the short distance and the elderly among them were taken by limousine. There, the second part of the event took place, a meeting with the Rebbe. In the early years, the Rebbe welcomed the wealthy and generous individuals in the small zal on the first floor. When the number of participants grew into the hundreds, the yechidus moved to the large zal in the basement which, as mentioned, was especially prepared for the distinguished guests.

At the appointed time, the Rebbe walked in, traversing the red carpet and sat in his place. On these occasions, the Rebbe’s countenance glowed with an especially warm light. The event began with the Rebbe shaking the hand of the chairman of the special fund, Mr. David Chase. The Rebbe would scan those present and then deliver a sicha. Each of the “friends of Lubavitch,” as they were called, was given earphones through which they could hear a simultaneous translation of the sicha.

Then, the final part of the event took place, the most important part as far as the donors were concerned, the high point of an event that had been going on since the morning hours. One by one, they would approach the Rebbe, either themselves or with their wives, and speak to the Rebbe about whatever was on their mind. Some asked questions about the business world they inhabited, some consulted about investment possibilities they had been offered, and some took the opportunity to talk about their families, asking for brachos for a healthy and good year.

In 5751, this part of the event took nearly six hours, with the Rebbe entering the beis midrash around five in the afternoon. The Rebbe spoke for about an hour about tz’daka and timely matters, the Aseres Yemei Teshuva, and at the end of the sicha the guests spoke to the Rebbe over a period of five hours!

If throughout the year the shluchim received a similar treatment to their fellow Chassidim, at this event the Rebbe also gave special attention to the shluchim and displayed atypical signs of closeness. The shluchim, who brought these guests, their donors, approached the Rebbe with them. This was either to translate what the Rebbe said or to stand by the guest who was coming to the Rebbe for the first time. There were also shluchim who stood off on the side in respect and awe.

When the baalei battim were done, the shluchim heard a brief sicha and then they received a dollar for tz’daka from the Rebbe. In 5750, before he left, the Rebbe turned to the shluchim who accompanied the guests and wished them a g’mar chasima tova, while detailing brachos according to the alef-beis starting with “Shnas orah, Shnas bracha,” etc. until “Shnas smachos g’dolos, t’shua v’t’shuva ilaa.”

One cannot estimate the powerful impact this unique event made on the souls of the guests and baalei battim, who had the opportunity of speaking to the Rebbe personally. Along with encouragement about tz’daka, the Rebbe always used these sichos to strengthen Jewish identity and their practical connection to a life of Torah and mitzvos. This impacted directly both on their donations for the shluchim’s activities, and their becoming loyal partners in the Rebbe’s holy activities.

At the end of the yechidus, each of the participants received a personal letter from the Rebbe in the mail, as well as a beautiful picture in which he is seen speaking to the Rebbe.

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