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The Rebbe held a surprise farbrengen this Shabbos, and at the end of the farbrengen announced that the parade could take place without his being present. For us, this was like a bolt from the blue. There are those who claim that there might be another change, and we are all hoping for a surprise tomorrow. * An authentic first–hand account of the Lag B’Omer parade of 5733/1973, which the Rebbe did not attend due to an occurrence that was the opposite of Ahavas Yisroel. * A description of the parade, of the Rebbe’s farbrengen, the yechidus for women, and other points of the Rebbe’s conduct during the month of Iyar 5733. * From the personal diary of R’ Saadia Maatuf a”h – Part 2.

By Rav Saadia Maatuf


Thursday, 1 Iyar

As he did yesterday (the first day of Rosh Chodesh), the Rebbe received the third aliya. This evening, there was a gathering of Tzach [every year on 2 Iyar, the birthday of the Rebbe Maharash, there would be a “members farbrengen in honor of the founding of Tzach], and we [the participants] received mashke and mezonos from the Rebbe.

Tonight we had a Chassidus shiur (class) in Yiddish. I don’t know if we will continue, but for now it is difficult [apparently due to the language barrier], and we hope to adjust.

Motzaei Shabbos, K’doshim, 3 Iyar

This evening, we finally had a review in Ivrit of the sichos of Shabbos Mevarchim Iyar [the previous Shabbos], after it was pushed off a number of times for various reasons.

Sunday, 4 Iyar

We had a shiur in the maamarim of the Rebbe Rayatz from the year 5708 with R’ Shlomo Zarchi. The shiur was in Yiddish, and I understood a little more than the previous class in Yiddish.

Monday, 5 Iyar

We davened Mincha with the Rebbe, and for Maariv following the conclusion of the Chassidus study session at 9:20, we wanted to go daven with the Rebbe as usual, but R’ Shlomo Zarchi informed us that the Rebbe had davened already. We expressed surprise as to why today the prayer service was held earlier than usual, and he told us: The Rebbe fasted today, the fast of Thursday–Monday–Thursday (as is known, after Pesach and Sukkos, those who are stringent upon themselves, fast the three day series of fasts). Since the Rebbe fasted and davened Maariv earlier than usual [to be able to break the fast], we lost out on Maariv with the Rebbe.


Tuesday, 13 Iyar

Today is the yahrtzait of the Rebbe’s brother, R’ Yisroel Aryeh Leib. The Rebbe said Kaddish five times during Shacharis. It was very crowded [because everyone wanted to hear the Rebbe] and I pretty much was not able to see the Rebbe, I only heard his voice.

When we came [for Mincha] in the afternoon, they told us that the Rebbe went to the Ohel, and we returned to our regular place of learning in Chovevei Torah. Mincha was at 8:25. The Rebbe entered holding his gartel in his hand and said a few words [apparently Mishnayos], which I did not manage to hear because the Rebbe was speaking somewhat low, and immediately said Kaddish. Afterward, we began Mincha. During the review of the shliach tzibbur, the Rebbe said the Mishnayos. After Aleinu, he said Kaddish. The Mishna, “Machat shehi nesuna…Rabi Chananya,” he said in a somewhat louder voice, then the Rebbe passed his hand over his forehead [and said a few lines of Tanya quietly] and said Kaddish.

Thursday, 15 Iyar

Today, Zalman Pariz arrived [a”h, son of R’ Boruch Pariz] exactly at Mincha time, and he was very excited and pale. The entire tefilla, he stared at the Rebbe open–mouthed. His arrival generated a tumult among the T’mimim. In general, his leaving the Holy Land was above the natural order, since he managed to get the permit from the army and all the documentation within one week, and he was already here.

After Maariv, we waited for the Rebbe to leave [to his house]. I stood near the mezuza of the small zal and was talking to my friends Yosef Meir Cohen and Yekusiel Rapp. Suddenly, the Rebbe’s door opened and the Rebbe exited. My blood froze in my veins. I was electrified. The Rebbe saw me, and I began to back up, but the Rebbe looked at me for a number of seconds that felt to me like a long time. The Rebbe exited from the door of 770. It was drizzling outside, and the Rebbe extended his hand as though to feel the rain. The Rebbe entered the car and went to his house.


Motzaei Shabbos Kodesh Behar, eve of Lag B’Omer

The Rebbe held a surprise farbrengen this Shabbos, and at the end of the farbrengen announced that the parade could take place without his being present. [Afterward it became known that there had occurred an event in Crown Heights that was the opposite of Ahavas Yisroel, which was why the Rebbe decided not to attend in person]. For us, this was like a bolt from the blue. There are those who claim that there might be another change, and we are all hoping for a surprise tomorrow.

At the farbrengen, the Rebbe also spoke sharply about Mihu Yehudi. At the conclusion of the farbrengen, the Rebbe sang “Hinei Mah Tov U’Mah Naim,” and everyone joined in, and then he stood up right away for Mincha. After Mincha, the Rebbe touched the edge of the paroches as is his custom, and immediately began to sing “Nyet.”

Tonight, the preparations are underway to close off Eastern Parkway and construct the stage. The parade will begin from Eastern Parkway until Kingston and Empire, and turn from there towards the park.

Sunday, 18 Iyar, Lag B’Omer

Today, I got up at 7 in the morning, went to mikva and davening, and then I went to watch the final preparations for the parade. I circulated between the truck displays and the preparations were going full force.

It is now five minutes to 9 in the morning. The preparations for the parade are ongoing. Ten policemen just arrived and took up positions alongside Kingston Avenue. The weather is cloudy and there is concern about rain. The stage is not set up in its usual place, on the grass in front of 770, but it is in middle of the road facing Kingston Avenue, where there is a stage on which the Rebbe would stand.

Traffic was already closed off since last night, and they divided the street into two camps, the side towards 770 for girls, and the other half of the street for boys. On the two sides of the stage, they brought stair–like structures for the crowd to stand on. I stood on the end of the bleachers on the side towards the bank, and it is a good spot. A few of Anash are walking around with walkie–talkies, in order to keep things running smoothly, and in general to know how to conduct the parade.

It is now twenty minutes to 10. Buses are beginning to arrive and are dropping off the children on Brooklyn Avenue, where they are giving them signs to carry and a symbol of the parade for each child to wear on their clothing. From there they are taking them to the spots reserved for them facing the stage. The boys and girls are gathering, kein yirbu. Meanwhile, I am taking a spot tour around the float displays and writing a brief description of each one.

Shabbos truck: Divided into the six days of the week, representations of workday activities, for Friday there is the baking of challos in honor of Shabbos, and for Shabbos there are Jews learning.

Pesach truck: Display of searching for chametz, baking matzos, and the Seder night.

Sukka truck: Display of a Sukka and also showing the order of hand washing for bread.

Mivtza T’fillin truck: Mivtza t’fillin near the Kosel, and people putting on t’fillin in shul.

Shmita truck: Cessation of plowing and cessation of planting.

Rashbi truck: A cave with Rashbi learning inside, and a group of children around a bonfire.

Mattan Torah truck: Mount Sinai and the Luchos, and the Jews standing at the foot of the mountain.

From Russia to 770 truck: Jews studying Torah in a cellar by candlelight in Siberia. Exodus from Russia. And Jews studying Torah openly in 770.

Unclear Message truck: What the message is, what it is trying to convey, I have no idea. But it depicts a village farm of Jews, with a vegetable garden and home farming. There is also a Billy goat, who is busy eating the trees while waiting for the parade to begin, and also a few real chickens.

Brachos truck: The blessing of Borei Pri Ha’adama and children eating watermelon etc.

On a small trailer: On three things the world stands. Image of a Seifer Torah, with a siddur T’hillas Hashem and a sign that reads on three things the world stands.

770 mobile: A private car of one of the Chassidim with a model of 770 on the roof.

There are photographers circulating among the trucks. I managed to have a few pictures taken along with one of the guys from the k’vutza who will be returning, by the name of Avrohom Kurant. I hope to see the pictures [for our younger readers: back then not everybody had a camera and developing and printing the photos took a few days – SZB]. Among the crowd there are five policemen riding on horses. I should also point out that near the stage is a smaller stage for the band that was playing Chabad niggunim. Afterward, the marching band of Eli Lipsker arrived, kids with drums and cymbals. A few T’mimim were dressed up as clowns to add to the joy, and they entertained the children.

[What follows is a description of reciting “p’sukim” at the parade, three years before the Rebbe went public with the 12 p’sukim – SZB]: The emcee, Rabbi Goldstein, instructed the children to repeat after him word for word, “Modeh Ani,” “Torah Tziva,” “Shema Yisroel,” and “Hashem hu HaElokim.” It was a special delight to hear thousands of childish voices saying these holy sayings.

They set loose five gas–filled balloons, and they flew upward until they disappeared from sight [more than forty years ago, that was a novelty, even for an older bachur – SZB], and there was a police helicopter flying overhead.

Rabbi Yaakov Yehuda Hecht was called up to speak, and he began to lead the parade. The actual march began at 11. A few of the talmidim from k’vutza led the parade holding American flags. At the head: Dovid Malka [a”h], after him Gershom, Borovski, Scharf, Shabtai and a few others. I wasn’t with them because I wanted to see and write everything down.

As soon as the march began, drops started to fall from the sky and we were ready to give up, but Boruch Hashem the rain stopped quickly.

Behind the flag bearers, went the “marching band” of Eli Lipsker with their drums and cymbals, and they were followed by a group of children. After them went the Shabbos truck, and it continued alternating – a truck, a group of children, a truck and a group of children, and here and there were the clowns.

Marching in the parade were a number of classes of non–Jewish children representing the city, since for maintaining peaceful relations it is not proper to exclude them and it is necessary to accept them. Their costumes are colorful and majestic, their shoes and belts are white, and they sang American marching songs with drums and horns.

The march ended, and I traveled with Chaim Reichman to the park, where the children went from the parade. Meanwhile some rain began to fall. We got to the park and it is a large place with a grassy area in the center, and in the center of the grassy area was a stage and seats all around like in a stadium. First, they distributed sandwiches to all the children and guests, as we hadn’t eaten since the morning. In the park, they held a raffle, in which each child purchased a ticket for a dollar and the prize was a flight to the Holy Land. The lucky winner was a boy of seven, and the clowns lifted him up on their shoulders. Afterward, Rabbi Goldstein held him up for everyone to see, and everybody applauded him.

It is a shame that the Rebbe was not there, and also that it rained so the program ended right away. Due to the rain we only managed to have a few pictures taken.

On that day, the Rebbe was at the Ohel, so in the interim we went to rest up a bit and write in the room until Mincha. As usual, Mincha is delayed when the Rebbe goes to the Ohel. During Mincha, the Rebbe’s face showed great seriousness, and it is hard to describe how painful it is to see the Rebbe like that.


Monday, 19 Iyar

Today, the members of the departing k’vutza [in those years, the year of k’vutza began and ended in Nissan] sent in a note to the Rebbe, with a request for a general yechidus, because they would be leaving that night. The Rebbe answered them in brief, “Tzeischem l’shalom (go in peace), and now is not the time for yechidus k’mefursam (public knowledge).” The Rebbe underlined the word k’mefursam a few times. Obviously, they were very disappointed, because all of the prior k’vutza groups to that point had gone in for a general yechidus on the eve of their departure.

We davened Maariv at the regular time, and after the davening, the entire k’vutza entered Gan Eden HaTachton, and I heard that this was as per the instruction of R’ Chadakov. The Rebbe entered Gan Eden HaTachton, saw them and told them to be involved in activities in yeshiva, learning with others, etc. Afterward, the Rebbe entered his room, took out small Tanyas and gave each one a Tanya. One student was not present, and the Rebbe inquired about him, but for some reason he did not show up. The Rebbe again mentioned that now is not a suitable time, and informed them that he would come out soon to see them off.

We immediately went to grab seats on the bus [in order to accompany the departing k’vutza to the airport], and they began to sing “Ki B’simcha Seitzei’u” and the Rebbe came out. We practically did not see the Rebbe at all since we were on the bus. On the way we sang songs. We were very happy, since we would soon be returning to 770, but for the departing k’vutza, who knew when they would return again? It is no wonder that they were sad.

We parted from them in the airport and returned to 770.


Wednesday, 21 Iyar

Today, there was a gathering that was pushed off from yesterday, for the students of the k’vutza. Being that the Rebbe is in a very tense state, in order to cause nachas for the Rebbe, the students of Oholei Torah sent in a note to the Rebbe with a list of good resolutions, and we did the same at the suggestion of R’ Shlomo Zarchi. Similarly, we accepted upon ourselves good resolutions in the study of the Rebbe’s sichos, to learn each week the new weekly sicha that was published, and also to study by heart the content of seven maamarim and to be tested on them by R’ Zarchi. We also took upon ourselves to learn seven chapters of Tanya. We also committed to being particular about sticking to the learning schedule. It was decided also that after Maariv, from 10 to 10:45, each one should learn whatever subject he wishes.

For now, there is an experiment to learn the new additional session in 770 (and not in Chovevei Torah). Obviously, the attendance of each bachur is recorded, as this is being treated like a regular study session of the yeshiva.

Thursday, 22 Iyar

Today, something very interesting transpired, from which much can be learned. At the conclusion of Mincha, the Rebbe left the siddur at his place (and did not take it with him as he did every day), walked over to the bima used for the Torah reading, while everybody there just watched the Rebbe without knowing what was going on. I stood very close to the bima and I saw the Rebbe bend down, reach his hand under the bima, and pull out an empty cigarette pack.

He walked out of the zal, looked for a garbage pail, and since he did not find one, he put it on the small ledge near the office of the secretariat, where the mail is placed. Everyone was surprised that we had not noticed the pack, since we are always looking out that there should not be any dirt around the area where the Rebbe stands. The student Chazan took the pack away.

This event led to the decision to stop smoking altogether in 770. If only that resolution would last.

Tonight, the Rebbe took people for yechidus, among them a candidate for mayor of New York, who stayed with the Rebbe for 25 minutes. Yechidus ended at 12 midnight.

During the night, I worked with Chaim Masharki in the office of the Vaad L’Hafatzos Sichos. I went to sleep very late. We are still sleeping in a basement, what can we do, Hashem should help…


Motzaei Shabbos Kodesh, Bechukosai

Today there was a very joyous farbrengen. The Rebbe stood up in middle of the farbrengen, when they were singing Napoleon’s march, and began to clap. It was a great pleasure to see the Rebbe standing to his full height and clapping his hands. Immediately when the Rebbe stands up, everyone else stands up, those sitting behind the Rebbe and those sitting in front.

After the farbrengen we davened Mincha, and immediately after Mincha the Rebbe again began, like the previous Shabbos, to sing “Nyet Nyet,” and everyone joined in until the Rebbe exited. Afterward, we waited for the Rebbe to exit from the door of Gan Eden HaTachton, and when he came out he made motions with both hands. We stood in two rows on both sides, and when the Rebbe makes encouraging motions we all literally go up and down in tandem with the motion. The Rebbe also encouraged the little children that were standing nearby.

We walked behind the Rebbe in order to accompany him to his house, and in middle of the way the Rebbe crossed the street towards President Street [where the Rebbe lives]. A car that was traveling quite a distance away honked the horn, and the Rebbe immediately jumped and went up on the curb. We continued to follow the Rebbe with our eyes until he entered his house, and from there we went to the yeshiva dining room to eat the Shabbos meal.

On Motzaei Shabbos, there was a “review” with the chozer, R’ Yoel Kahn.

Sunday, 25 Iyar

Today there was a gathering for women in the study hall of Chovevei Torah, and at 8 in the evening it continued with the Rebbe in the big zal in 770. The Rebbe entered, followed by R’ Chadakov and R’ Groner. The entire room was packed with women, as well as the ladies section. We [the men], stood partially in the small zal upstairs, however, since the loudspeaker was not working one hundred percent, we couldn’t hear so clearly. The Rebbe spoke for about 25 minutes, and immediately began to receive the women for “yechidus.” [At this point, the women’s section emptied out, as all the women went downstairs to the big zal to stand in line. Then the T’mimim – including the author of the diary – went to the ladies section and were able to watch from there]. This is not a regular yechidus, rather the Rebbe sits in his place and all the women pass before him, and each one approaches with a note which the Rebbe reads, and then answers and sometimes asks additional questions. There were some women whose yechidus lasted twenty minutes or more, and there were some women who came with a few notes.

The yechidus concluded at 1 in the morning.

When the Rebbe stood up to leave, we immediately ran through Gan Eden HaTachton to the small zal, and after a brief wait the Rebbe entered for Maariv. The zal was relatively empty due to the late hour. At the conclusion of the davening, the Rebbe rode to his house.

Tuesday, 27 Iyar

Today, the Rebbe made a sudden appearance in the Kollel without advance warning. He walked in and looked at the s’farim. Obviously, nobody stayed there sitting and learning because they all ran to hide. The Rebbe went upstairs and then came back down, and then returned to 770.

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