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At the beginning of the davening on Yom Kippur, somebody approached R’ Groner and asked him if the Rebbe already knows what is going on in Eretz Yisroel, between Israel and Egypt and Syria [the outbreak of the Yom Kippur war]. R’ Groner answered that the Rebbe already knows. From where does the Rebbe know? That is something that we do not know. * Fascinating reports and memories from the “Days of Awe” 5734 with the Rebbe, published for the very first time from the diary of the late R’ Saadia Maatuf.

By R’ Saadia Maatuf
Prepared for publication by Shneur Zalman Berger


First night of Rosh HaShana 5734

The Rebbe came down for Maariv. So that everyone should be able to see the Rebbe during the services, they prepared a special platform for the Rebbe to stand on. In front of the Aron Kodesh there was pushing throughout the davening. I and a few friends stood nearby against the wall, and we were able to see without having to push. After the davening, the Rebbe gave the blessing of “L’shana Tova Teikaseiv V’Seichaseim” and “Ah Gut Yom Tov,” and he went out to his room. We went to eat the meal, and then returned to 770 and said T’hillim.

First day Rosh HaShana, Thursday

We got up very early in order to grab our places from last night, and although we had some problems, we were able to resolve them easily with a compromise. Before the davening, they announced that at the time of t’kios there should be no pushing.

The Rebbe came down for Shacharis and the secretaries were carrying large packages of panim. These were placed on a special table on the platform where the Rebbe davened, and as expected, the crowding was tremendous and there was pushing. When the Rebbe approached for his aliya to Maftir, the secretaries R’ Groner and R’ Klein moved the packages of panim to the bima where the Torah reading takes place.

T’kios: Before the t’kios, everybody grabbed a place in order to be able to see. I and some friends stood on tables opposite the bima, and there were those who climbed on the pillars, but R’ Groner signaled them to go down.

The Rebbe brought a number of shofars with him, three or four, and before the t’kios arranged them in a special order and wrapped them with a white handkerchief. The Rebbe arranged the packages of panim and spread his tallis over them. The Rebbe stood that way, covered, along with the panim, and in 770 there was total silence. After about five minutes, the Rebbe raised his head a bit and began to say Chapter 47 [of T’hillim] as is customary, and the congregation joined in the recitation seven times. After that, he said the verses “Koli Shim’a etc.,” verse by verse with the entire congregation answering each verse after the Rebbe. After saying the verses, the Rebbe covered his eyes a bit and then covered the panim, and then again uncovered his face. The Rebbe’s face was red and he dried his eyes. The Rebbe said the blessing “Lishmoa Kol Shofar,” word by word and with a trembling voice. The Rebbe blew the t’kios, and in the places where it is customary to pause, the Rebbe covered his head and bent over.

At the conclusion of the t’kios, he went down from the bima with the shofars, followed by the secretaries, R’ Groner and R’ Klein, with the packages of panim. In total, there were five packages of varying sizes.

At the conclusion of the davening, at 3:45, the Rebbe called out loudly “Gut Yom Tov,” and everyone answered back “Gut Yom Tov.” The Rebbe signaled twice with his hand “again,” and they all responded in a thunderous and powerful voice “Gut Yom Tov,” and the Rebbe left for his room.

Tashlich: At the conclusion of Mincha, the Rebbe turned to the congregation and signaled with his hand and immediately a thunderous roar burst forth “Gut Yom Tov,” and this happened twice more. The Rebbe went out for Tashlich and I managed to grab a good spot on a pile of boards. The Rebbe came, crossed the path and went to the side of the fence, along with the secretaries R’ Chadakov, R’ Groner and R’ Klein, and stood with his face toward the east. I stood exactly opposite him and I saw how the Rebbe shook the edges of his tallis katan. After the Rebbe exited, the whole crowd came to say Tashlich in a long line that wended its way out to the street.


Second night and day, Rosh HaShana, Friday

On the eve and second day of Rosh HaShana, the Rebbe said Kaddish Yasom [this is the yahrtzait of Mrs. Shaina hy”d, the sister of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka]. We went [the students of K’vutza, after Maariv] to eat the holiday meal, and they brought a new fruit, figs, but the quantity did not suffice for all.

In the morning we woke up early in order to grab places for t’kios. Together with a few friends, I stood in a good spot and we saw everything. After the davening, the Rebbe again made a sign and the crowd said “Gut Yom Tov” three times.

After the day meal, there were those who went to immerse in the mikva in honor of Shabbos. Everyone rushed to grab places for Mincha, which took place in the “small zal.” At the conclusion of the davening, we washed our hands for the farbrengen, and everyone armed themselves with a piece of a roll. The Rebbe came downstairs for the farbrengen, and after HaMotzi ate from the challa and then signaled to R’ Yoel Khan to begin singing. They then sang the ten niggunim of the Rebbeim, and before each niggun the Rebbe said which niggun to sing. Throughout the singing, the Rebbe was very serious. At the end of the niggunim, they sang the preparatory niggun for the maamer, the Rebbe said a maamer and then one sicha, and the farbrengen of Rosh HaShana came to an end.


Shabbos eve, 3 Tishrei

We began Kabbalas Shabbos with everyone praying standing, because the tables were set up in the special formation for the farbrengen. After the davening, the Rebbe exited and said “Gut Shabbos” to everyone.

After our Friday night meal, we returned to 770, and we found that the Rebbe had not yet gone to his house. Following a protracted wait, the Rebbe came out of his room, and there were police cars waiting outside on the street. The word is that items were stolen from the Tzach building [apparently, the author is referring to the building on the corner of Kingston and Union, not far from 770].

The Rebbe set out towards his house with a police escort, and we accompanied the Rebbe until the door of his house [as opposed to stopping on the corner, as was customary].

Shabbos day, 3 Tishrei

After the davening, there was a farbrengen that began at 1:30. The Rebbe made Kiddush on wine, and two chassanim approached to receive mashke. The Rebbe told the chazzan R’ Berel Zaltzman to sing Sluzhba Nashe [“Who knows one” in Russian], and the farbrengen ended at 4, earlier than usual. The Rebbe took the kiddush cup and the Siddur and went toward the head of the table, and he gave the cake and wine for the Melaveh Malka and then began to distribute “kos shel bracha.”

The crowd divided into five rows, the same way as they did on Acharon shel Pesach. During the distribution, they sang songs and the Rebbe conducted the singing with his hands. It is impossible to describe the joy and happiness when the Rebbe signals with his hand to ramp up the joyfulness.

At the conclusion of “kos shel bracha” they davened Mincha. The Rebbe was called up for “shlishi,” and for “gelila” they honored a bar mitzva boy. After he finished “gelila,” the boy walked behind the Torah toward the Aron Kodesh as the Rebbe walked behind the boy. There were those who wanted to pull the boy aside, but the Rebbe signaled in the negative, and the boy continued to walk in front of the Rebbe until he reached the Aron Kodesh. There too, someone wanted to pull him aside so that he would not be standing with his back to the Rebbe, but the Rebbe smiled and allowed the boy to keep standing in front of him until the Torah was placed inside the Aron Kodesh.

After the davening, the Rebbe began to sing “Ata Vechartanu,” and went up to his room. Shortly after, the Rebbe left 770, and we accompanied him until the point where we are allowed to go.

After Maariv of Motzaei Shabbos, there was a review of the farbrengen with R’ Yoel Kahan. When the Rebbe left for home, R’ Zushe Partisan stood there singing as the Rebbe encouraged him with his hand, and everyone joined the singing. Even when the Rebbe went inside the car, he continued to encourage the singing with his hands.


Sunday, 4 Tishrei, Tzom Gedalya (delayed)

Today, we [the students of K’vutza] had a test with R’ Nachum Trebnik [then a Maggid Shiur in Tomchei T’mimim in Kfar Chabad], R’ Shmuel Elozor Halperin, the Rosh Yeshiva of Toras Emes, and the Rosh Yeshiva of Montreal [apparently, R’ Isaac Schwei]. During the test, the only one to ask questions was R’ Trebnik, whereas the others did not ask anything. During the test, we were informed that there would be a funeral [the diary does not mention the name of the deceased], and that the Rebbe would be going out to the funeral procession.

The Rosh Yeshiva, R’ Mentlick, did not readily agree to interrupt the test, so he sent Yosef Meir to call 770 and find out the time of the funeral. He was told that the hearse is supposed to arrive at any moment, and we immediately left, with the continuation of the test pushed off to the next day.

We waited near 770, and the funeral was at 1:55. The Rebbe came out and I stood very close to the Rebbe, and as is customary, the Rebbe walked until past Kingston. The Rebbe asked if there are others going along with the hearse [to the cemetery], and R’ Groner answered that there is nobody going. R’ Groner immediately went to bring a car and arranged for a number of people to go along. The Rebbe waited the entire time until R’ Groner arranged the car and the car actually left. The Rebbe began to return to 770, and a path opened up. He washed his hands near the entrance of 770, went into the “small zal” and said the chapter of Yosheiv B’seiser, and immediately went to his room. We went to the “large zal” downstairs, because the Rebbe would be coming down any moment for Mincha in which the Rebbe reads the Haftora, as is customary on fast days.

The Rebbe came down for Mincha, and I grabbed a spot near the bima and heard the Rebbe saying the Haftora, word for word. After the davening, he again went up to his room.

The Rebbe came out for Maariv at around 7:00, earlier than usual.

Monday night, Tuesday, 6 Tishrei (Yahrtzait of Rebbetzin Chana, the Rebbe’s mother)

The Rebbe came down for Maariv in the “large zal,” and approached the amud. I barely had any place on the bima [apparently referring to the platform on which the Rebbe usually davened, because when the Rebbe would be the chazzan, the T’mimim would grab places on the platform in order to see], and managed somehow to see the Rebbe from there.

At Shacharis I stood in the same place as yesterday, and obviously the pushing while wearing t’fillin was not particularly pleasant. During the davening, when he got to the end of Az Yashir, he said loudly “Hashem yimloch l’olam va’ed,” and then another time as it says in the Siddur, and then he said the Targum of the verse quietly and continued the davening [in a regular voice]. 

During the afternoon, I went clothes shopping with Avraham [Sameiach], and when we returned to Crown Heights at about 6:10 we saw the guys [from K’vutza] running from the direction of Chovevei Torah towards 770. We didn’t know what happened, but found out that the Rebbe had returned from the Ohel, and was due to come down for Mincha at any moment. I immediately went down to the “large zal,” and the entire room was full. I managed, with difficulty, to grab a spot near one of the tables, and in the end, I stood between the table and the wall and was able to see the Rebbe more clearly from there.

After the davening, they announced a gathering to discuss the founding of “Beis Chana,” to serve as a school for baalos teshuva. In response to the announcement, the Rebbe nodded his head as a sign of endorsement.

Maariv took place at 9:00, and at 9:30 the Rebbe came to the farbrengen [in honor of 6 Tishrei]. 770 was full to the rafters. There were also photographers and broadcasters from radio and television. The Rebbe began right away with a sicha, in which he made a siyum on Meseches Challa. At the end, he spoke about yechidus, saying that being that there are many people who need to come in for yechidus, everyone should write their requests on a separate note and would receive the answer, though not necessarily in yechidus; perhaps the answer might even come by mail. As far as the yechidus itself, they should only bring in requests for blessings, and it would be “a modicum that contains the much.”

The Rebbe held an appeal for the benefit of Machon Chana, with each person writing his name and mother’s name on a note, as well as the amount that he pledged. All of this was placed inside the envelopes that were distributed, and these were passed from hand to hand until all the envelopes reached R’ Chadakov and R’ Groner, and they gave them to the Rebbe who put them all into a large bag.

Toward the end of the farbrengen, the Rebbe said that the recent immigrants from behind the Iron Curtain should sing a song, and the Rebbe looked around for one of them to begin the singing. In the end, it was a young boy who began the song “Becha Hashem Chasisi,” and everyone joined the singing while the Rebbe clapped his hands the entire time. Everybody jumped to the roof when the Rebbe made motions of encouragement towards the children standing behind him on the windowsill. The joy was indescribable.

After that, the Rebbe said that they should sing “Avinu Malkeinu,” and following that, began to sing himself “Tzama Lecha Nafshi,” with everyone responding at the appropriate points. Again, it is impossible to describe the joyous atmosphere. After this, he instructed that they sing “V’Samachta B’chagecha.” At the conclusion, the Rebbe said the after-blessing and again began to sing “V’Samachta B’chagecha,” and left to go to his room. 

When he exited 770, they began to sing again “V’Samachta” and the Rebbe encouraged the singing with his hand motions. The Rebbe got into the car and continued to encourage with his hand motions.

Avraham [Sameiach] taped all of the sichos and also the Rebbe’s singing.


Wednesday, 7 Tishrei

This afternoon, they brought the children from Oholei Torah to daven with the Rebbe, with the girls davening in the ladies’ section. R’ Moshe Goldstein addressed the children in English.

The Rebbe came down for Mincha and they continued to speak to the children as the Rebbe listened in. R’ Dovber (Berke) Chein of Kfar Chabad led the saying of the verses “Torah Tziva” etc., [referring to various verses and not the 12 P’sukim that the Rebbe instituted two years later], and also the blessing over the Rebbe [the blessing over seeing a righteous person], and all the children followed his lead. The Rebbe smiled a bit, seemingly hinting that it is not necessary for all of them to say the blessing over the Rebbe. R’ Moshe Goldstein translated the blessing into English, and then they began to daven Mincha.

After Mincha, they distributed 20 cents to each boy and girl. During the distribution to the girls, all of the men left the room, and the only ones remaining were the Rebbe and the secretaries – R’ Chadakov, R’ Groner, and R’ Klein. At the conclusion of the distribution the Rebbe went up to his room. When he was already at the door to his room, a woman came with her young son, and the Rebbe told R’ Groner to bring the box with the coins, which had already been brought into the office of the secretariat, and the Rebbe took coins out of the box and gave them to the boy.  

Among the children who received coins from the Rebbe were infants who were carried by their parents; it is impossible to assess the great blessing that these children have.

Tonight, the Rebbe received people for yechidus, and Maariv took place at 11:45 at night. Immediately after it ended, the yechidus schedule resumed.

Thursday, 8 Tishrei

Today before Mincha, the Mashgiach of Yeshivas Tomchei T’mimim in Kfar Chabad [where the author learned] and Yosef Parsi, arrived [in 770]. Mincha was in the downstairs hall. Meanwhile, they finished putting up wood paneling on half of the wall [in the small zal], but as of now it is not yet finished [as part of the renovations begun in the month of Menachem Av]. Maariv also took place in the zal downstairs.

Today, at 4 in the afternoon, the Mashpia R’ Mendel Futerfas came to Chovevei Torah to test the students on Chassidus. As of now he only tested some of the students, and apparently the test will continue at some later point.


Friday, Erev Yom Kippur

We woke up at 4:30 and did Kaparos on Albany Avenue. When we finished we went to 770. At a later point, we grabbed places in the sukka of the guests, because that is where the Rebbe is expected to bring the chicken of Kaparos and give it to the shochet. I stood in a good spot and saw the Rebbe clearly. The Rebbe conducts the custom of Kaparos inside his room, and then comes out holding the chicken in his hand and gives it to the shochet. The shochet took the bird and immediately, in the blink of an eye, shechted the bird as the Rebbe watched the entire time. The shochet pulled a few feathers from the wing of the bird and gave them to the Rebbe, in order to use the feathers to cover the blood with earth. Immediately, when he turned around to go back to his room, they grabbed up the feathers.

As is customary for Shacharis on Erev Yom Kippur, they davened quickly, and at about 10:30 the Rebbe began giving out lekach. At first he gave to the elders who stand in Gan Eden HaTachton. I stood for half an hour until it was my turn and I got two pieces of cake. First I got for myself and then I said, “For the family.” The Rebbe gave me a smaller piece and said, “g’mar chasima tova.

[The author of this diary goes on to describe at length that he went to Manhattan and when he returned to Crown Heights, the distribution of lekach was still going on]: The line for lekach was still ongoing, with the line reaching the street, and the Rebbe standing and giving it out tirelessly.

At 3:15, the Rebbe came down for Mincha and he put a coin into each pushka [including dozens of plates that are placed on Erev Yom Kippur for “pidyon Kaparos”]. There were those who stood nearby and grabbed the money and the Rebbe said: Perhaps the hanhala [of the yeshiva] should announce that they should sit and learn. 

Rabbi Dovid Raskin immediately began chasing the bachurim away from there and he told them that the Rebbe said to sit and learn. The bachurim went, but little children remained standing there, and they wanted the money that the Rebbe had put in. The Rebbe said, “Either I go or they go.” And the children were sent away. The Rebbe finished giving tz’daka in all the pushkas, and the coins he put down were immediately grabbed.

At the end of the davening, the Rebbe began saying the blessing that he gives on Erev Yom Kippur. The Rebbe stood with his hand leaning on the lectern and he turned toward the crowd. R’ Meir Harlig tried to move the microphone closer to the Rebbe so everyone would hear, but the Rebbe motioned that it wasn’t necessary and he took away the microphone. The Rebbe closed his eyes and blessed; it wasn’t long but rather the usual length.

Before we went to the seuda mafsekes, we ran to grab places to stand in the small zal upstairs because the Rebbe gives a special blessing to the T’mimim [“Birkas HaBanim”]. Bachurim who had set places from previous years were already standing in the good spots. In the meantime, they announced that to ensure no pushing, each one should remember where he was standing and who was standing next to him, and no standing on chairs or benches. [After everyone established his place, everyone went to eat the seuda mafsekes.]

At the seuda mafsekes, I ate the lekach that I got from the Rebbe in the morning. We then ran to the mikva and from there to 770 to the small zal. I stood where there was terrible pushing. All the pushing until now was like nothing compared to this. Due to the great heat, they put two fans there, but these did not help at all.

The Rebbe came out at about 6:10 and went up on the table, wrapped in a tallis over his head and said, “Yivorechecha Hashem” and then added more blessings, in Yiddish, of course. I saw the Rebbe between the heads of the people and he looked like an angel of G-d. His face was white and he said the blessing slowly, word by word.


Yom Kippur night

The Rebbe held a Torah for Kol Nidrei. At the end of the tefilla he said the entire T’hillim with the congregation. During the recital of T’hillim, in unusual fashion, he leaned on the arm of the chair. When the congregation had finished saying T’hillim, the Rebbe had still not finished and he went to his room only when he finished. When he left 770, a few bachurim escorted him home.

Yom Kippur

At the beginning of the davening, someone went over to R’ Groner and asked him whether the Rebbe knows what is going on in Eretz Yisroel [The outbreak of the Yom Kippur War]. R’ Groner said that the Rebbe already knows … How did the Rebbe know? We don’t know.

During the davening, I stood in the front row and saw the Rebbe the entire time. I saw how the Rebbe did the korim [kneeling and bowing] in Musaf. In general, it wasn’t easy to stand where I stood, and it was certainly hard to do the korim, but I got to see the Rebbe the entire time.

Musaf ended at 4:00 and they announced a short recess, but did not say until when. We immediately ran upstairs to the apartment of the Rebbe Rayatz on the second floor, in order to have the rare opportunity to enter there, because throughout the year there was no entry to this apartment. Just once a year, on Yom Kippur, was it possible to go inside. Unfortunately, when we arrived, it was already closed.

We went down for Mincha. I immediately went to my place in the front. The Rebbe had an aliya for Maftir Yona and as expected, there was pushing, but I remained in my place [in order to see the Rebbe during the davening]. The chazan said the Kaddish at the end of N’ila. During the break in the middle [of the Kaddish for the blowing of the shofar] the Rebbe turned around and everyone began singing “Napoleon’s March,” with the Rebbe clapping with all his might, loud claps that could be heard far away. He also sang with all his might, and we were all jumping straight up in the air. A few times, the tallis covered his holy face, and the Rebbe stopped to arrange it and then continued to sing and encourage. This went on for about five, entire, deliriously happy minutes. After that, they blew the T’kia G’dola, and at the conclusion of N’ila they began Maariv. At that point, the pushing decreased and we could already stand on our feet, as the entire time we were practically standing in the air.

After Maariv, the Rebbe turned to the crowd and said “Gut Yom Tov,” and we all answered with a tremendous roar “Gut Yom Tov,” and this was repeated three times. The Rebbe went out and up to his room, and we hurried outdoors because the Rebbe would go outside immediately for Kiddush Levana. When the Rebbe came out, he looked for the moon. I merited to stand close to the Rebbe. When Kiddush Levana ended, the Rebbe returned to his room and we waited for the Rebbe to come out once again, and we literally forgot about the fact that we were still fasting.

Meanwhile, we heard the news from the Holy Land that war had broken out with Egypt and Syria. We were informed that Egypt had launched an invasion of the Sinai with 75,000 soldiers and had pushed forward about thirty kilometers into the Sinai. We were in great pain, and the tensions were high, especially as we did not know what exactly was the truth since it is hard to believe the American radio. We are hoping that soon there will be good news.

Since the last diary entry we heard that the war is ongoing with greater intensity and greater force. We are very tense as to how things will turn out. We also heard that the Egyptians built improvised bridges over the Suez Canal and thousands of Egyptian soldiers are streaming into the Sinai Desert. All we can do is wait impatiently for tomorrow to hear clearer reports.

(The Tishrei portion of the diary to be continued in the Sukkos issue.)

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