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To mark the special day of Yud Shvat, Dov Levanon presents a compilation of stories about the relationship between the Rebbe MHM and the Tmimim, unusual expressions about hiskashrus to the nasi, and the Chassidic conduct expected of theseventh generation.”



The Rebbe once told R’ Abba Pliskin to tell the T’mimim alte chassidishe masiyos (old Chassidic tales), saying: “This is Chassidishe lachluchis (lit. moisture or juiciness).”


One of the bachurim who went to learn in 770 had a private audience with the Rebbe as soon as he arrived. “Did you see the note on the wall, the schedule of the yeshiva?” asked the Rebbe. And the yechidus was over.


When a bachur once asked the Rebbe about getting a driver’s license, the Rebbe said, “If you can’t conduct yourself, how will you be able to conduct a car?!”

To another bachur who wrote that he wanted to learn how to drive in order to do mivtzaim, the Rebbe said, “Why are you mixing your taavos (desires) into my matters?”


One winter day at the beginning of the 80’s, a bachur arrived at 770 after seder had begun. He parked his car near the steps of 770 and ran into the small zal. Suddenly, the door opposite him opened and the bachur found himself facing the Rebbe. The bachur stood there silently and waited to “get it over the head,” since every bachur in Tomchei T’mimim knows how important punctuality for s’darim is to the Rebbe.

The Rebbe stepped forward and gazed at him and asked, “Where is your coat?”

“In the car,” blurted the bachur, a second later biting his lips. Why did he tell the Rebbe he has a license?

“A coat was not made to warm a car,” said the Rebbe, and he continued walking toward the car that was waiting for him. Needless to say, throughout that winter, the bachur was no longer late and he did not go outside without a coat.


In the early years, there was a bachur in 770 who stayed late at night in order to see the Rebbe leave for home. The Rebbe once came out and saw him. “What are you doing here?! You need to sleep eight hours! You don’t believe me? It says so in the Rambam, I’ll show it to you.”

The Rebbe went to find a Rambam but the bachur did not wait for it to be shown to him and left immediately.


After one of the farbrengens in which the Rebbe spoke about mivtzaim, some bachurim in 770 decided that that week would be devoted to mivtzaim. On Motzaei Shabbos they told the hanhala of the yeshiva about their decision. The next day some tanks were parked near 770 and they waited for the Rebbe’s encouragement before they set out. To their disappointment, the Rebbe passed by the tanks as though he didn’t see them.

The same thing happened on Tuesday and Wednesday. The Rebbe ignored the tanks and the bachurim. On Tuesday, the Rebbe asked R’ Leibel Groner what they were doing there. R’ Groner told the Rebbe about the bachurim’s decision and the Rebbe said, “What?!” as he banged on the desk. “They want me to take responsibility for bittul Torah? Go and tell them that I meant they should do mivtzaim during their afternoon breaks which are designated for lunch and resting.”


The Rebbe’s desire that the bachurim know how to learn is well known. When R’ Meir Tzvi Gruzman asked the Rebbe how to get the bachurim to want to learn when they did not have ambitions to be g’dolim, the Rebbe said that he wants the bachurim to know how to learn. In Chassidishe “lo lishma” there are three possibilities: for Chassidus, for hafatza, and for hiskashrus.

For the tenaim of R’ Shneur Chaim Gutnick’s oldest daughter, the Rebbe told him to invite his Litvishe friends. After the simcha, the Rebbe asked whether they said divrei Torah. R’ Gutnick said that R’ Gifter, the Telzer Rosh Yeshiva, had asked a question on the Rambam and had left it unaswered.

The Rebbe told him to go to R’ Mentlick and tell him that the bachurim should work on this Rambam, find an answer, and send it to R’ Gifter.

The Rebbe told R’ Yosef Goldberg in yechidus that when a bachur is asked a question in the Shaagas Aryeh and he doesn’t know it, it’s an embarrassment for the Rebbeim (and the Rebbe enumerated them).


In 5733, the bachurim in the yeshiva in Morristown began printing pamphlets of insights of the T’mimim and Anash. A short while later, a rumor spread that the Rebbe was not pleased with the pamphlets and they stopped. After a few weeks, one of the secretaries called and said they should start printing them again.

Around that time, the mashpia of the yeshiva, R’ Elimelech Zwiebel, had yechidus and he told the Rebbe why they had stopped printing the kovetz.

The Rebbe said, “A rav wrote me a question on one of the sichos and I took the kovetz where the question appeared along with an answer and I sent it to him.”



Once in 5738, when the Rebbe returned from the Ohel and saw some people waiting for him, he said, “What are they doing here?” to Dr. Reznick. “They should follow me spiritually, not physically!”


R’ J. J. Hecht once wanted to replace the lamp in the Rebbe’s room. “I got it from my father-in-law, how can I replace it?” said the Rebbe.


In a yechidus, the Rebbe said to R’ Yitzchok Dovid Groner, “Whoever had the merit of seeing the Rebbe, each morning, it makes no difference whether before the morning brachos or after, needs to go off to a corner and picture the Rebbe, my father-in-law’s face. This will give him chayus (vitality) where necessary.”


When they began saying perek 71 on 11 Nissan 5732/1972, R’ Yaakov Katz asked the Rebbe why it says, “…may the righteous flourish in his days” and not “our days”?

The Rebbe said, “Don’t tell the bachurim. They will reprint the T’hillim …”


One Shabbos in the early years, in the middle of the farbrengen, the Rebbe asked that they bring him a Gemara Sanhedrin. They brought a large, heavy Gemara and after the Rebbe looked into it, he continued the sichos with the Gemara on his lap.

R’ Moshe Gurary who was present wanted to take the Gemara but the Rebbe said to him, “Either way, if I am … then nothing is difficult. And if it’s difficult, then it’s a shame that you’re sitting here.”


Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka said that the Rebbe once complained to her that when he encouraged the singing with his hand at farbrengens, the Chassidim began singing with greater enthusiasm, and when he gave out kos shel bracha or dollars, people stood for hours on line. Why then, when he asked the Chassidim to do something or other, there wasn’t a long line down Eastern Parkway with people waiting to hand in reports of what they did?


In 5715, R’ Yisroel Yitzchok Piekarski, rosh yeshiva of 770, went to Eretz Yisroel. Before he left, he went to ask the Rebbe for a bracha and the Rebbe asked when he was returning to New York. When he responded, the Rebbe asked in surprise, “Why are you spending so much time there? You can return two days earlier …”

R’ Piekarski of course changed his itinerary and made a ticket for two days earlier. A day after he returned to the US he discovered that his life had been saved thanks to the Rebbe. The El-Al flight he was originally supposed to be on veered off course near Yugoslavia and entered the air space of communist Bulgaria which shot it down. All 58 people on board were killed.


The Rebbe once said to R’ Yitzchok Goldin that there are those who think that one need not have pity on the Rebbe. If Chassidim had behaved otherwise, my father-in-law would be with us today. Upon saying this, the Rebbe leaned his head on his hands and cried.

When R’ Nissan Nemanov had yechidus and he asked the Rebbe to go back to doing things the way they were done in Lubavitch, when chozrim would review the maamer in the Rebbe’s room, the Rebbe said, “The half hour I have for myself you also want to take away?”

On the other hand, the Rebbe once asked a woman why her husband did not ask him questions regarding parnasa. The woman said that her husband did not want to take up the Rebbe’s time. The Rebbe said, “That’s why I’m here.”



When R’ Saadia Liberow went to the Rebbe, he walked on Eastern Parkway with his eyes cast downward. The Rebbe, leaving 770, saw him and said to the bachurim who were standing around, “See how a Chassidishe Yid walks.”


R’ Shmuel Zalmanov submitted something he had written to the Rebbe for the Rebbe to edit. The Rebbe said he could not work on it that evening since there was a wedding. R’ Shmuel knew that the Rebbe had stopped going to weddings and was surprised to hear this. The Rebbe explained, “When I don’t go b’gashmius, I am more involved b’ruchnius” (when I don’t go physically, I am more spiritually involved).


R’ Shlomo Yosef Zevin related, “A person I knew had a hard time finding a match for his daughter. I advised him to go to the Rebbe for a bracha. The man decided to go to the Rebbe for Simchas Torah.

“I told him that in order to successfully reach the Rebbe despite the tremendous crowding he should say he has a shlichus from me. Consequently, they brought him close to the Rebbe and he gave the Rebbe regards from me and used the opportunity to ask for a bracha for his daughter. The Rebbe smiled and blessed him that his daughter would do a shidduch that year.

“The man walked away from the Rebbe in good spirits but then the Rebbe called him back. ‘The year ends on Simchas Torah,’ he emphasized.

When the man went home and told me this, I did not understand it either. It was only on Chol HaMoed of the following year, when I was invited to the vort, that I suddenly got it – how precise are the Rebbe’s words!


After Tishrei 5735, R’ Reuven Dunin had yechidus and told the Rebbe he wanted to move with his family to the US. “When Moshiach comes, we will all go to Eretz Yisroel.”

The Rebbe nixed the idea.

“Then I want him [Moshiach] to come to my house,” said Reuven.

“Moshiach will make a stop in every Jewish home,” said the Rebbe.


R’ Elimelech Neiman, a Gerrer askan, passed by the Rebbe when dollars were given out to Tankistin. He asked for a bracha for a refua shleima for the Lev Simcha, R’ Simcha Bunim Alter, the Gerrer Rebbe. (6 April 1898 – 6 August 1992). The Rebbe said, “May it be a refua shleima l’alter” (a play on words with “alter” meaning immediate and also being the Gerrer Rebbe’s name).


In 5710, R’ Moshe Twersky told the Rebbe that he had found a manuscript from his grandfather, the Horensteipler, which was in the manner of Chabad, and that Kehos should publish it.

The Rebbe said, “Why do we need ‘according to Chabad’ when we can have Chabad itself?”


One year, a grocery delivery arrived at the Rebbe’s house and was left at the door. In the evening, the Rebbe entered the house with the heavy bag.

“Notik can also do that!” exclaimed the Rebbetzin, wondering why the Rebbe did not leave the schlepping for the assistant to do.

“Notik is also a Yid,” said the Rebbe.


At one of the farbrengens in the early years, the Rebbe poured a cup of non-alcoholic beverage for R’ Shneur Zalman Vilenkin who had been his melamed. Then the Rebbe turned in order to give him the cup.

Someone tried to intervene and pass the cup so the Rebbe wouldn’t have to exert himself. The Rebbe said, “He was my melamed, not yours,” declining the help.


The night of Simchas Torah 5739, two Chassidim, mekuravim of Beis Rebbi, went to the library in order to make kiddush on mashke. The Rebbetzin was there at the time. She was waiting for the Rebbe to come and make kiddush for her. The Rebbe suddenly walked in and one of them, R’ Binyamin Altheus, began to leave the room upon seeing the Rebbe. The Rebbe stopped him and said, “One doesn’t walk away from mashke.”


R’ Berel Zaltzman told the Rebbe about his uncertainty as to where to send his son, to Morristown, as he had first thought, or to Oholei Torah, about which he had heard nice things.

“But the air in Morristown is better,” said the Rebbe as he raised his hands upward.


At a Shabbos farbrengen in 5715, the Rebbe said that all the roshei yeshiva should say l’chaim. When the Rebbe saw that the melamed R’ Eliyahu Chaim Roitblatt wasn’t saying l’chaim, he said to him, “When a rosh yeshiva says a shiur, he cannot be sure that what he’s saying is true. But when you teach little children ‘kometz alef ah’ you can be certain it is true, say l’chaim!”


Before the nesius, the Rebbe would bring mezonos to the sukka so that someone who said the bracha on the lulav could eat immediately afterwards. When R’ Shmuel Levitin pointed out that it wasn’t necessary for the eating before davening to be done publicly, the Rebbe said, “There is nothing to be ashamed about a Chassidishe practice.”


Professor Branover related:

Since I worked as a scientist in Russia, they refused to let me out. Following the few days I spent in jail as a result of my request to leave, I decided to contact the Rebbe and ask for a bracha. Anash, who heard the idea, tried to dissuade me and said I would not be able to contact America and they would arrest me.

I decided I would try regardless. I went to the local post office and asked to make a call to New York. Within ten minutes, the height of speed in those days, I was able to speak to the Rebbe’s secretary. The secretary told me that the Rebbe did not speak on the phone. I insisted and said that the KGB could come at any time. They put on Chadakov who said the same thing and while I argued with him, I heard the Rebbe’s voice on the line.

“Tell him that he already has all the brachos and it won’t be long before he leaves in peace.”

Three weeks later I was called to the emigration office where a clerk told me that as long as I remembered the science I learned in Russia, I would not leave until I forgot it all. I went home despondent but when I arrived there they called me back to the office. The woman greeted me again with derision and said, “We decided to let you go.”


More from Professor Branover:

When the Rebbe told me to build a neighborhood in Yerushalayim for Russian immigrants, there were a number of places that were suggested. I decided to go to the Rebbe and ask his advice.

When I had yechidus and began enumerating the options, I put my hand in my pocket in order to take out a map of the city I had prepared. The Rebbe motioned that this was unnecessary and began explaining to me without any visual reference, “If the neighborhood will be here, when a person will go to a convention at Binyanei HaUma, he will have to go via that street and it will take him x amount of time. If the neighborhood is located there, when a woman goes to the grocery store, it will take her x amount of time.

To my astonishment, the Rebbe, who had never been in Yerushalayim, showed me that he knew the city better than me and the map together.

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