THREE-TIME RAFFLE WINNER
September 9, 2015
Yisroel Lapidot in #989, Interview, Tishrei

 

He is one of the old-timers in Kfar Chabad and regularly gives shiurim in Beis Menachem.What not everyone knows is that over the years, he won the raffle to go to the Rebbe three times! * One of the Tishrei’s that R’ Elozor spent with the Rebbe, was Tishrei 5725, the month that Rebbetzin Chana passed away. * The Chassid, R’ Elozor Lifsh, in an interview with Beis Moshiach, recounts his meeting with Rebbetzin Chana, the kiruvim in the Rebbe’s room, and the moment at a farbrengen when he began to cry and the Rebbe turned to him.

The Chassid, R Elozor Lifsh, has lived in Kfar Chabad for over fifty years (54 to be precise) and in his Chassidic way of life, he is a role model to the younger generation.

Over the years, R’ Elozor visited the Rebbe many times, like many Chassidim, but unlike most, he won a raffle three times to do so!

One of the Tishreis that he spent with the Rebbe was Tishrei 5725, the month that Rebbetzin Chana passed away.  R’ Elozor was there, attended the funeral, and saw some of the Rebbe’s practices.  He even personally met with Rebbetzin Chana but for that we need to go back five years.

“It was in 5720.  That was my first Tishrei with the Rebbe.  R’ Sholom Dovber Butman, who knew me, took me and another guest to Rebbetzin Chana’s house in order to ask for lekach.  When we went inside, R’ Butman introduced me to the Rebbetzin and said to her, ‘He was in Poking.’”

Poking was a DP camp in Germany that was set up after the war and which housed many refugees from Russia.  Among the refugees was Rebbetzin Chana who had managed to escape Russia and Poland, and our family had also stayed in this camp.

“The Rebbetzin looked at me and said, ‘I don’t remember you.’ Of course she wouldn’t remember me since I had been a young boy back then and I had grown up.


“I sat at the table and the Rebbetzin continued to gaze at me and then she said to R’ Butman, ‘He is just like his father.’  She remembered my father, R’ Yosef Yehuda, very well and I resembled him.  She repeated emotionally, ‘He is just like his father.’”

Mrs. Lifsh, who was listening to our conversation, interjected, “We sent an invitation to our wedding to the Rebbetzin and she sent us her handwritten hearty blessings.”

ANOTHER TIME HE WON – TISHREI 5725

Five years passed and R’ Elozor Lifsh won the raffle again to go to the Rebbe, but this time it was only half a ticket.  R’ Nachum Trebnik won the full ticket.  He was the rosh yeshiva in Kfar Chabad and later became the mara d’asra of Kfar Chabad.

“We went to the Rebbe together,” said R’ Lifsh, describing the long, exhausting trip of those days.  “From Eretz Yisroel we sailed to Italy and from Italy we took a train to France.  From France we went to London, and in London we took a charter flight to New York.  It took four days.  I remember R’ Trebnik saying he did not have the strength to go back the same way.  Upon returning to London with the charter, we bought tickets for a direct flight to Eretz Yisroel.” 

As someone who had won the raffle, R’ Elozor was allowed to stand next to the bima during the shofar blowing and see the Rebbe in his holy avoda from up close.  “I stood next to the bima and when I turned my head I saw the Rebbe.  The Rebbe would cover himself with his tallis before the t’kios.  Sometimes he would lift the tallis in order to be covered by it together with the panim, and the entire tallis would be extended forward.”

He still remembers the Rebbetzin’s passing even though fifty years have passed since then.  “Rebbetzin Chana passed away on Shabbos at Mincha time in the hospital.  On Motzaei Shabbos they took her home and throughout the night there were shifts of people saying T’hillim.  My shift was from twelve until one at night.  R’ Leibel Groner and R’ Berel Junik were also there at that time.


“I remember that on Sunday morning, before the funeral, the Rebbe attended the minyan in the morning at 770 and said Kaddish.

“I can still remember the funeral.  Thousands stood outside the building where the Rebbetzin lived, on President Street, corner of Kingston.  Due to the chaos, when they had to leave the building with the coffin, both men and women were standing there and the Rebbe remained inside and did not come out.  R’ Dovid Raskin began shouting that men should go to one side and women to the other and he said the Rebbe wasn’t coming out because of the mixed crowd.  It was only after they managed, with great effort, to separate men and women, that the Rebbe came out to the funeral.

“There was an item of clothing that had blood from the Rebbetzin and according to Halacha this is placed in the grave.  At the burial, the Rebbe did not see that they had put it in and he began looking for it until someone said it was under the body.

“I remember someone from Anash who was standing there and photographing the entire time.  When the Rebbe passed him, the Rebbe took the camera from him.

“The next day they davened in the Rebbetzin’s apartment.  They did not let everyone in but they let me in because I had won the raffle.  I remember that R’ Zelig Katzman was there (I knew him from Poking. He was very smart and could learn very well.)  He was a Kohen and got an aliya as such.  His wife had just given birth to a girl and he gave her the name Chana.  I think he was the first to name for the Rebbetzin.  When the Rebbe was called up for the third aliya, on his way to the bima he said ‘mazal tov’ to him.

“I remember the farbrengen when the Rebbe said he was farbrenging because if he didn’t, it would be in the category of public mourning which is forbidden on Yom Tov.”

WINNING TICKET PURCHASED MINUTES BEFORE THE RAFFLE

By winning the raffle, the winner becomes the representative of all the thousands of Chassidim in Eretz Yisroel.  Consequently, it was not just a Chassid traveling to his Rebbe, but the shliach of many people, being their mouth, eyes and ears, and afterward reporting to them what he saw and heard.

The first time R’ Lifsh won the raffle was in 5720.  That year he lived in B’nei Brak.  When there was a raffle in the summer, R’ Leibel Zalmanov won a trip to the Rebbe for Shavuos.  However, he had problems leaving because of the army and it was decided that before Tishrei they would have another raffle.

“The raffle took place in the Chabad shul in Tel Aviv.  My father-in-law, R’ Yehuda Shmotkin, lived in Tel Aviv and was present at the raffle.  He checked and saw that my name wasn’t on the list which meant I wasn’t in the raffle.  On the spur of the moment, he bought a ticket for me and paid for it and a few minutes later I won.

“I remember till today how after the raffle, in the middle of the night, he woke us up to tell us I had won.  In those days it was like I had won the lottery.

“To get a visa from the US government, there had to be a formal request from an American citizen.  I wrote to R’ Chadakov and asked him to send me this request with which I would be able to receive a visa but did not receive a response.”

R’ Lifsh does not remember how much time elapsed, but he finally received an invitation from R’ Chadakov.

“There was an American fellow here, clean shaven (I think he worked for Chabad mosdos in the US).  He went with me to the consulate and spoke to them in English on my behalf.  I did not understand a word he said, but I got a visa on the spot.”

After a long, indirect journey, R’ Lifsh arrived at 770 for Tishrei 5720.  During that month he had yechidus twice, the first time was before Rosh HaShana and after the Yomim Tovim there was another one.

Before his marriage in 5716, the young couple had bought an apartment in B’nei Brak.  R’ Elozor wrote to the Rebbe at the time about buying the apartment and asked for a bracha.  The answer was unexpected.

“The Rebbe wrote me, ‘It would be proper for it to be in Kfar Chabad, and if in Kfar Chabad it is not possible, then in Rishon L’Tziyon, near where you work.’  At the time I taught in Yeshivas Achei T’mimim in Rishon L’Tziyon and this was after I had already bought the apartment in B’nei Brak.

“We considered postponing the wedding so we could get an apartment in Kfar Chabad, but back then you could not buy apartments in Kfar Chabad.  This entire neighborhood wasn’t built yet [he says pointing at a long row of houses between Beis Menachem and the train station].  I asked the Rebbe about this and received this answer, ‘You don’t postpone a wedding.  In the meantime, you can live in the apartment you bought, and eventually, when there will be an apartment in Kfar Chabad, move to Kfar Chabad.’

“Now, when I had yechidus the first time, before the Rebbe opened the pidyon nefesh, he asked me, ‘What’s with the plan to move to Kfar Chabad? You are still waiting for the right time?’ I said, ‘I am registered for an apartment which is under construction and when the apartment is ready, I will move.’  That is the apartment we are living in for 53 years, since 5721.

“When I had the first yechidus before Rosh HaShana, I held the note in my hand and trembled the entire time.  The Rebbe got up and took the note from my hand.”

At the next yechidus, at the end of Tishrei:

“Before I traveled to 770, my wife urged me to buy a camera while in America.  Back then it was a very expensive item so I wanted to postpone buying it.  Before returning to Eretz Yisroel, during the yechidus, the Rebbe gave me ten dollars and told me to buy my wife a gift.  Of course I went to an electronics store and bought a camera for my wife.”

KIRUVIM FROM THE REBBE

As a raffle winner, R’ Elozor Lifsh got a prime spot for the davening and farbrengens so he could hear the Rebbe well.  One of the unforgettable moments was at one of the farbrengens:

“I remember that at a farbrengen that took place on Shabbos, I began to cry.  I sat facing the Rebbe and it was very uncomfortable for me.

“Suddenly, the Rebbe turned toward me and motioned to me to say l’chaim.  They immediately brought me a cup and wine but then the Rebbe motioned for a bigger cup.  They quickly brought me a bigger cup and I said l’chaim a few times.  Although I wasn’t tipsy afterward, my head was spinning.  I stayed in the beis midrash until after Maariv and Shabbos was over.  Then one of my friends from yeshiva days when I learned in Poking took me to the place I was staying.”

Once again, the raffle winner merited special regard from the Rebbe, being the emissary of thousands of Chassidim.  One of these honors R’ Elozor cannot forget:

“On the morning of Erev Sukkos, they told me that at one o’clock I was to go to the Rebbe’s room in order to receive the four minim as the raffle winner.  Of course, I was there promptly at one and I went in together with some other ‘VIPs’ who merited to receive the minim from the Rebbe.  On the floor near the window in the Rebbe’s room was a pail with hadasim (myrtles).  The Rebbe stood there and picked hadasim.  On the right, also near the window, stood R’ Binyamin Gorodetzky and his father-in-law R’ Shmuel Levitin.  Both stood and picked hadasim.  Someone told me to go over to the Rebbe’s desk to take a lulav and esrog.  From great emotion and awe I did not look nor was I overly picky.  I took the smallest lulav on the desk and the smallest esrog.  Then I had to pick hadasim but it wasn’t easy to stand next to the Rebbe and select hadasim.  I grabbed four random hadasim and removed them from the pail.  The Rebbe suddenly turned to me and asked, “You have more than three?” I said yes, and the Rebbe began to bless me.  I understood that I was supposed to leave.

“From this I learned that according to Halacha, you always need to take three hadasim, but there is a hiddur to take more.  Since then, every year, I take more than three hadasim.”

STANDING DURING THE T’FILLOS

“During the t’fillos, I always stood not far from where the Rebbe stood.  I remember that one time, I think it was on Rosh HaShana, I wanted to see and hear the Rebbe daven. They usually did not allow people to go up on the bima platform and when I did so anyway, one of the gabbaim came over to take me down.  I told him, ‘I promise you that I will not be on the platform for krias ha’Torah,’ and he left me alone.

“Thus I stood on the platform the entire t’filla from where I could see the Rebbe clearly.  When they went with the Torah scroll before the reading of the Torah toward the bima, I went down and stood off to the side.  Then something surprising happened.  When the Rebbe went up for Maftir, he asked why an aliya had not been given to the one who won the raffle.  Since I was standing on the side of the bima from the outside, they immediately raised me up and threw me onto the platform.  It wasn’t easy because behind me stood a very old Chassid and it was very crowded and in front of me stood the Rebbe.  It was hard to stand there but in the end I managed to get a hand in between the Rebbe and the one who had an aliya and I grasped part of the bima.

“For Maftir they brought the small Torah and R’ Zalman Gurary bought the z’chus for hagba.  Now that the Rebbe had asked about the raffle winner who did not get an aliya, they allowed me to do hagba and R’ Zalman Gurary said he would do gelila.  Of course, thanks to this, I was right next to the Rebbe.

“For the shofar blowing, R’ Zalman said to me, ‘You hold the Torah and I will hold it together with you.’  That was a kind of guarantee that they wouldn’t push us from there.  Indeed, I was able to stand right next to the Rebbe during the blowing of the shofar and I will never forget it.

“The raffle winner only got a one-way ticket.  After the Yomim Tovim, the Rebbe told R’ Dovid Raskin to take care of my ticket back because I needed to travel as quickly as possible since I was a teacher in Rishon L’Tziyon.”

***

“I think the greatest kiruv I got was being allowed to sit at farbrengens and I did not have to look for a place.  Those who remember what a chore it was to find a good spot at farbrengens, knows that this was the greatest kiruv.

“The third time I won the raffle was for Shavuos 5751, when I went with my wife.  The Rebbe had given out a silver medallion for Lag b’Omer.  On one side it said ‘tiferes sh’b’tiferes,’ and on the other side ‘Tahaluchos Lag B’Omer.’  They told me that the secretary R’ Leibel Groner was giving all the guests who came for Shavuos one of these medallions.  I went and asked for one and he gave one for me and one for my wife.”

Article originally appeared on Beis Moshiach Magazine (http://beismoshiachmagazine.org/).
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