May 15, 2018
Menachem Ziegelboim in #1118, Chinuch, Interview

Sixty-one years ago, when he was still a bachur, the Rebbe farbrenged in his honor and gave him a special educational mission. Since then, he has been involved in chinuch. * For Shavuos, we interviewed Rabbi Zushe Posner about chinuch. He spoke in his usual direct, penetrating fashion, with his focus on one point, the Rebbe. This is the point around which he lives and operates. He is not inclined to employ clever verbiage or verbal contortions to please his listeners. He believes that goodness and blessing will come from truth and that truth will sprout from the simplest, most basic of places. * “Our children will be our guarantors.” * Part 1 of 2


Ten select T’mimim were chosen to be the Rebbe’s emissaries and representatives after the massacre in Kfar Chabad in 5715, in which five students and their counselor were murdered by Arabs. One of those outstanding T’mimim was Rabbi Zushe Posner, then a bachur in the yeshiva in Montreal. He went, together with the other bachurim, to raise the spirits of Lubavitcher Chassidim in Eretz Yisroel. They were received with great honor.

Before returning to the United States, Zushe received a telegram stating that he should remain in Eretz Yisroel. Two years later, in Tammuz 5718/1958, he returned to New York for his sister’s wedding. He knew that he had to return to Eretz Yisroel but waited for the Rebbe’s instruction to do so, as he had not received a response to the letters he had submitted to the Rebbe.

One day, Rabbi Chadakov called him over and said, “Return to Eretz Yisroel next Monday.” The orders were to work in chinuch under the auspices of the Oholei Yosef Yitzchok network. In yechidus, the Rebbe spoke about the shlichus he was about to embark upon.

It was a Sunday afternoon, 9 Elul 5718, a day before his flight to Eretz Yisroel. Rabbi Dovid Raskin called his sister’s house where he was staying and said that since he was going on shlichus to Eretz Yisroel, there would be a tzeischem L’Shalom party for him, given by Tzeirei Agudas Chabad, in the beis midrash of 770, at the end of the learning.

Barely a minyan of bachurim remained. There were a few crackers and an improvised “head table,” where Rabbi Raskin, the rosh yeshiva Rabbi Mentlick, and Zushe Posner sat. The small number of participants did not stop the first two from delivering fiery speeches as though speaking to an audience of thousands.

“During the farbrengen,” said R’ Zushe, “I noticed that R’ Chadakov was looking into the zal every now and then, but didn’t think much of it. Suddenly, he walked in and announced, ‘If it will be orderly and quiet, the Rebbe will come in for a few minutes.’

“Until the Rebbe entered there was a small commotion. Each one tried to contact his friends. Some went to the public phone in 770, but still, when the Rebbe entered, the crowd was no more than a few dozen people.

“At 10:55 at night, the Rebbe came in and everyone stood up. The Rebbe sat in his usual place. When he saw me, he motioned to me to sit. You can well imagine how I felt. I remained standing. A few moments later, the Rebbe asked, ‘Is there no bench?’ I remained standing but leaned a little on the table.”

The Rebbe began speaking about the “honoree” of the event. “The main reason for this farbrengen is the trip of a shliach to Eretz Yisroel to work, and to give over to others so that they too will work in a manner of shlichus, in the field of chinuch al taharas ha’kodesh, especially in institutions named for the Rebbe, my father-in-law, and consequently are also called that they are operating on the shlichus of the one for whom it is named.”

During this surprise farbrengen, the Rebbe used unusual terms about those involved in holy work, shlichus and chinuch.

The Rebbe wished R’ Zushe, “May Hashem give you blessing and success that the shliach will take the matters of shlichus in their fullest sense and bring them there, to Eretz Yisroel, in their fullest sense. And consequently, they will be words from the heart that enter the hearts of the listeners, to have an influence on the young men and on the teachers, so that every one of them will work with alacrity and chayus and simcha to bring the word of G-d to every place where they will be established. And especially those schools named for the Rebbe, my father-in-law, so that the students will be ‘seed, blessed by G-d,’ ‘a blessed upright generation’ (a version of this sicha was even edited afterward by the Rebbe and publicized several times).

To this very day, many decades later, this event is considered most unusual, that the Rebbe should come out and say a sicha in honor of one person, a bachur, Zushe Posner. It is with him that we had this special interview about chinuch in honor of Shavuos.


Many know Rabbi Zushe Posner, aka Rav Zushe or, if it was up to him, Zushe or Posner. It is sixty-one years since that shlichus and he is still in Eretz Yisroel in an educational capacity He is a mashpia in Yeshivos Tomchei T’mimim in Lud and B’nei Brak, a member of Aguch and director of the Chinuch Committee Agudas Chassidei Chabad [note: this interview was recorded nine years ago – Ed.].

R’ Zushe is not just an ordinary educator. He has his own approach that doesn’t look left or right; he looks directly at the goal and works tirelessly to reach that goal. He is never interested in what those on the right and left have to say. He follows his own Chassidishe educational path and approach and nobody will budge him.

One symptom of that characteristic is his style of speech. He does not talk like a traditional mechanech, even though what he says is suffused with Chassidishe ideas; he does not talk like a mashpia, even though what he says is full of Chassidishe content; he does not speak like one of the Chassidim, even though he, more that anyone, loves to wax nostalgic over the Chassidim of previous generations, and to learn and absorb an abundance of influence from them.

Despite his American accented reish that you can still hear, here and there, his way of talking is like a sabra, direct and blunt. Forget hyperbolic adjectives, skip the clichés, and you can be sure that he is not willing to listen to slogans. In his inner world it simply doesn’t exist.

The interview with him for Shavuos was about chinuch and it is direct, penetrating, and looks directly ahead, or perhaps straight up, to the Rebbe. That is the point around which he lives and operates and he is not inclined to employ clever verbiage or verbal contortions to please his audience. He believes that goodness and blessing will come from truth, and that truth will sprout from the simplest, most basic of places.

R’ Zushe was born in 5696/1936. His beard is white but his spirit is young. His persona is a synthesis of seemingly conflicting drives, but he loves to find balance between them. When he hears something, he raises the contrary position. He doesn’t look longingly at early generations, despite the fact that he actually does. He doesn’t pull rank over the younger generations even though he thinks they have plenty to learn, a fact that does not contradict his admiration of them. Are you confused? That’s Zushe Posner. He praises the good like he attacks that which is not good. To him, there is no homogeneous approach. He knows how to differentiate and separate between one point and another. To him, there isn’t the “world of the young” or the “world of the older ones.” He seethes when he hears distinctions being made between Meshichistim and those who aren’t, and scorns those who live according to labels and generalizations.

“The children, the younger generation, they are continuity, but not only continuity; the continuity of that which once was.” That’s it, in a nutshell. The younger generation is deserving of blessing and so he, as a mechanech, he believes in them, but it’s a continuation of previous generations. “Children are the future, but children of what was; you cannot have children without parents.”

Is this the reason that Hashem only agreed to accept our children as guarantors for the giving of the Torah and did not accept the offer of the Avos or the Prophets?

“Right, because who will perpetuate the chain of Torah if not our children? Children are the future and if the Avos or Prophets were taken as guarantors, there would have been no continuity to Torah. Children are a continuation, and whoever has a child, knows this. Someone, G-d forbid, who doesn’t have a child, is considered dead.”

R’ Zushe, as usual, takes both sides of the issue and blends them together without being sentimental about it. “We have a trend today that we don’t want to know about the past. ‘Leave it alone, be relevant, talk about today.’ At my farbrengens, I tell some stories about Chassidim of yesteryear or about times gone by. We need to remember this too – if there was no past, there is no future; if there is no future, there is no present.”

So why were the Avos and Prophets even a suggestion?

“There are those who only want to know about the past. Go out on mivtzaim and you’ll hear many times, ‘My grandfather was a big rabbi.’ Why should I care about what your grandfather was? The same is true with elder Chassidim who like to cling to the past.”

Let’s be honest. You have a white beard and I have a black beard. You will never be satisfied with us. You will always say with a heavy sigh that this young generation is not what once was. Do you really think that you can demand of the next generation what once was in the past?

(Emphatic): “Nobody ever heard that kind of talk from me. If I make demands of the younger generation it’s about what it is capable of and not about the previous generation.

“I have a white beard and live in Eretz Yisroel for over sixty years. In one of the early years, when I worked in the office of the yeshiva in Lud, I met Rabbi Diskin a”h (grandfather of the Rabbi Diskin of Kiryat Ata today). I also got to know his wife who always sighed, ‘Oy, today’s children; it’s not what we had in the past.’ I asked her, ‘Rebbetzin Diskin, fifty years ago, when you were a child, what did they tell you? They told you the same thing!’

“They ask me if I miss the old days. No. I don’t. What was, was. I’m living today, living the continuation. When you are nostalgic, you stop living. When I look at the present, at the current generation, there are good things and not; there are deficiencies and inadequacies.”

Once again, R’ Zushe insists on looking at the big picture, and he speaks out of pain for those who cling to the past and don’t look toward the future. On the other hand, “It pains me a lot when the past is forgotten.” No, it’s not a contradiction to him. He believes that the present generation is the generation that exists in the present who ought not live in the past, but it definitely needs to contemplate the past and learn from it.

“A few weeks ago, I got a phone call from a girl, a student of Beis Chana in Yerushalayim. She had an assignment in school to write about Chassidim who perished in the Holocaust that people don’t know about. ‘Did you ever hear about a man by the name of Rabbi Dov Gurfinkel?’ she asked me. I answered, ‘Why do you say his name like that? Say Berel Kurenitzer. That is how he was known by all. Yes, I can talk about him.’ I told her about him and cried the entire time. Who talks about Berel Kurenitzer today? He did not leave children. He married very late and was murdered by the cursed Nazis. Who did he leave? He left me. I need to talk about him.”

What do you mean that he left you – did you ever see him?

“No, never.”

R’ Zushe, as is his wont, likes to be mysterious.

So what do you mean when you say he left you?

“I choose to talk about him. I tell about him and by doing that, I serve as a continuation to him, to his path.”

What do you mean?

“One of the problems today is that people don’t want to know what was in the past. Go into 770. How many today remember who Rabbi Mentlick was, who was the rosh yeshiva there for decades? I just use him as one example.”

You want to synthesize the idea of “our children will be our guarantors” as the continuing generation, with “ask your father and he will tell you,” the legacy of the past …

“Exactly. If there are no parents, there is nothing to continue. It goes together.”


When R’ Zushe talks about the idea of a generation gap, he agrees that the term itself has become problematic, since now the generations pass quickly. A generation no longer means fifty years or twenty-five years, due to the speed of changes in information and attitudes, in all areas of life. When I present a question to him about this and want to know whether it is correct that every two to three years is a new generation, he objects, but immediately understands where this is going:

“Why every two years? Today everything revolves around computers. When you buy a computer, it’s the best. Half a year later, it’s old. Nowadays, things move rapidly. Today, it’s the ‘enter-delete’ generation. (Laughing): I personally don’t know how to use a computer, but I am familiar with these two concepts.”

What are the ‘enter and delete’ that you refer to?

“People want everything on the spot; there is no patience. ‘Enter’ provides you with what you want immediately, and ‘delete’ is when you are not satisfied. Gratification is immediate. If you want to learn, you need patience. Nothing goes automatically.”

When you ask Chassidim of the ‘enter-delete’ generation to contemplate Chassidim of earlier generations, of the past 100 years, don’t you see two different Chassiduyos? Other worlds?

“Two worlds, that is correct, but not two different Chassiduyos. In the days of R’ Yehuda Eber, a genius and outstanding Chassid, the rosh yeshiva in Tomchei T’mimim in Warsaw, there was no word processor; there was a typewriter. He learned to type his shiurim on it. When something went wrong with the typewriter, he couldn’t call a technician, so he had to learn how to fix it himself.

“There are ‘Yehuda Ebers’ today. Last winter, I was in 770 three times and most of the time I sat in the zal with the bachurim. There are bachurim whom the roshei yeshivos are afraid of because they know how to learn no less than them.

(Emotionally): “I can tell you honestly: The Lubavitcher Rebbe has nothing to be ashamed of from the earlier Rebbeim. He has a cadre of guys who do everything in an outstanding way: great in Nigleh, outstanding in Chassidus, baalei haskala, in everything. I live by my senses and my sense tells me that if we take R’ Berel Kurenitzer, R’ Yehuda Eber, R’ Zalman Shimon Dworkin, R’ Yehoshua Isaac Baruch, R’ Shaul Bruk, R’ Shlomo Chaim Kesselman, R’ Nissan Nemanov – I am intentionally transitioning from the earlier generation to our generation but won’t mention names of chevra who are alive today – the Lubavitcher Rebbe doesn’t need to be ashamed of his Chassidim.

“I arrived in 770 sixty-six years ago (now 75), nearly at the beginning. I went to Tomchei T’mimim sixty-three years ago (now 72), to the yeshiva on Bedford. I saw the chevra who came to the yeshiva from Shanghai and Poland; there aren’t many of them left. Later on, I saw the American bachurim who came to the Chassidishe yeshiva to learn. I remember the Russian bachurim who got out on the repatriation trains and came to yeshiva in America, including R’ Dovid Raskin, R’ Berel Junik, R’ Itzke Pevsner, R’ Moshe Levertov and others. Then I saw the Israelis who came like R’ Gershon Mendel Garelik, R’ Sholom Feldman, R’ Leibel Raskin, and over the years, even younger ones, the K’vutzos. Those are generations upon generations of bachurim. In hindsight, I don’t think you can compare them. There were periods of ups and periods of downs. There is no such thing as just the descent of the generations. In principle, I don’t see a difference between the previous generations and the current generation.”

So the problem is ours? Do we, in the present, not know how to live it and only enjoy clinging to the past and thinking of the future? In another forty years, will they say that so-and-so in 770 were geonim and great thinkers?

“Of course. It was always like that, throughout the generations. They did not appreciate the present. They always spoke nostalgically about the past and cried about the future. When you don’t live in the present, it’s a problem.”

What’s the reason?

“When you are in the present, you don’t have the perspective that time provides. I’ll give you an example. I remember that at one of the farbrengens, the Rebbe asked who wants Moshiach. Only one meshugena got up and said he wants. The same was true for the Arizal who suggested to his talmidim that they go to Yerushalayim and they said they needed to ask their wives. That was 400 years ago and today we say, oy, what an opportunity was lost. You know what? If we had the z’chus of the Rebbe asking us the same question today, we would answer the same thing … We lack the perspective of time which allows you to see how it works.

“Raza, the son of the Rebbe Maharash, was known as a brilliant mind. He never got angry. He once said, ‘I always think about what will be in another five minutes, so I don’t get angry.’ Meaning to say, the perspective of time allows you to see things entirely differently.”

To be continued, G-d willing

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