September 5, 2018
Beis Moshiach in #1134, Stories

The Rebbe expressed dismay that a 13 year old bachur did not know an explicit Gemara in Brachos. * Why was there such a fear to go in for a yechidus with the Rebbe? * How did the Rebbe react when he heard that a bar mitzva boy said a pilpul based on Likkutei Sichos? * How did the Rebbe save on the electric bill? * In honor of the new academic year of yeshiva study, we present a collection of fascinating stories from the “inside,” recounted at a Chassidishe farbrengen.

By Rabbi Menachem Mendel Groner – Mashgiach, Tomchei T’mimim Kiryat Gat        


L’chaim! L’chaim!

Once the administration of the yeshiva complained to the Rebbe that there were bachurim in the yeshiva that were not learning as they should. The Rebbe always went with the approach that those who work in a given field should do their jobs without putting the burden on the Rebbe’s shoulders, and the same applied to the yeshiva administration. The Rebbe once expressed it thus, “Do I have to be the rosh yeshiva? Do I have to be the mashpia?” This is to say that the Rebbe wants the roshei yeshiva and the mashpiim to be the ones to take responsibility for the bachurim.

There were many times that bachurim asked questions of the Rebbe on a variety of topics, and the Rebbe’s response was, “That pertains to the mashpia!”

In response, the administration of the yeshiva answered that they do not have any power of influence to force the students to sit and learn, and that is something that only the Rebbe could do. So the Rebbe agreed to get directly involved.

In those years, every bachur would go in for a yechidus once a year, before his birthday. That being the case, the Rebbe instructed the administration of the yeshiva that every bachur who wants to enter for yechidus, has to bring with him a report from the administration of the yeshiva about his status in the study of Nigleh, the study of Chassidus, his fear of Heaven and adherence to the study schedule. In short, a detailed report. With this, the Rebbe restored the power to the yeshiva administration, along with taking upon himself to encourage the bachurim to sit and learn with diligence and exertion.

From that point on, every bachur who asked to go in for yechidus, had to receive a sealed envelope containing a report from the mashgiach and mashpia about his spiritual state in learning, davening, and fear of Heaven. I remember when I went into yechidus the Rebbe took the note that I wrote along with the sealed envelope. I saw the Rebbe take the envelope and take out the report and begin to read.

You are standing facing the holy, and you know that the Rebbe is reading everything about you! You stand there and simply tremble! Within seconds, the Rebbe read the page and made a sort of movement with his head. I tried to understand what that movement meant, whether the Rebbe was pleased or not… Only afterward did the Rebbe take my p”n and begin to answer what was written there.

The bachurim knew that the administration would not lie to the Rebbe or massage the truth. It was a report meant for the Rebbe’s eyes. There was no such thing as a bachur asking the mashgiach to “write well of me in the report.” If there was a bachur who was wasting his time or was not present during the s’darim of the yeshiva, would it be possible to write to the Rebbe that he does attend the s’darim? No way! This is a report to the Rebbe!

I remember a case where a certain bachur did not see eye to eye with the administration, to put it mildly. He himself told me the story. Like everyone else, he received a report from the administration before he went into yechidus.

When he went into the Rebbe, the Rebbe read the report which obviously was not very satisfactory, and then the Rebbe said, “There is a contradiction between what is written in the note of the administration and what is written in your note. There are a number of differences between what you write about yourself and what the hanhala writes about you.”

We see how important it is to the Rebbe that every bachur sit and learn with diligence and exertion, and to that end he looked for ideas and means, and even involved himself in the matter. As such, it is easy to understand to what extent a bachur, who considers himself “mekushar” to the Rebbe and wants to be connected to the Rebbe, has to put effort into his learning.

A bachur who has no desire for learning has to make a personal accounting with himself. In contrast, the bachur who learns because he has a desire and enjoyment in learning has to consider the possibility that his learning is not because of the Rebbe, but because of his own enjoyment and desire. This allows us to appreciate how precious is the bachur who has no desire to learn, but he sits and learns and delves deeply into the subject matter because he knows that this is the will of the Rebbe. Such a bachur is totally connected to the Rebbe during that time that he is learning.


One of the years, on Erev Sukkos, the Rebbe distributed esrogim and lulavim to select individuals. One year there were bachurim who squeezed onto the steps in Gan Eden HaTachton (the hallway outside the Rebbe’s room) that overlook the place of the distribution, and the Rebbe turned to them and said, “What are you doing here? Go learn! Go learn the Shulchan Aruch of the Alter Rebbe!”

Even during the hours when there was no formal schedule of the yeshiva, the Rebbe wanted a bachur to sit and learn. Don’t waste your time, sit and learn.

My father [R’ Leibel Groner] told me about an unusual occurrence that once transpired:

After Mincha, the Rebbe entered his room and was reading notes that people had sent in. At this point, my father entered into Gan Eden HaElyon (the yechidus room) and since it was somewhat dark, he turned on the light. The time was 4:15, and the learning session of the yeshiva had begun at 3:30.

The window of the Rebbe’s room was partially open, and the Rebbe suddenly called to my father and said to him, “Look out the window, what do you see?” My father looked and saw bachurim standing outside and schmoozing. They did not know that at that exact time the Rebbe had been standing and looking at them; literally [like it says in Tanya] “and He stands over him and looks.”

The Rebbe added and said to my father, “I am standing here for some time, and now it is the middle of the study session. How is it that bachurim are standing in middle of the study session and prattling?”

My father concluded what he had to take care of in Gan Eden HaElyon – the Rebbe had already sat down and continued about his business – and my father ran outside right away and said to the bachurim, “Do you know that the Rebbe was watching you?” When they heard that, they left instantaneously and went inside the zal.

Even today, the Rebbe stands and looks at each bachur and sees what he is doing during the study session. That being the case, if you would realize that the Rebbe enters into your zal and observes you, you would be sitting and learning with diligence, and that is exactly how it should be throughout the entire time of the study sessions.


The Rebbe does not only want the bachurim to sit and learn, but also wants them to write haaros and pilpulim, and to publish them. I remember the period when they had just begun to publish occasional pamphlets of Haaros HaT’mimim from the yeshiva in Morristown. When I came to learn there in yeshiva, it stopped.

One day, around Iyar time, we suddenly got a call from the secretaries. R’ Binyomin Klein was on the line, and he said that the Rebbe asked, “Why is it that from the yeshiva in Morristown, there have been no Haaros HaT’mimim for quite some time? Why did they stop?” When I asked one of the veteran bachurim about it, he told me that there was a rumor that the Rebbe said about the Haaros HaT’mimim of Morristown that what they write there is foolishness, and this rumor caused the bachurim to stop.

Nu, if the Rebbe inquires, the hint was quite obvious. A new pamphlet should be published, and as quickly as possible. Today, everything is so much simpler; just type it into a computer, do the layout, and print as many copies as you want, but in those days things were different. Anything that was published had to be done on a typewriter, and every mistake meant that the typist had to tear out the page and start typing the page over from the beginning. This took a lot of time.

Notwithstanding all that, all of us bachurim sat until four in the morning and typed. We all wrote haaros. At five in the morning, one of the bachurim went to the printer with all of the material. He found a printer willing to rush the printing. Even this was far from simple, since it was necessary to put all of the pages on film and set them on the printing plates. The bottom line is that when the Rebbe came to 770 at ten in the morning, he already had a fresh copy of Haaros HaT’mimim of Morristown. Today it all seems so simple, and one can produce a pamphlet in no time, but then it was a complex project.

Not very long after that, our mashpia, R’ Meilich Zwiebel, went into the Rebbe and asked the Rebbe, “Is the rumor true that the Rebbe said about the Haaros HaT’mimim of Morristown that what they write there is foolishness?” The Rebbe was quite shocked to hear this, “I said such a thing?”

The Rebbe went on to tell the mashpia, “I will tell you something. There was a rabbi, not from Chabad, who asked me a question on a sicha that I said, and instead of answering him, I found that in the Haaros HaT’mimim of Morristown they already raised the question. Nu, if there is a question there, apparently in the next issue, somebody will already resolve the question. In fact, in the next issue there was an answer. In the issue following that one, there was a refutation of the answer, and in the next one an answer to the refutation.” The Rebbe went on, “I took all of the pamphlets and put them into an envelope, and sent them to that rabbi, instead of my having to answer all of his questions myself.” The Rebbe then concluded, “If so, it is obvious that I do not know who spread this rumor.”

As such, it is proper for us to contemplate the following; the Rebbe’s level of learning is countless levels above that of young bachurim. A bachur of 17 or 18 sits in yeshiva and he does not understand something that the Rebbe said; he has a question. So he writes the question and has it published in the pamphlet. Then the Rebbe himself, despite being infinitely higher, addresses his question in the next farbrengen, as he did many times. Despite the fact that in order to understand the Rebbe’s words, one needs to learn and exert himself, and to try to truly understand the depth of what was said, yet we see that the very effort is something that is precious to the Rebbe! There were even times that people asked the Rebbe questions on the sichos, and the Rebbe responded that the questioner apparently did not think things through properly, since there is a simple answer, and despite that…

There was period of time when the Rebbe would ask a question on a Rashi at the farbrengen and not give an answer, because the Rebbe wanted that over the following week, people should exercise their minds and try to come up with answers. Then the Rebbe would react to the various answers, sometimes refuting them and then saying his own answer. What did the Rebbe hope to achieve with that? Simply put, the Rebbe wants bachurim and married men to be involved in learning throughout the week, so the Rebbe gave us homework.


The Rebbe wants young bachurim to learn, and to know how to learn. When I and my twin brother reached the age of bar mitzva, we went in for a yechidus. This was not an ordinary yechidus. The custom is that in addition to the maamer, one also says a pilpul in Nigleh. Then and there, the Rebbe turned to my brother and asked, “What did you prepare to say over at the bar mitzva?” He began to say his pilpul, which was based on an idea in Likkutei Sichos.

The Rebbe then turned to my father and asked, “A pilpul on Likkutei Sichos?” My father answered in the affirmative. The Rebbe responded and said that this was a very proper thing, and that the time has come to take from our own “vineyard,” and not to go looking in the “vineyards” of others.

Afterward, the Rebbe asked my brother a question on what it says in the Gemara, “Whoever goes long [i.e., takes his time] in his meal, his days are lengthened for him.” The Rebbe asked, “The fact that whoever goes long in davening his days are lengthened for him, that is a big thing. But in his meal? To go long in eating? What is the idea in that?” My brother, a young boy of 13, did not know what to answer. The Rebbe made a hand signal of complaint to my father; it is an explicit Gemara in Brachos!

The Rebbe expects a 13 year old boy to know Meseches Brachos!

We can also see the level of expectation that the Rebbe has of a bachur from the following story:

There was a bachur from Australia who went into the Rebbe for yechidus on Yud-Tes Kislev. He told the Rebbe that he took upon himself to learn a Meseches as part of the Chalukas HaShas, but he does not think he will be able to complete the entire Meseches by the set time. The Rebbe answered, “If it is not easy for you, then only learn with Tosafos.”

The bachur was asking to either be let off entirely, or to be told that it was enough to learn Gemara and Rashi, whereas the Rebbe told him to “only” learn Gemara, Rashi and Tosafos. That means to say, that by rights you should learn the Gemara with all of the commentaries. That is what the Rebbe is expecting from a bachur in Tomchei T’mimim.

I will share another example. There was a Jew from Kfar Chabad who merited to complete a Meseches. He told the Rebbe that he is in a quandary. On the one hand, he would like to arrange a farbrengen in honor of the siyum. On the other hand, making a public siyum has an element of self-aggrandizement involved. If so, he is asking the Rebbe what he should do. The Rebbe answered him that he should arrange a farbrengen, and then added, “What hubris is there in the fact that you concluded a Meseches?” In other words, a Jew completing a Gemara is so basic, what is there to be haughty about?


(From a farbrengen with the students of Tomchei T’mimim Ohr Yehuda)

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