“I met him for the first time at the Central Bus Station,” said R’ Refael Cheruti, of Nachalat Har Chabad in Kiryat Malachi. “It was when I was a young man starting to take an interest in Judaism and Chassidus. I went for my first Shabbos to the yeshiva in Kfar Chabad, and at the Central Bus Station a Lubavitcher bachur noticed me. He came over and asked, ‘Did you put on t’fillin today?’
“I told him that I was on my way to the yeshiva in Kfar Chabad, but he was focused on his goal and he said, ‘First put on t’fillin.’ He then called over another bachur who was manning the stand with him. ‘Zimroni, come put them on with him.’
“That is how I met R’ Kuti Rapp a”h, and, yibadel bein chayim l’chayim, R’ Zimroni Tzik, shliach in Bat Yam. We kept up over the years and when R’ Rapp went to the Rebbe, he sent me letters with a diary of events he experienced in the Rebbe’s presence. Apparently, these were photocopies of some of the letters he sent to his family. Unfortunately, I can’t find all the letters, but I have two of them. When I went to console the family during Shiva, I presented them with a copy of the letters.”
R’ Cheruti allowed the letters to be published in Beis Moshiach and we thank him for that on behalf of our readers.
A DESCRIPTION OF A VISIT TO THE REBBE
Our Pesach was experienced with elevation of spirit and supernal joy in the fullest sense. I will write a little about the events (and experiences) of Yom Tov with the Rebbe:
The s’darim and the Yom Tov meals took place in the “farband” hall that was prepared especially for Pesach (not in the kitchen of the yeshiva dormitory where they eat all year). After Maariv on the first night, and after the Rebbe finished giving out matzos mitzva to those who had not made it to the Rebbe on the long line that continued for several hours on Erev Pesach, we merited that the Rebbe came up (on the red carpet that was prepared on the steps in his honor) to the hall where we held the seder and scanned the bachurim and the ke’aros to see that they were arranged according to custom.
He went to the kitchen and blessed Mussia the cook and returned to the hall and blessed us, “Chag Ha’Pesach kosher v’sameiach, u’l’shana ha’baah b’Yerushalayim, u’l’kiyum ha’yiud ‘Elokei Yisroel oseh niflaos levado’ amen v’amen.” Then the Rebbe walked toward the door as the hundreds of bachurim sang the new niggun in honor of the Rebbe’s 72nd year, “Yifrach B’Yamav Tzaddik.”
Then the Rebbe visited Yeshivas Hadar HaTorah (the yeshiva for baalei teshuva), where the bachurim made the seder, and blessed them. Then the Rebbe went upstairs and looked over the entire building, their zal, the classrooms and bedrooms, and he also wanted to go up to the roof. He asked whether there was a sukka there for Sukkos. The Rebbe said, “It’s one thing for the bachurim to use paper plates for Pesach, but here [Hadar HaTorah] better quality dishes should be used.” When the Rebbe left the building, he made a hand motion of amazement.
On Thursday, the first day of Chol HaMoed (outside Eretz Yisroel), there was a Kinus Torah in the “farband” hall for the yeshiva students in Crown Heights. A few bachurim who live here and learn in other yeshivos also attended. Bachurim from the yeshiva here and from other yeshivos in America and other countries said pilpulim of chiddushei Torah for several hours. The gathering was organized by R’ Zalman Wilschansky. In addition, there was the established Kinus Ha’Torah that took place in 770 that Rabbi Mentlick organizes, where roshei yeshiva and others speak.
On Shvii shel Pesach, toward evening (as every year), a large crowd, thousands of people, walked on Tahalucha accompanied by singing to the Williamsburg neighborhood (and other neighborhoods), about an hour’s walk from Crown Heights, in order to bring joy to Jews in shuls, the joy of Yom Tov, and to convey to them sichos of the Rebbe and the “General Letter” (addressed to “all sons and daughters of the Jewish people in every place they may be”) which the Rebbe wrote for Pesach.
It poured during Tahalucha, but that did not stop the Rebbe’s soldiers from carrying out the order and going, happily! I heard that they announced that day in Satmar in the name of their Rebbe not to fight and to welcome Lubavitch graciously. Indeed, we were welcomed in Williamsburg graciously and with wonder over the obedience of Lubavitcher Chassidim.
After everyone finished their assignments in the shuls, they gathered in one central spot and one of the Chassidim read the Rebbe’s letter before a large crowd that gathered there and the dancing lasted a long time. We returned to Crown Heights late at night.
At the big farbrengen of Acharon shel Pesach, the Rebbe spoke about “rains of blessing” that accompanied us on Tahalucha and “danced” with us (absorbed in the clothing) while we brought Jews the joy of Yom Tov. The farbrengen began before sunset and lasted seven hours (from 6:30-1:30).
At the end of the farbrengen, the Rebbe gave leftovers of his matza to Rabbi Mentlick so he could distribute it at the Kinus Torah the next day (which was attended by Rabbi Simcha Elberg who, after saying a pilpul, spoke about the royal characteristics of the Lubavitcher Rebbe). The Rebbe also said that the series of talks on the conclusion of Meseches K’subos on the topic of Yemos HaMoshiach that he started on 11 Nissan, was his participation in the Kinus Torah (R’ Yoel reviewed this at the Kinus). On the Shabbos after Pesach the Rebbe continued on this topic at length discussing the Rambam’s codification.
After Birkas HaMazon (which the Rebbe himself said over a kos), Maariv and Havdala, the Rebbe gave out kos shel bracha from his cup to the thousands of participants who passed by him until after 3:15. Many also asked for kos shel bracha on behalf of their relatives and friends which they would send to other countries. The Rebbe personally conducted the singing and the rejoicing during the distribution of kos shel bracha. Toward morning, the Rebbe left the room after he himself began singing the niggun “Ki B’Simcha Seitzei’u.”
Fortunate is the eye which saw (and the ear that heard the sichos and joy and) all this. I will, G-d willing, write about the sichos at the farbrengen another time, but for now I will make do with this brief description.
I will end with a blessing for a pleasant and healthy summer (Rambam in Hilchos Deios says it is “from the ways of Hashem” to have a healthy, whole body).
Kol tuv, your son and brother, Yekusiel
PEARLS FROM YECHIDUS
… And now, some of the latest news:
On 11 Nissan in the afternoon, before the Rebbe went home before Shabbos, a group of ziknei Anash and shluchim went to the Rebbe’s room to bless him and R’ Moshe Pinchas Katz (a Kohen) said the priestly blessing (as he does every year on this day). The Rebbe responded, “And I will bless those who bless you, with the blessing of HaKadosh Baruch Hu with an increase that is greater than the original and this is a preparation for a kosher and joyous Pesach.”
A few weeks ago, the leadership of the UJA had yechidus with the Rebbe, six men and their wives (these are the ones who decide and are in control of the charity’s money, more than the 17 who entered previously, which I already wrote to you about). The Rebbe spoke to them in detail about how to allocate the funds (which is why they came) and that they should give most of the money for Jewish education.
They asked the Rebbe, “What is the secret of Chabad’s success? How do they influence so many people?”
The Rebbe said, “When influencing a Jew, one does not need to look at him from the top down, nor because you desire to bring him to your approach and movement (‘U’faratzta,’ i.e., to grow your thing). You simply need to have his welfare in mind and then what you say will have an influence on him.”
They asked about the difference between a Jew and a goy and the Rebbe answered, “A goy is also a creation that G-d invested in, but a G-dly spark – that is a Jew. From a spark you can make a flame which illuminates and warms. To illuminate and warm the world is something only a Jew can do.”
They asked about Chabad’s attitude toward Eretz Yisroel and the Rebbe answered, “Eretz Yisroel is a holy land and even the non-Jews admit to this and call it the holy land. However, fulfilling mitzvos is easier outside of Eretz Yisroel (I cannot take responsibility for the exact quote on this [KR]). Because in Eretz Yisroel (with Hashem’s eyes upon it) there is more particularity about man’s deeds.”
They had the yechidus together with the Rebbe’s secretaries and were there for an hour and a half. I heard these points from Avrohom Shemtov who had a part in bringing them and who also went in with them.
Before and after the yechidus the members of the secretariat farbrenged with them in the Rebbe’s library near 770.
Preparations for the Lag B’Omer parade are in full swing. They are preparing this year for at least 20,000 children and students. On the flyers they wrote there will be 50,000. They hung a banner about the parade and the Shnas HaShivim on the Tzach building – 788, and over Kingston Avenue, corner of Eastern Parkway (the banner is attached to houses on both sides and the cars drive under it) and it is quite impressive.
The Rebbe gave one hundred single dollars for the parade. There was a big gathering of Anash and they sold each of the dollars for $118, and the bachurim also participated in this by pooling into groups. And since all the dollars were sold, the Rebbe added $80 (of which 50 were sold) and said that if they need it, he would add more.
Apparently, there will be a broadcast from the parade to all countries and on the radio here too. And from now on, it seems that at every weekday farbrengen there will be a radio broadcast, like on Purim. On 11 Nissan the farbrengen was not broadcast on the radio, because they only found out that it would take place on the day itself, and so last Motzaei Shabbos there was a tape that was broadcast on the radio for about an hour.
When will we have a radio broadcast in Eretz Yisroel too?
Your son and brother, Yekusiel
IN THE MARGINS
OF THE LETTERS
In one of R’ Rapp’s letters, the Rebbe is quoted as saying in yechidus, “Even the goy is a creation that Hashem invested in, but a G-dly spark - that is a Jew. From a spark you can make a flame that illuminates and warms. Illuminating and warming the world is only for a Jew …”
When I read this I was reminded of what R’ Rapp told me when I interviewed him for Beis Moshiach, about an interesting thing that happened when he was involved in sending matzos from the Rebbe to Eretz Yisroel.
The second part of the story was left out of the article written then, due to lack of space, but perhaps it would be fitting to include it here as an addendum to what the Rebbe said in that yechidus quoted above, from which, by the way, you can see to what extent R’ Rapp “lived” wholeheartedly with what the Rebbe said in his sichos and with the instruction to “do all that you can to bring Moshiach.”
THE REBBE RECEIVED THE INTERNATIONAL TANYA
This is what R’ Rapp told me at that time:
In 5744, when they began printing the Tanya around the world, I arranged a printing of the Tanya at Kennedy Airport. At the time, those in charge of the project did not give permission to print the Tanya everywhere; just in cities and yishuvim, but R’ Chadakov gave me permission to print it at the airport. He said that it’s an international area. The Tanya printed at the airport was one of the first 1000, number 625.
The binding of the s’farim took place around the time that the Rebbe’s matzos were being shipped to Eretz Yisroel, a shipment that I was responsible for overseeing. I brought two Tanyas with me (since we printed two kinds of dedications) in order to give them to the Rebbe, while they were packing the matzos.
When I handed the Rebbe the Tanyas, he asked me, “Did you already receive my participation?” (Whoever printed a Tanya received $20 from the secretaries as the Rebbe’s participation in the printing). I said, “Not yet.” The Rebbe said I should go to the secretaries later and get it. He then added, “Since you gave two s’farim, get two bills (of $20 each).”
When I called the secretaries to report to R’ Leibel Groner about the shipment of matzos and to give him the number of the container, as the Rebbe said to do, so it would be easier to locate it in Eretz Yisroel, he asked me, “Where will you be tomorrow by the Torah reading?”
I said, “By the Rebbe in the beis midrash” (in the zal upstairs where they davened and read from the Torah in those years). He said, “The Rebbe wants to give you the money himself for the printing of the Tanya and to hear for himself how it went with the matza shipment. Tomorrow morning, stand near the door of the Rebbe’s room after the Torah reading.”
The next day, at the appointed time, I stood in Gan Eden HaTachton (the hallway outside the Rebbe’s room). The Rebbe appeared after the Torah reading, took out two bills from his pocket and gave them to me. He asked how it went with the shipment and then spoke to me about a few other things.
AN ALLUSION TO MIVTZAIM IN “MAGEN AVROHOM”
I figured that one of the reasons for this “kiruv” from the Rebbe was that along with the Tanyas, I gave the Rebbe a letter with a report about activities in recent months at the airport. I described what we did on Chanuka with thousands of passengers who lit the menorah.
A while before writing the report, a Chassidishe young man wanted to encourage me, and he showed me that in the Magen Avrohom commentary on the Laws of Chanuka there is a remez (allusion) to Mivtza Chanuka at the airport. The Magen Avrohom writes, “In Erfurt (in English it sounds like “airport”) they would light four and five lights.” “That’s the remez,” he said jokingly, “for lighting the menorah for 400 and 500 people (or thousands) during Mivtza Chanuka at the airport.”
The halacha there is actually about whether you can light several wicks in one bowl. The Magen Avrohom writes that in Erfurt (which refers to a European city by the name of Erfurt), they light four and five lights together. But the Magen Avrohom writes, “I forbade it to them,” since he rules that by doing so, it becomes like a torch. I said to the young man that if so, it is not a remez to encourage mivtzaim since the Magen Avrohom forbids lighting the way they lit in Erfurt.
I wrote this all to the Rebbe in my report and added that perhaps one can explain this in a light vein based on what the Rebbe said in the sicha in which he spoke passionately about Mivtza Neshek and Mivtza Chanuka. The Rebbe said that all the small lights would join together to be a large flame that would burn the remnants of galus and bring the light of the Geula.
I thought that based on this one can say that this is the remez in the Magen Avrohom. “I forbade it,” is from the Hebrew root to (assur) bind all together, as the Rebbe said, so that by mivtzaim and lighting the many candles, four and five hundred become a great torch that burns the remnants of galus and brings the light of the Geula.
I wrote all this in my report. Who knows? Maybe the Rebbe enjoyed it and that is why he gave me the money himself.
This is what came to mind when seeing the words of the Rebbe in yechidus quoted in R’ Kuti’s letters, about the G-dly spark of the Jew and how that can grow into a flame, and how it is only the Jew who can light up and warm up the world with his inner flame.