ניסן תשל"ב - ר' זלמן יפה (אנגלית)

מתוך Yomanim

קפיצה אל: ניווט, חיפוש

תוכן עניינים

Rebbe’s Seventieth Birthday

Large English Delegation

Thousands of Chassidim were converging on 770. Everyone wanted to be present on this important and historical occasion: the 70th birthday of our Rebbe and leader on Sunday, Nissan 11, 5732 (March 16, 1972), in order to pay their respects and homage.

Contrary to the usual practice and custom, most of these travelers had not even asked for the Rebbe’s permission this time. They spontaneously decided that they had to be present at this unique event. The Rebbe had sensed what was happening and had issued a general directive and order: All men who were coming for these celebrations, and were not accompanied by their wives, must return home in time for Pesach, so that families be together for Yom Tov. [The Rebbe’s birthday is four days before Pesach.]

Bernard Perrin and I left Manchester for London, from where we would embark to New York on Nissan 8 (March 23), the Thursday before the Rebbe’s birthday. We were booked to leave from New York on Monday morning, Nissan 12 (March 27), after the Sunday night big farbrengen. A visit of just over three days.

Rabbi Chaim Farro, his wife, and two daughters also accompanied us from Manchester. They all intended on staying in Brooklyn until after Pesach.

This Manchester delegation was also joined by the London contingent of Mendel Katch, Mr. Solomon, Bobby Vogel, and Rabbis Yankel Gurkov and his wife, Moshe Katzenelonbogen (a new arrival from Russia) and Shmuel Lew. Additionally, Rabbis Mendel Futerfas and Faivish Vogel were already in Brooklyn, together with Mr. Weingarten and his son Shimon. Rabbis Bentzion Shemtov and Nachman Sudak were traveling on a later flight. I should emphatically state that this was the strongest and most impressive delegation of the Lubavitch leadership from England to ever travel to see the Rebbe at one time.

Our Arrival

We arrived at 770 at 4:15 p.m. (on Thursday) and found out that the Rebbe was still at the ohel. However, Reb Zushe Wilmowsky and 100 others from Israel seemed to be waiting just for “Zalmon Jaffe to arrive” and lead them in the singing and dancing. They had already been in Brooklyn for a fortnight, and just needed me to get them started. (A wonderful compliment, to be sure.)

Already, busloads of chassidim and Lubavitch leaders arrived from Montreal and Toronto, Chicago, Detroit, Miami, California, Antwerp, Paris, Milan, Amsterdam, South America, South Africa, Israel, Scandinavia, and all countries and cities where Lubavitch was established and were represented by their leaders. More were still due to arrive in time for the big farbrengen on Sunday evening - the day of the actual birthday. For instance, Rabbi Drizin, the only Lubavitcher in San Francisco, came along too. There was also an obvious contingent of recent Russian emigrants.

The Rebbe arrived from the ohel in time for a late mincha. He looked very tired. Yet, he managed his usual lovely smile of welcome for the “Englishmen” and myself waiting in the hall.

After mincha I handed Rabbi Chodakov a pile of thirty letters from various local (Manchester) people extending greetings to the Rebbe on his birthday.

The senders included the Lord Mayor of Manchester and the Mayor of Salford, the Manchester and Northern England botei dinim, communal council, shechita board, president of the Board of Deputies and innumerable shuls, organizations and Lubavitch supporters. There was also a very considerable amount of money included for the Rebbe’s special fund. I also delivered a hand-written and signed parchment scroll, extending loyal and warm greetings with brochos for good health and long years until 120 years, from Manchester Lubavitch, including the hundreds of members of our Youth Club and the thousands of people who had cause to be forever grateful to the Rebbe.

Many hundreds of letters and cables had been received by the Rebbe from presidents and leaders from all over the world, including the US President Nixon, President Shazar of Israel, and the President of Italy. (I was informed, unofficially, that the pope also sent greetings; however I was never able to confirm this with a reliable source.)

Excitement Buildup

Due to the large size of the crowd for davening, many hundreds of people had already arrived. Even though it was a weekday, it was decided to daven maariv downstairs in the large shul. It was crowded like on Yom Tov; people were taking their usual Yom Tov places or seats.

I stood, as usual, behind the Rebbe. After maariv (and by arrangement with Reb Zushe Wilmowsky and his Israeli friends), I started the song called “Napoleon’s March.” The Rebbe smiled, swung his arms, and we were off; it was terrific.

We followed the Rebbe upstairs and sang and danced outside his room for half an hour until the Rebbe came out again. He again swung his arms and the singing and dancing swelled up to a huge crescendo until the Rebbe entered his car. What a climax that was and what a different Rebbe this was, full of vim and fire, like a young man, in complete contrast to the very tired Rebbe who came into 770 from the ohel just a short time before.

Tzvi Fischer, who had been standing on the bimah during and after maariv, reported to me that it was wonderful to see the Rebbe’s face when he left the shul beaming with pleasure. I overheard another fellow tell his friend afterwards that “ess hot zich geshturemt” (it was energetic).

Thank You For Coming

The next day, erev Shabbos, Nissan 9 (March 24), Rabbi Binyomin Klein called me to his office. He had a “reply” for me from the Rebbe. This took me completely by surprise because I had not asked the Rebbe any questions, so I was not expecting any reply. Still, anything from the Rebbe is always more than welcome and I hurried to the office in great excitement to find out what the Rebbe had written to me.

And what a lovely surprise. Just a few words, but well worth coming all the way from England just to read them. This is the literal English rendering as translated from the Hebrew by my son-in-law, Shmuel Lew:

Everything was received and double thanks. Herewith three receipts. And thank you for coming here for these days out of joy and a good heart – And, as is your custom to make others rejoice as well, out of ampleness in all.

I felt very proud indeed and was determined to do my best to make my presence felt in a happy and constructive way.

Who Needs Hotels?

I was staying with my friends, Mendel and Sarah Shemtov. They had given me a nice room with two beds; the second was for Shmuel. It was very sweet and hospitable of Sarah, especially now being only a few days before Pesach!

When I looked around 770 on Sunday and saw so many thousands of visitors, I wondered where all those people were staying - there are no hotels near 770 at all!

Well, at least Sarah Shemtov did her share. Shmuel did not take advantage of this other bed. He stayed up for two whole nights farbrenging, talking and socializing at headquarters; 770. The other two nights he stayed with a friend of his. I cannot vouch that he even slept in a bed during his stay.

However, there were no shortages of clients for that spare bed. “Customers” were arriving at all hours of the day and night. In addition to the Shemtovs – including their three boys and two girls – there were Rabbis: Bentzion Shemtov, Nachman Sudak, Avrohom Shemtov (with his two sons), Berel Shemtov, with a guest from Detroit who slept next door because all the beds were taken up, but he also ate his meals at Sarah’s. Well, eight guests in one medium-sized apartment is not bad at all!

It certainly did not make it any easier for Sarah to prepare her home for Pesach.

No wonder they do not need hotels in Crown Heights!

Before Shabbos, Shmuel and I went to Rabbi Korf’s Matzah Bakery to buy our matzah for Pesach.

About twenty-five women and ten men were all busy, rolling and mixing, mixing and rolling. Every few moments, groups of schoolchildren arrived with their leader, who explained the whole process to them. Rabbi Korf seemed absolutely dazed and flustered by all the commotion. He wanted to sell me only the “broken” matzah. This would cost me $3.75 per pound, which was 35 cents less per pound than for the perfect whole matzos. I assured him that I was fully capable of breaking my own matzah.

Mrs. Korf, a small petite lady, was the only calm and steadying influence in this flurry and frenzy of excitement.

Shabbos Hagodol a Yom Tov?

On Shabbos morning, Nissan 10 (March 25), the shul was jammed, packed more than even Rosh Hashonah (I was told).

Just before the Rebbe arrived for davening, Yossi Liberow approached me and remarked that, “I suppose you will sing “ho’aderes vho’emunah,” since you always sing this when you come to 770.”

I had never thought of that, because I usually came for Yom Tov and that is when the Rebbe had told me to sing it.

Could today be considered a Yom Tov? Shabbos Hagodol, erev the Rebbe’s birthday? I asked Rabbi Sudak and he replied without any hesitation, “Of course it is Yom Tov and of course you must sing.” So, I did sing “ho’aderes.” The Rebbe encouraged me by banging his fist on his stand as an indication for everyone to sing, and as expected, everyone joined in. It was very, very good indeed.

I have previously written that the yeshiva boys at 770 gave me s’micha (rabbinic ordination). They referred to me as Rabbi Jaffe. I had a living example of this title when I was approached by a number of Israelis who asked for my “ruling” and permission to duchon on Shabbos (priestly blessing, which, outside of Israel, is only performed on Yom Tov.) I had to inform them of my ruling that they could not do so outside of Israel on a regular Shabbos. I really felt sorry for these kohanim. Maybe when they heard us sing “ho’aderes,” due to Rabbi Sudak’s ruling that it was definitely a Yom Tov today, they figured that they must also duchon!

The Shabbos farbrengen ended at 5:40 p.m. and mincha was again in the downstairs shul due to the great size of the crowd. When the Sefer Torah was being brought out, the Rebbe commenced singing “ano avdo”; you can just imagine how everyone joined in this niggun!

My voice was becoming a bit hoarse by now, and the main farbrengen on Sunday night was yet to come.

After mincha on Shabbos, at 6:15, I rushed “home” for Shabbos “lunch,” since maariv was called for 7:00. I had no time to dawdle over my food.

Tanya Presentation

About two weeks before we came to New York, the Rebbe told Rabbi Nachman Sudak that as a birthday present, he would like a Tanya printed in England.

So – a Rebbe miracle – in ten days this was printed. They also made a special leather-bound presentation copy, and one plastic covered one too. When Rabbi Sudak arrived, he gave the leather-bound copy to the Rebbe. The Rebbe was extremely pleased and thanked him for this.

The Rebbe then said, “Will you please give my Rebbetzin the plastic covered Tanya and on motzoei Shabbos, after maariv, bring the English delegation into my office and present me with the other leather-bound copy?”

Rabbi Sudak was dumbfounded. By chance, the bookbinder had made two copies “just in case one got spoiled.” Rabbi Sudak just happened to bring both with him to America. But – and he is absolutely adamant about this – he never told anyone about this second copy, and here the Rebbe had asked for it!

It was now motzoei Shabbos, and the English delegation all trooped in to the Rebbe’s room. The Rebbe gave us all a nice welcoming smile.

Except for the older rabbonim of 770, who every year went in to the Rebbe on the occasion of his birthday to give him a brocha, we were the only group, in fact the only people, to have the zechus (the merit) to see the Rebbe privately on his birthday. We were all well aware of this great opportunity that had been afforded us tonight.

There was quite a large pile of seforim, letters and/or other material on the Rebbe’s table, but it was all covered up neatly and tidily. The only object to be actually seen on the table was the Parchment Scroll presented by Manchester Lubavitch. Knowing the Rebbe, this was obviously put there by design.

Rabbi Sudak presented the Tanya to the Rebbe. In thanking him and us, the Rebbe said:

You should spread out Lubavitch work from London and all England. This is a great start, and you should be blessed with nachas from sons and daughters and with abundance. Moshiach should arrive soon.

The Rebbe then asked each one of us to come forward to receive a pocket Tanya from him. However, there was one condition: we have to learn from it, not leave it on the shelf.

After receiving my Tanya from the Rebbe’s hands, I withdrew to the same spot where I had been standing previously.

Only after getting back did I realize, to my utter consternation, that the cover of my copy was torn right down the back. I spent an agonizing few moments debating with myself what I should do. After all, even a torn Tanya from the Rebbe’s own hands was invaluable. I even thought that this could actually be a collector’s prize, a scoop! For, how many torn Tanyas has the Rebbe given out? On the other hand, the Rebbe had said we should learn in it and that means every day and for life. I concluded that it would be better to ask the Rebbe to exchange this one for a perfect one.

Fearfully, I approached the Rebbe, with the Tanya in my hand, and told the Rebbe my story. I was holding the Tanya in my left hand and handing it to the Rebbe, an unforgivable offense. Everything should be given with the right hand (this applies to everyone.) The Rebbe was annoyed “mit der rechter hant,” he said indignantly. (With your right hand.) I quickly obeyed, and the Rebbe replaced my torn copy with another one. He then handed me a further Tanya “for Avrohom” [my son]. So, thank G-d, it came up for me.

In addition to the seventy editions of the Tanya that have been published to date, another two are being prepared, the Melbourne edition and the Hebrew/English Soncino one in England.

The Rebbe’s 70th Birthday

Sunday morning, Nissan 11 (March 26), was the Rebbe’s seventieth birthday. At 770, it was like this past Shabbos, but packed with even more people than ever. The only difference was that on this day, there were long lines of meshulochim (money collectors), all wanting money “lekoved the Rebbe’s birthday.”

The Rebbe had announced on Shabbos that all heads of Lubavitch branches should call at Rabbi Chodakov’s office on Sunday, where they would receive seventy-one dollars from the Rebbe. Only the heads would be given this money and the size of the actual branch did not entitle them to more. For example, London, with all their huge staff and ramifications, would get the same amount as, say, Glasgow, which was a relatively small operation. I had arranged to go with Rabbi Chaim Farro and Bernard Perrin.

By 12:30 Bernard had not yet arrived, so Rabbi Farro and I decided to go without him.

Rabbi Chodakov wanted to know why two of us had come. I explained that I was here on behalf of Manchester Lubavitch and Chaim had opened his own account for students and publications. Rabbi Chodakov remarked that he could see that I was a “socher” (businessman) and after a pleasant conversation, he handed to each of us a fifty-, a twenty- and a one-dollar bill. When we left his room, we found a huge crowd had congregated outside, waiting their turn to enter and collect their seventy-one dollars.

I hurriedly went searching for Shmuel, and told him to get his “rations.” I told him that since he was the head of the student department in London, he may be able to receive his own seventy-one dollars, besides that which the main London organization received. He ultimately went in and was thrown out. Rabbi Sudak’s seventy-one dollars covered his department too. Bernard Perrin was more fortunate. As he helps Rabbi Chaim Jacobs of Glasgow quite a lot, he collected on behalf of Glasgow.

The busiest place in Brooklyn these few days had to have been the milchig restaurant. If one wanted lunch, one had to reserve a table after breakfast, give in the order right then and there, and in three hours time one would be lucky to receive the food – that was NOT ordered!

Birthday Farbrengen

The Sunday night farbrengen was due to commence at 8:30. Mendel Katch told me that he was not going to crush and struggle for a seat. He would arrive at 8:00 and stand at the back. If the Rebbe wanted him, he would call him to come forward; otherwise he would be happy in the back. We did arrange to meet at 770 at 6:00, from where we would leave for dinner.

When I arrived at 770 I found the place transformed. We could feel the excitement in the air, even though it was two-and-a-half hours before the Rebbe would enter.

Instead of using just over half of the hall, as for a normal farbrengen, the entire place was now full of benches, tables and bleachers reaching to the roof. It looked – l’havdil – like a football stadium. Television cameras seemed to be everywhere. In fact, eight television companies were present, including one each from Israel and France. Closed-circuit TV sets were arranged for the women’s department, and one was placed outside in the courtyard for the anticipated overflow crowd. The “technical room” was full of TV monitor sets and telephones and, already, hundreds of people were reserving their places by sitting or standing in their spots.

The Rebbe was still at the ohel.

I found Mr. Katch all right; he was securely seated at a very good spot. Shmuel was also standing at his favorite place, where he had been since five o’clock.

I then went to the restaurant and purchased deli sandwiches, and brought them back for all of us. I then sat down at my place. At 7:00, Mr. Katch left to pick up additional provisions.

We were sitting near Rabbi Gerlitsky of Montreal who told us the following story:

A girl from Canada wished to go to a seminary to study. The Rebbe asked her to submit a list of seminaries which she was interested in and the Rebbe would choose one for her. When the Rebbe received the list, he added Gateshead, England, to the list and told her to go there. [Ed. note: this is not a Lubavitcher seminary.]

At a subsequent yechidus, the Rebbe asked her whether she had any problems. She answered “no.” The Rebbe remarked that it was unusual for a girl of 19 not to have problems in this day and age. The Rebbe said he hoped she would always have no problems. Incidentally, on the Rebbe’s advice, she is now at Gateshead for a second year.

By eight o’clock over 2,000 people were present. The atmosphere was electric! Everyone was happy and in good spirits. “Von, Two, Tree, Testing. Von, Two, Tree, Testing,” could be heard as the sound system was being prepared. Then we all commenced singing the new niggun, which had been composed especially for this occasion. We had all learnt the new niggun on Shabbos, the day before. It was to the words of “b’cho Hashem,” which is the first posuk of chapter 71 in Tehillim, the Rebbe’s new kapitel. This went on non-stop and with liveliness until 8:30 promptly.

Normally the Rebbe enters the services or a farbrengen in complete silence. I generally like the idea of our Rebbe entering and leaving with a happy tune, but I would not always push that. But I considered that, at least on this special occasion, the Rebbe should be sung in. When the Rebbe walked in, the usual shushing and shushing went on, ordering the yeshiva boys and others assembled to stop until the Rebbe would be seated, because of which the singing almost died away. I, of course, ignored the shushing and continued singing. I like to think that my little contribution, (a little more hoarse maybe) did help to revive the singing until the Rebbe had sat down.

The Rebbe was in a very happy mood, smiling and laughing, particularly to some young men who had just left the Soviet Union. Quite a few scores of Russians were present; they were new arrivals and they were now living at Nachlas Har Chabad, in Israel.

The place was jammed tight with crowds outside too. I reckon 3,000 people were present.

After the first sicha, we again all sang the new niggun. I jumped up, pulled up Katch and Perrin, and we danced. Soon, everyone was singing and dancing. The place looked like a huge yo-yo, up and down, up and down; it was terrific. It was especially impressive when the Rebbe increased the tempo. I will frankly admit that when the Rebbe started the second sicha I was relieved and very thankful to sit down again and rest. I had reached my limit. It was good though, very exhilarating.

The Rebbe spoke of the importance of the age of 70, quoting tefilah l’Moshe (Tehillim 90) and other sources. He remarked, “One did not have to look at one’s passport to realize one’s age.” Some people seemed always young, whilst others aged more quickly. (Thank G-d the Rebbe looks and acts young. We hope that he will live to 120 years).

The Rebbe compared the natural human birth to the Exodus from Egypt. In the first instance, a human body was taken from inside another human body, the mother. In the second case, a small nation was taken out completely from another larger nation. The Rebbe also mentioned the birth of Adam and thus of all mankind.

As usual, the Rebbe pointed out the vital role that Jewish women play – and have always played – in the life of the Jewish Nation.

When Pharaoh brought in his evil decree that all Jewish male babies be thrown into the River Nile, the parents of Aaron and Miriam decided to set an example to the rest of the Jewish people by getting divorced, ensuring no more Jewish children being born. Miriam, who was only five years old at that time, pleaded with her father Amram, who was a leader of the Jewish people in Egypt, not to take such drastic action and play into the hands of Pharaoh.

She said, “Pharaoh’s decree was only against the boys, whereas Amram’s ruling was against the girls too. This was a policy of despair and lack of faith.” Miriam prevailed. She and all Israel were therefore blessed with the birth of her brother Moshe Rabeinu.

The Rebbe suggested that every woman today should show her husband a bentcher after a meal and point out to him the words he has been uttering, with their translation into a language that he understands, so that he should know and realize that it is not because of good work of his strong arms, or the result of his clever brain that he has achieved success, but that everything comes from our Heavenly Father.

During the farbrengen, the Rebbe pointed out the absurdity of the various groups who nominate a “Man of the Year.” In Yiddish, a man is called “mentsch”. The Rebbe asked why is he a mentsch for only this year. If he was not a mentsch last year, and will not be a mentsch next year, then this year too, “iz ehr nisht kein mentsch (he is not a mentsch)!”

One could have accepted the Rebbe “taking it easy” and retiring now that he has reached the age of seventy. Instead the Rebbe gave us all instructions that every Lubavitch branch should expand and establish additional organizations. The Rebbe requested that in honor of his entering his 71st year, that at least 71 additional foundations and organizations be established before his next birthday!

It was a real freilicher farbrengen, with lots of ecstatic singing and dancing for joy and with happiness. The Rebbe ended the farbrengen at about two in the morning and walked out to the singing of the new niggun.

On the way out, a barricade collapsed in the crunch, and hundreds of people who were on the bleachers began falling. Some almost fell upon our dear Rebbe! There was a sudden hush. Thank G-d some strong men formed a protective circle around the Rebbe and he was not touched. After the human surge ended, the Rebbe immediately continued on his way out, and – almost without missing a beat – waved on the singing as usual.

We later escorted the Rebbe to his car, singing as usual, when suddenly the Rebbe stopped and asked for someone by name. The Rebbe wanted to give him a lift home!

Home for Pesach

I retired to bed at about 3:00 a.m. The entire English group had arranged a minyan for 6:30 a.m., so we could leave to the airport in good time. Most of them did not even retire to bed at all.

At the airport, we were trying to explain to the security officer what was in the large box we were carrying. He interrupted us, saying he knew what shmurah matzah was, as Shmuel had explained it to him and had indeed given him some for his own seder!

Our plane to London left at about 10:00 a.m. There were only three kosher meals on board for the eleven of us: they did manage to find an apple or pear each. We were told that they had to find 160 kosher meals on the previous day at very short notice kein yirbu.

As Yossi Liberow was an ovel (in the year of the mourning after his mother), we had to insure that we had a minyan for mincha and maariv on the plane.

One of the non-Jewish travelers asked us if we were on a pilgrimage. We explained to him our reason for going to New York and showed him the full-page article, with a photograph, about the Rebbe in the morning’s edition of the New York Times. He kept repeating “What a memorable trip this is for me.”

Well, I agree with him. It was a memorable trip for all of us.