When I was a child growing up in Montreal, the entire Chabad community would make an annual trip to New York for the 10th of Shevat – the anniversary of the Previous Rebbe’s passing, and of the Rebbe’s subsequent appointment as his successor. We would travel there by train, an eleven-hour journey, and on the way the respected chasidic mentor Rabbi Volf Greenglass would lead a communal farbrengen, which invariably ended up with everyone in our car breaking out in a dance.
There were few major Chabad communities outside of New York and Israel in those days, and Montreal’s was the largest community to travel together to the Rebbe, so we received special attention. All of the children were invited for a special audience, and the Rebbe spoke to us. Rabbi Yoel Kahn, the Rebbe’s oral scribe, was also present for these meetings, to ensure that the talk was transcribed, to be reviewed by the Rebbe and eventually published.
The first time I entered the Rebbe’s room was during one of these trips. It was 1960, and I was six years old. I remember standing in front of the Rebbe’s desk, together with my brothers and sisters, flanked by our parents on either side. At the beginning of the audience, my father gave the Rebbe a three-page letter he had prepared earlier. As one of the founders and directors of the Chabad yeshivah in Montreal, my father would include in his note various yeshivah related matters, in addition to writing about our family.
The Rebbe looked at the letter, and then immediately turned to my father, while pointing at me. “Why didn’t you write his name?” he asked. He didn’t just remark that the note was a name short, or ask “who is missing?” – he pointed directly at me.
My father was shocked. I saw his hands shake, and he seemed flustered. He didn’t say a word, and when the Rebbe held out the letter to show that my name was missing, he didn’t reach out to take it. (more…)