When the Rebbe turned seventy, he challenged his chasidim to establish seventy-one new institutions.
I had the honor of being present at the farbrengen when the Rebbe celebrated his seventieth birthday. I vividly recall the Rebbe saying that some people are telling him that now is the time to rest, take it easy and retire, but he believes that now is the time to begin work with ever greater vigor, as the Ethics of the Fathers states, “at eighty [one attains] strength.” He then concluded, “So since from seventy, we are moving toward eighty, over the course of this year, at least seventy-one new institutions should be established.”
“I will be a partner with every individual who will dedicate himself to this project,” the Rebbe promised. “From the money that have been contributed to the Seventy Fund, I will cover at least ten percent of the expenses involved in establishing these seventy-one institutions.”
By 1972, I had been serving for seven years as the Rebbe’s emissary to the West Coast and when I heard the Rebbe’s words, I immediately passed over a note via his secretary that I and my team would be taking upon ourselves to establish seven of these seventy-one institutions.
In my opinion, there are only two kinds of people in this world – those who believe, and those who don’t believe. For those who believe, anything is possible, and there are no questions. For those who don’t believe, there are no answers. So, although we didn’t know where the funds would come from, we believed and – together with the emissaries we recruited for the task – we managed to establish not only seven Chabad centers but twelve.
The next day, our California delegation had an audience with the Rebbe during which we presented him with a silver crown to fit atop his personal Torah scroll. I also invited Rabbi Chaim Itche Drizin, who was then working in Northern California as a Talmud Torah teacher, to join us. I asked him, “How would you like to serve as an emissary with us?” And he responded “I’d love to.”
During the audience, I pointed to Rabbi Drizin and said to the Rebbe, “He will establish the first new Chabad House of the seven that we promised.”
And the Rebbe looked at us and smiled. (more…)