Rabbi Yosef Posner

4 October 2023

It is a long-standing custom in Chabad for a young couple to seek the Rebbe’s approval and blessing before getting engaged. Even once they have decided on marrying, and their families are happy with the match, that blessing from the Rebbe is what couples wait for before making their engagement official.

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My father, Rabbi Leibel Posner, often describes how when he and my mother decided to get married in 1950, they first called the Rebbe from a pay phone to ask for his blessing. Of course, when my wife, Zeesy and I got married in 1978, it was important to us to do the same.

Actually, the Rebbe’s involvement in my match started even before then – though I didn’t know it at the time. I was a yeshivah student learning in Crown Heights, and one day my father told me about a potential match for me, and then gave me the name of a young lady, suggesting that I meet her. Of course, I did as I was told, confident that my parents had done their homework.

Only later on, did I find out how the match had come about. My future father-in-law, Rabbi Yisroel Gordon, had written to the Rebbe to ask him about a suitable match for his daughter. In his letter, he included the names of several young men and, although I never learned who my competition was, the Rebbe chose my name.

My wife and I ended up meeting shortly thereafter, and soon we decided that we were ready: We wanted to ask the Rebbe for his blessing for our engagement.

Now, all of this was happening a few weeks after Shmini Atzeret. On that day in 1977, the Rebbe had suffered a serious heart attack, and had been in recovery since. He wa (more…)

Mrs. Leah Aizenman

27 September 2023

I had grown up in a quiet neighborhood of Tel Aviv, but in 1976 my family moved to New York. Back in Tel Aviv, I had attended Moriah, a religious, non-chasidic school with a strong emphasis on learning. As a fifteen-year-old, I loved it there and it was hard to find another school like it in New York.

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My older sister Michla Breindel, of blessed memory, who had just married a Lubavitcher named Yehuda Blesofsky, was living in Crown Heights. Although it was not long after their wedding, they generously invited me to come and board with them so I could attend the local Chabad girls’ high school, Bais Rivka.

I went to try it out just before Rosh Hashanah, and it was quite an adjustment. The religious environment I had come from was intellectual but reserved, while the education that the girls in Bais Rivka were receiving was so warm and exciting. I loved it and decided to stay.

I also had to adjust to the neighborhood. The streets of Crown Heights, with their festive hustle and bustle and the guests who had come from abroad for the holidays, were so different from where I had come from. The real shock, however, came from what was going on inside my sister’s home.

In those days, Crown Heights had no prominent hospitality organizations for hosting or providing meals for visitors. Families simply opened their homes and had guests over for every holiday meal – and my sister did the same. I was a little spoiled growing up as the youngest of four children, but I wasn’t going to let my sister deal with this alone. Oblivious to the activity surrounding the Rebbe in 770, I focused on helping my sister make sure that everyone was fed, and keeping her from collapsing.

That Rosh Hashanah, I threw myself into the tasks at hand – cooking, serving, cleaning. On the day before Yom Kippur, there were more guests, and before Sukkot, yet more. In Israel, most of the holidays are only observed for one day, and so the two days in the beginning of Sukkot felt endless, especially since we had to make constant trips up and down the steps of her home to the Sukkah outside. (more…)

Rabbi Avremi Kievman

20 September 2023

Being privileged to grow up in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, as a child, I would see the Rebbe all the time. Typically, we saw him on Shabbat, as there was school during the week, but I remember how exciting it was when we would be able to go to 770 for the Minchah service on days there was no school. At 3:15 in the afternoon, the Rebbe would come into the synagogue, and he would hand us each a coin to place in a charity box.

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One memory that stands out was in 1973, the Shabbat before the fast of the 9th of Av. I had just turned six and my father took me to the farbrengen, the public gathering that the Rebbe often led on Shabbat afternoons. We walked into 770 and went to our spot; my father normally stood towards the end of the long table the Rebbe sat at, on the Rebbe’s left, while sitting me down on another table adjacent to it. The synagogue was a lot smaller than it is today, but being summertime, with children away in camp and families off in Upstate New York, there was more room than usual.

That summer, the Rebbe had spoken several times about the power of children, referring repeatedly to the verse from Psalms, “Out of the mouths of babies and infants You have established strength … to silence the enemy and avenger. As the summer went on, he brought up the subject with increasing regularity, in public addresses, and in letters to educators and summer camp administrators, focusing on how important it was that Jewish children receive a Torah education and their power as role models. Now, as he walked into the room for the farbrengen, he looked directly at me, and then around the room. My father had a sense, as he later told me, that the Rebbe was looking to see whether there were any other children present: Something was going to happen with the children at the farbrengen that day.

Sure enough, after addressing the assembled, the Rebbe said that he wanted all of the children to say a special l’chaim. The way he put it was interesting: “If it isn’t too much of an inconvenience,” he said, as if he was asking something of an elderly person, “the children who are under Bar or Bat Mitzvah can come up.” On occasion, the Rebbe would pour wine for people to say l’chaim on, but never before did he distribute to children only, and as far as I know, it never happened again either. (more…)

Rabbi Shmuel Notik

13 September 2023

Back in the Soviet Union, in the city of Samarkand, my parents had run an underground yeshivah. My father taught a group of young men, while my mother cooked for them and hosted them in our home. Those boys were like her own children. There was an underground cellar where they would hide if the secret police showed up, we had a minyan for Shabbat, a mikveh, and my father also secretly served as a kosher slaughterer. It was like an underground Chabad House.

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Before we finally left in 1971, my parents had never seen the Previous Rebbe or the Rebbe – and of course neither had I. In communist Russia, even a picture of the Rebbe was something that had to be kept hidden – I had only ever seen one – but we were raised in the underground with the knowledge that the Rebbe was with us. In that country, we felt anti-Semitism all the time – I was constantly having to escape, fight, or be assaulted by non-Jewish kids – and often, I would feel a sense of despair about our predicament. But in those moments, the thought that the Rebbe was with me made me feel strong and determined to continue the struggle and continue being the Lubavitcher boy I was raised to be.

After spending seven years as refuseniks, waiting for permission to leave Russia, we emigrated to Israel, and soon began making plans to visit the Rebbe. Just a few months later, in the summer of 1971, Israeli chasidim chartered a plane in order to spend the festive month of Tishrei with the Rebbe. People borrowed and collected money to buy a ticket, although afterwards the Rebbe actually reimbursed us Russian emigres for all our travel expenses.

We were due to arrive on the Thursday before Rosh Hashanah when I was fifteen years old. Our flight landed in New York at around 4:30 AM, and we were able to drive into Crown Heights, run to immerse in the mikveh, and get ready for the Rebbe to walk into the synagogue for selichot, pre-Rosh Hashanah supplications, at seven o’clock. (more…)

Rabbi Binyamin Elias

8 September 2023

After studying in Jerusalem’s famous Sefardic Porat Yosef yeshivah, at eighteen years old I joined Kollel Torah VeHora’ah in Tel Aviv. The kollel, an advanced rabbinical seminary, was run by Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef, who had just been appointed the city’s chief rabbi, and I was ordained there as a rabbi myself. In 1977, in consultation with several prominent rabbis, I joined a group from the kollel who decided to enlist in the army, hoping to devote ourselves to improving the Jewish character of the IDF.

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After going through an expedited basic training, we graduated as officers in the army chaplaincy. After serving in the 460th Brigade, the armored forces’ training formation, I was appointed rabbi of the 162nd division, and eventually of the Merchav Shlomo Command, which had been placed in charge of the southern Sinai Peninsula since the Yom Kippur War.

My duties as a senior army rabbi involved supervising the provision of kosher food, overseeing synagogues and holiday services, and distributing essential religious supplies like tefillin and Torah scrolls for all service members, on large bases and the most distant outposts. I was also responsible for Halachic matters relating to marriages, conversions, and mourning, and for the division’s burial unit, which had to always be ready to identify and bury any casualties in the most appropriate way.

By the time I came to the 460th, Israel’s peace deal with Egypt had already been signed and the plans for the evacuation of the Sinai were well underway. As an aside, orchestrating this handover meant that we had to liaise with several Egyptian officers. Being an Arabic speaker, I became friendly with some of them, and as a result of these relationships, on occasion, I managed to learn some pertinent information that I passed on to IDF intelligence.

In 1981, on the night following Yom Kippur, a lieutenant came to my office, complaining that he had been forced to work on the holy day. However, I didn’t recognize the name of his unit. I had an excellent and open working relationship with all the senior commanders, and had never experienced them hiding information from me.

I asked the lieutenant to wait in my office, while I went and spoke with the head of Command. “I have a lieutenant here who claims he was compelled to work on Yom Kippur. But I don’t recognize his unit!” (more…)

Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz

31 August 2023

As a young yeshivah student in Jerusalem, I first encountered Chabad by way of an underground Tanya class given by Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Segal. This class would introduce quite a few outstanding yeshivah students to the Chabad school of thought and, in time, I ended up organizing these classes myself. As a result, I transferred to the yeshivah in Kfar Chabad, and in 1967 I went to study in the Central Lubavitcher Yeshiva in the Rebbe’s court.

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When I came to New York, the first farbrengen of the Rebbe that I had the fortune of participating in was on Purim. In those years, anyone who needed to speak to the Rebbe could approach him at the farbrengen – as the chasidim sang between his talks – to say “l’chaim” and ask whatever was on his heart.

At the time, and for as long as I can remember before then, I had a certain medical issue that bothered me terribly. I had visited many doctors, undergone various tests and procedures, but nothing helped. I decided to use this opportunity, on the auspicious day of Purim, to request the Rebbe’s blessing.

I had already given up on normal medical means – they had been unsuccessful until that point – but I had the audacity to ask the Rebbe to promise me that everything will be resolved.

“Go to Seligson,” the Rebbe answered me, “and you will succeed.”

Dr. Avrohom Abba Seligson was a local chasid to whom the Rebbe would often refer people when they sought his blessing for matters of health. Encouraged by the Rebbe’s assurance, I went to see Dr. Seligson. He prescribed some sort of medication, which I took for a period of time, but it was to no avail. I was out of ideas, and felt deeply frustrated; after all of those treatments and after the Rebbe’s promise, I had really hoped that something would change. (more…)

Danny Amrani

24 August 2023

My wife Yardena and I married in 1978. After a few years passed and we were still unable to have a baby, we turned to doctors and underwent several years of fertility treatments. The treatments were unsuccessful, which caused us great pain.

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In 1985, we moved to the town of Afula. During that period, our religious observance was steadily increasing; my wife, who made quicker progress than me, was already keeping Shabbat. A friend encouraged me to reach out to Rabbi Yitzchak Yadgar, a Chabad representative in the nearby Ta’anakh region, and the principal of a school in the settlement Avital. One Friday after classes had ended, we came to his office. We shared our troubles and told him that we wanted a blessing for healthy children.

“What I can suggest,” said Rabbi Yadgar, “is that you write to the Rebbe and ask for his blessing.” He also advised that we take on a new resolution – some added aspect of Torah observance – as a vessel to receive G-d’s blessings.

Meanwhile, we had been referred by the Carmel Medical Center for an experimental fertility program that involved intensive preparations on our part. We were already in the advanced stages of the program but, after our talk with Rabbi Yadgar, my wife insisted that we ask the Rebbe about continuing with it, and then do as he advised. Together with Rabbi Yadgar, we worked on the wording of our letter, and before we left his office, he told us that, with G-d’s help, everything would work out.

Three weeks passed. It was another Friday, just days before the appointed time for the actual fertility treatment at Carmel. To my surprise, I found in our mailbox a letter from the United States, in the distinctive blue-and-white air-mail envelope. It was a letter from the Rebbe. (more…)

Dr. Dovid Krinsky

17 August 2023

When my oldest sister, Deena, was born, the beds of her fingernails and her lips were blue. This is not uncommon in newborn babies, but in her case, it didn’t go away. In medical terms, the blood in her body wasn’t circulating properly and getting fully oxygenated. Something was very wrong.

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My parents lived in Boston, so they took Deena to the Boston Children’s Hospital, where she was diagnosed as having a major congenital heart defect called Tetralogy of Fallot. It was 1943, and the hospital had been studying this syndrome for several years. My folks were told that their baby was not likely to survive a year without treatment, but by using some surgical techniques that had recently been developed in the hospital, her life might be prolonged somewhat.

By this time, my family had a close connection with the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak. They reached out to him, and he advised them not to do the surgery.

I can’t imagine what it would have been like for my parents to hear that – and what it takes for a human being to be able to say those words. But that’s what he said and so no surgery was done.

But then, she made it to her first birthday party; years later, I would grow up hearing stories about what a tremendous celebration it was. Then she made it to her second, and her third. I came along when she was six, and although she was somewhat limited in her physical activity and needed to be homeschooled much of the time, my parents could not have been happier – at least she was alive! (more…)

Anonymous

10 August 2023

Editor’s Note

Due to the nature of this account, the woman who shared it prefers to remain anonymous. We are thankful to her for allowing us to publish this story, which we hope will provide guidance to others facing similar challenges.

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When I was growing up, my parents had a troubled marriage. My mother had grown up in Stalin’s Russia, lost her mother as a little girl, seen her grandfather repeatedly imprisoned for teaching Torah, and suffered tremendously there. Now, as a young woman, she was unhappy, and my father was unhappy that she was unhappy.

I read in an issue of Here’s My Story[1] that the Rebbe once told someone, “A child is not allowed to judge a parent.” So it’s not for me to figure out what they did right or wrong, but I think they did their best and that they did a very good job as parents, all things considered.

Back in the ‘60s, every chasid would have a private audience with the Rebbe on their birthday. So every winter, my father would drive the whole family to New York for his birthday.

It was often very late by the time we went into the Rebbe’s room. The lines could be unpredictable, and somebody who was supposed to only have five minutes with the Rebbe might take two hours. We would be sitting on a bench in the 770 lobby, feeling very tired, and my mother would comb our hair right before we went in to make sure we looked presentable to the Rebbe. When I felt that comb on my head, I knew we were going in soon. (more…)

Rabbi Menachem Gerlitzky

2 August 2023

After finishing my studies in kollel – an institution for young married men to study Torah – I wanted to become an emissary of the Rebbe. I had been presented with several such shlichut opportunities, and so in 1983 I wrote a letter to the Rebbe, describing the various positions that had been offered to me.

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Regarding one position in a foreign country whose language I didn’t speak, the Rebbe wrote in direct reply, “If so, then it is not for you.” Of another, more vague idea: “Practically, what does it entail?”

The Rebbe also gave me some general guidance in my shlichut search. He explained that when a person is trying to settle on a vocation, he ought to first consider what he is most suited to, what he is capable of, and what is practical. Since I had just written down every proposal that came my way, they were quite different from each other. “How is it possible,” wrote the Rebbe, “for one person to be suited to all of the above positions which vary completely?”

In conclusion, he instructed me to think more about the remaining offers that I had, as well as others that would come up, and then I could ask him again. So I spent the next few weeks contemplating my options.

A few years earlier, in the summer of 1980, the Rebbe had launched a new campaign, aimed at retired seniors. Now in the Rebbe’s view, a person is never allowed to retire – or, put differently, there is no such thing as retirement. A person might stop going to work every day, but as long as he is alive, and as long as G-d continues to grant him health, he has to continue doing what G-d wants. (more…)

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