Rabbi Doctor Elie Cohen

7 December 2023

It was a seven-day voyage from Tunisia to Montreal, and I was fifteen years old. For seven days all we saw was the sea, yet the boat traveled in a fixed direction the entire time. That’s how it is in life: Without a goal, you can go in all kinds of ways, and end up lost at sea. You’ve got to have a destination. With this thought in mind, I came to Montreal in 1957, looking for some direction.

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Before long, I found what I was looking for. I began attending a class delivered by a young Lubavitch yeshivah student, and then learning Tanya with another. At the suggestion of the yeshivah boys, I began writing to the Rebbe in French. I wrote about my studies and my situation, including some difficulties I was having, and I asked for his blessings.

I was overjoyed when I received the Rebbe’s reply, which was written in English. The very thought that the Rebbe had sent me a letter was unbelievable to me.

He told me not to be discouraged by the ups and downs I felt from my “inner battle with the yetzer” – my evil inclination – and advised me to study the Tanya’s “very illuminating and useful guidance” on this subject. The good things I was doing, he reassured me, would lead to more good and would not be wasted, “for all that is holy is eternal.” I had mentioned that I was studying science in school, so he added, “you know that nothing in the physical world is lost, and this is especially so in matters of the spirit.”

Being Chanukah, the Rebbe wrote that “If ‘a little light dispels a lot of darkness,’ how much more so a growing light, which… is cumulative in its effect, and which is also symbolized in the lights of Chanukah which are increasing in number every night.”

As an immigrant to Canada, I had to live there for five years before I could become a citizen and travel outside the country. But with Hashem’s help, I found a way to go to New York and meet the Rebbe in person just three or four years after my arrival. (more…)

Rabbi Doctor Aryeh Leib Solomon

1 December 2023

Although I had attended a secular high school in Sydney, Australia, and planned to continue to university, I was influenced by student emissaries of the Rebbe to take a break and spend two “gap” years studying Torah at the Yeshivah Gedolah in Melbourne.

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I vividly recall those shluchim – Rabbi Yosef Minkowitz and Rabbi Hirshel Morozov – when they first came to my high school during the intermediate days of Sukkot. Although they spoke briefly, they spoke passionately about Judaism, in a language the students could relate to, and they moved the hearts of several youngsters like me, who became followers of the Rebbe. Later on, I heard it said that the Rebbe had compared education to nuclear energy, and that is certainly what happened that Sukkot. It was as if the Rebbe took a Yiddishkeit bomb and dropped it on Australia through those shluchim.

After two years at the yeshivah, I went on to Sydney University to study for a Bachelor of Arts degree.

In December 1974, during the summer vacation in Australia, I came to visit the Rebbe in New York.

During that trip, I was granted a private audience with the Rebbe. I knew it would be a life-changing moment and I meant to take full advantage of the opportunity, writing a long note to the Rebbe in which I enumerated all my issues and questions. When I finally came before him, I saw my note on his desk with many detailed pencil markings on it. I understood that the Rebbe had spent time reading everything I had written and had something to say about it all. I was awe-struck by that thought.

In my note, I had mentioned that I was becoming disenchanted with university. I had already completed two years toward a three-year Bachelor of Arts degree but I had no intention of continuing on with a fourth year, which would grant me the Diploma of Education, because I wanted to return to yeshivah. (more…)

Rabbi Moishe New

22 November 2023

I was all of ten years old in 1967, when the Rebbe sent the first group of six yeshivah students from 770 – “the bochurim” as we called them – to Australia.

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There were venerable chasidim in Melbourne, my grandfather Reb Isser Kluwgant among them, but they inhabited a different world than us kids, and we didn’t personally relate to them or aspire to adopt their way of life. We loved and respected them, but they were distant.

And then along came these American boys, like a breath of fresh air. They were young outstanding Torah scholars who taught Torah at the yeshivah from morning to night and spoke in the synagogues on Shabbat. But beyond that, they brought Judaism to life for us, making it something we wanted to be a part of. They emanated joy, along with a deep fulfillment, and there was an innocence about them; they were wholesome and whole.

They also had a certain aura about them, a sense of something beyond our world. Later I understood it was the aura of 770, the fact that they were chasidim of the Rebbe. And so we were fascinated by them. We scrutinized their mannerisms, the way they spoke, their gestures – we absorbed it all. The Rebbe knew this would happen, which is exactly why he sent them.

Had these bachurim not come to Australia, it is quite possible I would have remained observant, but that I am a chasid and a shliach is a direct result of their influence and inspiration. (more…)

Rabbi Eliyahu Peretz Zilberstrom

16 November 2023

I was born in France in 1935, after my family fled there from Germany. Following the Second World War, we made our way to Israel, and soon after, my father, a graduate of the legendary Brisker yeshiva, passed away.

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As a young man, my own yeshivah career began in the town of Be’er Yaakov, in a Lithuanian-style yeshivah. During that time, I became connected to Chabad when I began participating in a secret Tanya class – something that went on for some time. My brother, Rabbi Aharon Mordechai Zilberstrom, had also become close with the movement during the war, and he helped found and run several Chabad schools afterwards. Eventually, because of these connections, I transferred to the Chabad yeshivah in Lod in 1955.

Two years later, the Rebbe asked the yeshivah faculty to send him a list of students who were capable of being teachers and strengthening Chabad’s expanding school network; of serving as “education emissaries,” as they were called. Of that list, the Rebbe chose ten names, including mine. This was how I began working in education while still a yeshivah student.

I taught in several schools – first in Ta’anach, and then in the Malcha neighborhood of Jerusalem, where I later became principal. I also taught and headed up two newly-founded schools that had been set up for new immigrants to Israel from Morocco and Romania.

Those early days were hard. The authorities were often uninterested in cooperating with us and could make things quite challenging. We worked in difficult conditions, in rented classrooms into which we would drag our desks and chairs each morning – then out again in the evening – and in sheds with roofs that leaked in the winter. Along the way, however, we received letters from the Rebbe in which he would encourage us to carry on, while offering instructions and detailed educational guidance. (more…)

Mrs. Sara Nachshon

9 November 2023

My love for the Land of Israel comes from my parents. They moved here when they were young – first to Tel Aviv, back when it was still small, then to a little farm in Kfar Hasidim – and they nurtured our connection to the land.

My family knew very li

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ttle about Chabad. After Baruch and I married, he wanted to go see the Rebbe. Personally, I felt my place was in Israel, but I went along with my husband. In 1964, we traveled to New York by ship, and when they finally met, the Rebbe encouraged my husband to attend art school in New York, which led to us living there for a year.

About a month after arriving, I had an audience with the Rebbe; I was pregnant at the time, and I wanted to receive his blessing ahead of the birth.

He spoke to me like a father to his child. He asked me many questions, such as whether I had friends in New York, and what the doctors had said about my pregnancy. He even gave me the names of some local women with whom I could speak Hebrew – women I have remained friends with until today. I had known nothing about the Rebbe, but after that first meeting, I felt very close to him.

After a year in Crown Heights, the Rebbe told us that our place was in Israel.

“Where?” we asked.

“Wherever you want,” he replied. (more…)

Mr. Jay Goldstein

2 November 2023

Back in the early ‘80s, I owned a bookbinding business in New York and had a few regular Chabad customers. They would tell me about their Rebbe, and around Passover time, they told me about a special gathering he would have before the holiday which they invited me to join.

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I went, and I was very impressed. There were a lot of people there, and the Rebbe sat at a long dais in the center of a cavernous room. There were some prominent Jewish leaders in attendance as well as some local politicians, some of whom were not Jewish.

The Rebbe spoke in Yiddish, but I was given a transistor radio that could play in my ear a simultaneous English translation of what he was saying. Every once in a while, shot glasses with wine were passed around and when the Rebbe was between talks, everyone would say l’chaim. You would hold up your cup, and the Rebbe would give you a toast. At one point, I made eye contact with him, he smiled, and I made a l’chaim.

It would be a long time before I had a real face-to-face with the Rebbe. In the meantime, in 1983, I married my wife Rebecca. We wanted to have a child, but it wasn’t happening. After a while, we began going to fertility clinics and trying out different medicines. When that didn’t work, we became a little discouraged.

“It’s not so bad,” my sister told me. “You can adopt.”

Well, one day in 1989, I was watching TV in the living room with Becky, when out of nowhere she said, “Jay, I want to go to the Rebbe to get a blessing. Maybe he can help us.”

I hadn’t seen the Rebbe since that gathering, and had never actually met him, but I knew that he received people every Sunday. You could go tell him what your problem was and he would give you a blessing. (more…)

Rabbi Chaim Levi Goldstein

25 October 2023

After the Rebbe’s mother passed away, in 1964, the Rebbe introduced something new: Every time he would hold a farbrengen on Shabbat, he would select a gloss from Rashi, the classic eleventh-century Torah commentator, on the Torah reading of the week. He would ask detailed questions on it, and then give his answer, which was always brilliant yet simultaneously simple enough for a child to understand.

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In the ‘80s, however, the Rebbe requested that we present the questions on Rashi instead of him. “I want to address questions that others have brought up,” he told the chasidim.

Several yeshivot used to publish a weekly journal in which people wrote ideas or questions on a variety of Torah subjects – and many continue to do so today. And so, whereas the Rebbe would usually ask his own questions on Rashi, he said that people should now publish their questions in these journals, and he would choose one or more of those questions to address.

We also saw how the Rebbe took pleasure when we would analyze his own teachings carefully, publishing questions or explanations in the journals on things he had said. Sometimes, the Rebbe would even rebuke us when an obvious question on something he had said wasn’t noticed – “why didn’t anyone ask this?” he would demand.

On occasion, I would write questions on the weekly Torah reading directly to the Rebbe. In one letter to the Rebbe from the spring of 1983, I asked a question on something he had recently taught.

Commenting on the verse in the first parshah, Bereishit, “And the snake was more cunning than all the beasts of the field,” the Rebbe had wondered why it only says that the snake was smarter than the “beasts” – what about the fish or the birds? The answer, said the Rebbe, was that it was self-understood: If the snake is smarter than any other land animal, this would imply it is also smarter than other, lesser creatures. (more…)

Mrs. Sarah Hein

18 October 2023

Back in the ‘70s, my husband and I wanted to live in a larger home, so we moved to Mountain Lakes, New Jersey. Mountain Lakes was a beautiful town, but the Jewish community there was highly assimilated.

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I myself had a very Jewish upbringing, having grown up in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, in a community that was quite traditional, even if not all of its members were observant. Despite that, I became less involved with my Judaism as I grew older and more worldly.

My husband Chaim, of blessed memory, was a mechanical engineer working near the Battery Tunnel in Manhattan. One day he went to work and saw a Mitzvah Tank parked outside, with a few yeshivah students standing nearby.

“Are you Jewish?” they asked, and he replied that he was.

“Then come in with us,” they said.

He didn’t know what to expect, but he followed them inside the Mitzvah Tank. They put on tefillin, recited the Shema, and when they were done, he asked them: “How much do I owe you?”

“Owe us?” they asked. “It’s our mitzvah to do this!” They explained that they were there at the behest of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, and that was probably the first time that either my husband or I had ever heard of the Rebbe. (more…)

Rabbi Shimon Bekerman

11 October 2023

In light of the shocking events that have taken place in the Holy Land, we are reprinting an account from a previous issue of Here’s My Story about a soldier in the Yom Kippur War. It is our prayer that G-d’s blessing in the Torah, “I will grant peace in the Land, and you will lie down with no one to frighten you” – which the Rebbe quoted in his letter in the following account – will be realized openly and quickly.

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Having come from a family with chasidic roots, I gravitated to Lubavitch at a young age and studied in a Chabad yeshivah. But it was not until I was an adult and already married that I met the Rebbe. This was in 1965 when I traveled to New York to spend the Hebrew month of Tishrei – the month of the High Holidays and Sukkot – in his presence. At the end of my visit, I had a private audience and I confided in the Rebbe that, although I’ve been near him for several weeks already, I still didn’t feel that a change has occurred in me, as I expected would happen.

In response, the Rebbe quoted a saying of his father-in-law, the Previous Rebbe, that “when you travel to the fair, you buy a lot of merchandise, pack it up and take it home, and you unpack the parcels all year.” I understood what he meant – the one who travels to a fair is like the chasid who travels to his Rebbe for the month of Tishrei, “buying a lot of merchandise” – that is, acquiring spiritual inspiration. But he doesn’t see what he has truly received until he gets home, processes it, and puts it into practice. And then he begins to feel that the Rebbe is with him all year long.

This proved very true for me, especially in later years, when the Yom Kippur War broke out.

The Yom Kippur War caught me, like all Israelis, in the midst of prayers on the holiest day of the year. I was praying at the yeshivah in Kfar Chabad, when I suddenly heard planes and saw cars out on the main street. I understood something terrible was happening, although I did not know exactly what until I returned home when Yom Kippur was over, and my wife told me that I had been ordered to report for duty. I immediately put on my uniform and wrote to the Rebbe that I was going off to war, asking for his blessing to return safely. (more…)

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…)

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