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    Shifra Vepua

    Household Member At 1304 President Street

    From Beis Moshiach Magazine: The life story of Reb Sholom Ber Gansburg A”H, who merited to assist the Rebbe MH”M and the Rebbetzin with their household needs for tens of years, thereby witnessing firsthand wondrous miracles and heartwarming anecdotes, some of which he shared with the public • Presented in honor of R’ Gansburg’s Shloshim on 17 Kislev. • Part 1 of 2 • Full Article

    By Menachem Ziegelbaum, Beis Moshiach Magazine

    One of the closest bnei bayis in the Rebbe’s house was Rabbi Sholom Dovber Gansburg a’h, who recently passed away at the age of 86. R’ Gansburg wasn’t a secretary; he was known by Chassidim as a “mashbak” (acronyn for meshamesh ba’kodesh) who took care of everything at Beis Rebbi.

    R’ Gansburg was born in Russia on 11 Tammuz 5697. His parents were Rabbi and Mrs. Shneur Zalman and Batsheva Gansburg. He and his parents moved to the United States in 5713.

    Shortly after they arrived, he was asked to help Rebbetzin Nechama Dina, wife of the Rebbe Rayatz, who lived on the second floor of 770 and needed help in the house.

    On one rare occasion, she told him that she once entered her husband’s room and found him sobbing. She asked what was wrong and the Rebbe’s answer was that he could no longer bear the tzaros of Jews.

    As was customary in Beis Rebbi, nobody worked for free; they were all paid. This was a sacred principle. Rebbetzin Nechama Dina tried to pay young Sholom Ber several times but he always refused payment.

    One day, she asked him to go into the Rebbe Rayatz’s yechidus room, “gan eden ha’elyon.” He had almost never entered this room, except for rare instances when the situation required it. He innocently thought that this time too, a repair needed to be made.

    “As we both stood at the desk in the yechidus room, the Rebbetzin handed me an envelope with cash in it,” said R’ Gansburg. “I refused to accept it and left the room as the Rebbetzin said (in Russian), ‘Don’t be impudent.’”

    After he left, he went to the dining room where the Rebbetzin’s daughters, Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka and Rebbetzin Chana were sitting. As was their custom, they would sit with their mother a few times a week.

    R’ Gansburg receiving a dollar from the Rebbe

    Rebbetzin Nechama Dina went to the dining room and said to her daughters, “Mussele, Chanale, what should we do with him? I can’t do anything with him; he doesn’t listen.”

    Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka realized that ordinary payment would not be accepted by this bachur’l and she decided to buy US bonds and register them in his name, without his knowing.

    Decades passed and before 3 Tammuz 5754, the bank called his brother, R’ Yaakov Boruch Gansburg’s house and informed him that there were bonds that belonged to Sholom Ber (they couldn’t reach him because he was living in the Rebbe’s house at the time).

    “That is when I first found out about it. With her cleverness, Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka made sure I wouldn’t work for free and she knew how to pay me without my knowing.”

    He had a similar story many years later when he was living in the Rebbe’s house on President Street. On several occasions, Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka wanted to pay him for his help in the house but he always refused. Once, she “threatened” to take him to a din Torah to the Rebbe.

    R’ Shalom Ber said, “Rebbetzin, you are a smart rebbetzin and you were raised with a set of customs that are somewhat different so I will ask, and I will do as you say: I live here in this house and lack for nothing. I even have some money from before. Would it be okay for me to take money from the Rebbe to deposit in the bank?!”

    The Rebbetzin then stopped bringing up the subject, but on a number of occasions she said that there was money for him in the house.

    KEEP THE PRECIOUS GIFT

    During those years when the Sedarim were held in the home of the Rebbe Rayatz, the wine was brought to the table in three silver goblets (aside from the wine that the Rebbe drank, which was served in a plain glass bottle which was in a paper bag).

    After the passing of the old Rebbetzin, the bottles were given to: Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka, her sister, and the third bottle was given by Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka to R’ Sholom Ber. He was also given a spoon and fork which had the Schneerson name engraved on them.

    Years later, with the theft of the sefarim and items belonging to the Rebbe Rayatz, the Rebbe announced that “there is a serious prohibition and even serious danger in buying or holding on to any item or sefer that belonged to the Rebbe Rayatz.”

    “Hearing this,” said R’ Gansburg, “it occurred to me that maybe I should give back the bottle, the fork and spoon, since they originally belonged to the Rebbe Rayatz and his family. When I asked the Rebbe he smiled slightly and said, ‘What I said, doesn’t pertain to you.’”

    LIVING WITH THE REBBE AND REBBETZIN

    As he worked in the home of the Rebbe Rayatz, Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka took note of the diligence, speed, and devotion of the boy. At a certain point, she asked him to help at her house too.

    He had to take care of all the necessary housework, supervise when needed and oversee the proper functioning of the home. A major change in his work at the Rebbe and Rebbetzin’s home took place in the summer of 5742/1982.

    The Rebbetzin had pain in her legs and needed to be X-rayed. His brother, R’ Mendel Gansburg, drove the Rebbetzin to the hospital and brought her back in the evening.

    During those years, R’ Chesed Halberstam worked at the Rebbe’s home during the day, but due to the situation, it became necessary for someone to be there at night too.

    R’ Sholom Ber was called to the house without knowing why. Upon arriving, he went to the bedroom where the Rebbe and Rebbetzin were. The Rebbe stood between the beds and the Rebbetzin was sitting in a wheelchair. When the Rebbetzin saw him, she said, “I would like you to sleep here at night.” R’ Sholom Ber said he would do so, he just wanted to take some things he needed from his house.

    R’ Gansburg (left) near the Rebbe’s room the night of Purim 5731

    “When the Rebbe heard what I said, he smiled like someone who is pleased, and from then on, I lived at the Rebbe’s house like a ben bayis (member of the household).”

    To what extent was he a ben bayis? The following story lets us know:

    “When Pesach began, I assumed that the Rebbe and Rebbetzin would want to have their own Seder, as was their practice in recent years. I thought that since I had prepared everything they needed for the Seder, I would quickly make a Seder for myself with my parents and then go to the Rebbe and Rebbetzin for Shulchan Orech to set the table and serve the food.

    “When I arrived, how surprised I was to see that the Rebbe and Rebbetzin hadn’t yet begun the Seder. As soon as they saw me, the Rebbetzin said, ‘Sholom, where did you disappear to? My husband has been waiting for you.’

    “As my teeth chattered and I trembled all over, the Rebbe asked me, ‘Where are you up to?’ I told him where in the Haggadah and the Rebbe pointed at the matzos and said, ‘Nu, take a matza and make a keara.’ I was utterly befuddled as I had never been before in my life so that I had to look in the siddur to remember how to set up the keara.”

    Half a year later, the night of Sukkos, a similar thing happened.

    “In addition to the fact that the sukka was built in a very narrow space (between the library building and the house of Rabbi Meir Itkin a’h), it was small. The table that the Rebbe and Rebbetzin ate at was also very small. I figured that it wouldn’t be fitting for me to eat the Yom Tov meals with them.

    “I served the first course and waited outside the sukka. After a while, when I figured they had finished eating it, I went in to clear the plates and serve the next course. As soon as I went in, the Rebbetzin said to me, similarly to the way she had spoken at the Seder, ‘My husband is waiting for you.’ I noticed that they hadn’t started the meal. In attempting to explain myself, I said that the sukka is small and why did I need to be there when I could eat afterward. The Rebbe then spoke up, saying, ‘Perhaps you can sometimes obey what you are told also?’

    “Since those two incidents, I always ate with the Rebbe and Rebbetzin without any further kuntzin.

    “Furthermore, the Rebbetzin bought a bed for me which was in the library building, so I could sleep with them even on Shabbos and Yom Tov. Once I agreed to live in their house, they took care of every detail like I was a member of the household, and when they moved for Shabbos, they wanted me to be with them.

    “This continued on the Shabbosos after the shiva for the Rebbetzin in 5748, when the Rebbe ate at home alone. Then too, the Rebbe asked me to eat with him.

    “The first Shabbos he expressed this wish, after they finished davening at Beis Rebbi, I waited until everyone left the house so I could set the table for the meal. One of the people tarried on the first floor of the house and it wasn’t comfortable for me to tell him to leave. However, I felt very uncomfortable about starting to set the table while someone was in the house.

    “When I told the Rebbe how I felt, he said, ‘Why does it bother you? Let him be there.’”

    ‘YOU’RE LIKE ALL THE BIGSHOTS’

    Although he sought to keep a respectful distance from the Rebbe and Rebbetzin, they considered him a member of the household and took an interest in him.

    Once, while driving, R’ Gansburg was stopped by the police. They said he had been speeding. He spoke to them impatiently which annoyed them even more. They told him that he was under arrest and he had to go with them. He noticed a Lubavitcher on the street and R’ Gansburg asked him to let the Rebbe’s secretariat know of his arrest.

    Some time later, R’ Yisroel Shemtov went down to the police station; he was very involved with the police in New York at that time. He waited until the evening for R’ Gansburg to be released. He even gave him a ride to Beis Rebbi.

    “In those days, the Rebbe would eat supper on weekdays at home with the Rebbetzin,” said R’ Gansburg. “As soon as he saw me enter the house, the Rebbe smiled broadly and said, ‘Nu, you’re like all the bigshots already, but this should be the last time.’

    “Although I had been allowed to leave, my legal woes were still not over. I needed a lawyer to finish up. Once, the Rebbe asked me whether the lawyer was being paid by me for his work. I said he didn’t want to be paid. The Rebbe told me to repeat the Gemara to him that ‘Success is not enduring in things that are not paid for.’ After he walked a bit, the Rebbe turned around to me and while smiling he said, ‘Nevertheless, he shouldn’t take from you as he takes from others; it’s only symbolic.’”

    We can see the fondness the Rebbe had for him from the following fact:

    Chanuka 5734 was the first Chanuka that Chassidim and bachurim went out to the street to enable other Jews to light the menorah. The Rebbe announced that everyone from Anash and the tmimim who would do mivtzaim on Chanuka and would send in to him a certification from Tzach would get a dollar for Chanuka gelt.

    This was a stunning announcement since quite a few years had gone by in which the Rebbe did not give out Chanuka gelt to the public. At that time, the Rebbe did not give out dollars regularly so this announcement was very unusual.

    The Rebbe was particular about giving a dollar only to those who went on mivtzaim and had gotten certification from Tzach. R’ Gansburg was eager to get a dollar from the Rebbe and he went on mivtzaim. When he was finished, he went to Rabbi Dovid Raskin, director of Tzach, and asked him for a note that affirmed that he went so he could get the dollar. With note in hand, he went to “gan eden ha’tachton” but realized, to his dismay, that he was too late, and that the Rebbe had already gone into his room. “I was devastated,” he said.

    “Suddenly, the Rebbe opened the door to his room, even though I hadn’t knocked and I had made no noise when I came in. With a big smile, the Rebbe gave me a dollar and said, ‘Acharon, acharon, chaviv,’ and returned to his room.

    “When I went to my father’s house afterward and told him what happened, he was very excited by what the Rebbe said and couldn’t calm down for a long time afterward.”

    There were years when the Rebbe gave out Chanuka gelt, a silver dollar, just to the tmimim, and only to those who kept to the conditions set by the yeshiva, as the Rebbe said.

    R’ Gansburg was a talmid in yeshiva at the time and although he did not meet all the conditions, he yearned to get a dollar. Since he helped out at the Rebbe’s house, he decided to muster the courage and approach the Rebbe for Chanuka gelt along with everyone else.

    Rabbi Mentlick, the rosh yeshiva, stood there with a list of bachurim. When he saw young Gansburg approach, he tried to stop him, with his hand, from getting, because he hadn’t met the conditions.

    “When the Rebbe saw me, he raised his hand over Rabbi Mentlick’s hand and gave me a dollar.”

    SHARING HIS SORROWS

    After R’ Gansburg’s father passed away in Shevat 5751, R’ Gansburg sat shiva with his family. The next day, the secretary, R’ Groner, called and asked him to come to Beis Rebbi and open the door.

    In those years, the Rebbe lived in his room in 770 and only occasionally went to his house. Whenever the Rebbe went to his house, R’ Gansburg went ahead of him to open the house and arrange things for the Rebbe.

    Since the Rebbe had asked, R’ Gansburg left his family and went to the Rebbe’s house. He ended up staying there to sit shiva until the end of the shiva. It was apparent that the Rebbe had arranged things in this way so that he (the Rebbe) could be with him during the days of consolation. Throughout those days, the Rebbe also stayed home and davened in minyanim that took place in his home.

    When the matzeiva was being prepared for his father, the wording was submitted to the Rebbe for him to approve it. Among other things, it said, “He merited some of his sons ‘meshamshim ba’kodesh’ in Beis Chayeinu” (referring to him and his brother Mendel). R’ Gansburg opposed this but his brothers’ wishes won out.

    When they told the Rebbe about his opposition, the Rebbe said, “It’s the opinion of one person” (meaning, it did not have to be considered and that the line could be added).

    To be continued Bez”h

    *

    Beis Moshiach magazine can be obtained in stores around Crown Heights. To purchase a subscription, please go to: bmoshiach.org

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