Beis Moshiach Magazine
At the kinus hisorerus for guests during Tishrei, twenty-five years since Tishrei 5753, the director of the Eshel-Hachnasas Orchim organization, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Hendel, told his personal story. He had nearly died during a sudden farbrengen on Sukkos 5753 and was miraculously saved. At the end of his speech, he told of his letter to the Rebbe after he returned to life and his commitment to devote himself to all aspects of Moshiach, until the Rebbe’s hisgalus.
L’chaim! L’chaim v’livracha!
By divine providence, today I learned the Rebbe’s sicha of 13 Tishrei 5752 in which the Rebbe explains the concept of l’chat’chilla aribber. The Rebbe explains that l’chat’chilla aribber is Ein Sof, endless, limitless, it is taanug as it is in its ultimate state.
I was thinking about how to translate this into our terms and thought that the Rebbe’s movement, Lubavitch, is a practical example of l’chat’chilla aribber: U’faratzta! There is no obstacle because it is Ein Sof. What the Rebbe wants, he does and is successful.
I remember going on mivtzaim once, and one of the chevra said to me, “You Chabadnikim have no problems; every problem is solved.” I thought, this is Lubavitch! This is Yechi HaMelech and this is l’chat’chilla aribber.
What’s the connection between this and the hospitality that is in operation in full-force at this time?
First and foremost, our hachnasas orchim is also connected to the Ein Sof for we never know how many guests will come. They come and come … Boruch Hashem, every time, more or less, at the last minute, things work out. This year, even the “mezonos” and the “soups” are in the category of Ein Sof. As of today (13 Tishrei), before Sukkos, over 30,000 danishes and soups have been given out and we don’t know what the end will be, but with Hashem’s help …
So at this kinus too, we see the ko’ach and the z’chus of each of the guests and hosts. L’chaim!
THE REBBE WAS ABOUT TO BE REVEALED; THERE WAS NO OTHER EXPLANATION
They asked me to tell my story. For me, it is an opportunity to thank Hashem for miracles, which is also connected to limitless emuna.
Twenty-five years have passed since 5753. I was here, in 770, as a bachur, and would never have believed that after 25 years we would still be in galus. I will tell you what happened then, on Sukkos 5753.
It was the year following K’vutza, the second day of Sukkos, 16 Tishrei, after the davening. The Rebbe encouraged the singing of Yechi from the balcony. The crowd was already starting to disperse. Even the late crowd was heading home to eat the Yom Tov meal, with a twofold simcha, for “z’man Simchaseinu” and for the Rebbe, whom we had gotten back.
In 770, about 200 people remained: bachurim and married men who were spending more time on their davening or those who weren’t rushing anywhere. We were a group of bachurim who decided to go and eat the Yom Tov meal. We went to the bachurim’s sukka near the dormitory at 1414. At that time, the building was completely demolished and they had built a small sukka there in which we sat and ate. Suddenly, a bachur came running and he excitedly announced, “The Rebbe is going to farbreng in 770!”
What?! The Rebbe is going to farbreng in 770?! We figured either this is an Israeli bachur who doesn’t know what’s going on, or someone told him something he misunderstood. The third possibility was that the Rebbe was going to reveal himself as Moshiach. Those were the choices. You need to remember that this was seven-eight months after 27 Adar.
Despite our skepticism, we took no chances and within a second we had jumped up and started running toward 770. As we ran, I thought, okay, either this is a false alarm and nothing is happening and we go back to our meal, or the Rebbe is going to reveal himself. If so, where am I going to stand? On the mind of every bachur was how to stand in the closest possible place at a farbrengen, in order to hear the Rebbe. Throughout the years, every floor tile was accounted for exactly, for the regulars. But since this wasn’t an organized farbrengen and nothing was planned, there were no set places and “chazakos.” I wanted to be in the closest possible place to the Rebbe.
I ran into 770 from Union Street. (At the time, there was an entrance on Union directly to the farbrengen bima. Today, it is blocked by the library.) The farbrengen bima was bare. The Rebbe’s farbrengen table wasn’t in 770 at the time; it was outside on the street. The gabbaim had decided to turn the bima into a pyramid for the bachurim who wanted to see the Rebbe when he came out on the balcony. There were no tables and even the railing was removed and the pyramid was not yet put up. In any case, I went in to see what was really going on and saw that the alarm was real. The aides said that the Rebbe wanted to come down to the big zal; he had motioned that he wants to go down. They tried to ask the Rebbe about farbrenging in the place for davening (i.e., the balcony), but the Rebbe said no. He motioned that he wanted to go down to the farbrengen. That’s when they all “got it.” The Rebbe was going down to farbreng for the first time since 27 Adar!
Try to understand what we were all thinking when we realized the Rebbe is coming downstairs. That meant the Rebbe was about to reveal himself! There was no other explanation!
I cannot possibly describe the “oros d’Tohu” there were at the time. Everyone ran forward and pushed, trying to get the best place. Maybe this was the moment the world had been waiting for, for thousands of years! The benches were set up for davening, not for a farbrengen. They were in the opposite direction. There were no pyramids. I wanted to stand on the side of a table, near the Rebbe. There was no table there but I knew just where they put the farbrengen table and I stood strong to guard the place. Meanwhile, the bachurim dragged the farbrengen table and they had already gotten it on the platform from the back of the shul, and were dragging it over to the place. In the meantime, more and more people were coming.
At that time, a policeman stood on every street corner in Crown Heights because of the riots that had taken place only a few years earlier. So the moment something happened in Crown Heights, they would tell all the policemen who were posted in the neighborhood, and they would tell all the Chassidim passing by. So people began running from all over the neighborhood and they entered through all the doors of 770. I don’t think there was an unusually large number of people; I think there were only 1000 people, but the commotion and chaos were enormous.
THE REBBE LOOKED LIKE AN ANGEL
I stood in my place and saw how everyone was in a state of tremendous excitement. I wondered whether I was standing in a good spot when suddenly there was a hush, a sign that the Rebbe was coming out of the room. At an ordinary farbrengen too, there were sometimes arguments over places, but that lasted only until the Rebbe came in. If you held onto your place until the second the Rebbe entered, you knew you would be remaining there. Each time they said shhhhhh, it was like an electric current went through the crowd. The Rebbe was coming!
That is what happened that day too. The Rebbe came out. Despite this, I saw that the Rebbe’s farbrengen table was not in its place; it was about a meter and a half towards the back of the shul. I knew this was the time to grab a place. I leaped in the direction of the table while noticing from my place that the Rebbe was coming in along the length of the back of the shul and was approaching his usual spot.
This was the first time we were seeing the Rebbe from up close since 27 Adar. It was a shock. The Rebbe is here! He is here, after months of concealment and so much yearning! We saw the Rebbe pale, the beard a bit wider than what we were familiar with. The Rebbe did not walk; he sat on the chair. He seemed to “hover.” He looked like an angel hovering … because we only saw the upper half of the body … People simply went out of their keilim (and that’s an understatement).
For a moment there was a shocked silence. A silence of surprise, amazement. A shudder passed through many in the crowd. Apparently, the crowd was not ready for a revelation of this sort. Seconds later, there was a huge noise, indescribable, a noise created out of a combination of emotions, of pushing, of shock, of a situation out of control. Some yelled out “SheHechiyanu.” Some yelled “Yechi HaMelech HaMoshiach.” Some yelled “arup” (down) because the Rebbe had made a downward motion with his left hand, to indicate to get down. In short, it was indescribable chaos.
The crowd was clearly not a ready “vessel” for this. There was no time for considerations, for thoughts, for calm – to stop a moment and make order so that the Rebbe could get through easily, so that the crowd could organize and could easily see without pushing. The crowd was not that big but there was hysteria because everyone was certain that the Rebbe would be fully revealed any minute. Nobody knew what to do. People just looked in the direction of the Rebbe so as not to miss the hisgalus.
PEOPLE STOPPED BREATHING
I saw the Rebbe going up on the bima and moving toward his place. That’s when I noticed that there was no railing on the platform. I was leaning with a foot on one of the benches and apparently, someone who saw the Rebbe motion like that with his hand, thought that everyone had to get down, and if they did not understand that, he would turn over bench after bench … When he got to the bench I was leaning on, the bench turned over with me and all the people behind me. The entire pyramid fell down under the Rebbe’s table.
Throughout this time, more and more people joined and I fell from a height of a meter and a half (a bit over 3 feet). In 770, people regularly fall and get up; the problem was that I had fallen with my head downward while my feet were still up, stuck between the benches, with emotionally overwrought people stepping on them. It hurt. Slowly, I began to compress from the pressure of the people on top of me until I felt that I could not expand my abdomen from all the pressure. More and more people fell.
I heard someone distinguished from Yerushalayim who had also fallen, scream “Shma Yisroel.” I thought, why is he saying Shma? We’re near the Rebbe – what could happen already? Then I suddenly stopped breathing. I couldn’t breathe even if I wanted to. About three seconds passed in which I stopped breathing and lost consciousness.
What happened afterward, as they told me later, was that people continued to fall on me from all sides. The reason was that since there were no organized pyramids, whoever came in tried to jump up to see the Rebbe, which meant he was pushing the person in front of him and he fell too. Opposite the Rebbe’s table was a kind of pit in which there were 150-200 people with nobody able to get up because people kept falling and falling. People stopped breathing and others screamed. I was at the bottom of the pile.
The Rebbe spent about fifteen minutes in the big zal, looking all around, but not below and he continued making a downward motion with his left hand. After about 12 minutes, the crowd calmed down a bit and some people came, including R’ Aharon Gitchel, a member of the community who is very strong. They began pulling all the people out. After getting everyone out, they noticed a black guy dangling between the benches … That was me. I had an old uncle a”h who was standing there and he told me afterward, “I saw you but could not identify who you were.” I was completely black, apparently because the blood had already settled. Afterward, it was determined that I was without oxygen for 10-12 minutes. They immediately moved everyone out and Hatzolah came and tried to revive me, but without success. At this point, the two Hatzala members who accompanied the Rebbe, R’ Yisroel (Yingi) Bistritzky and R’ Moshe Klein, jumped over the Rebbe’s table in my direction.
Throughout the entire time, the Rebbe did not even glance in the direction of the place that I was in. The Hatzala members tried to revive me but there was no response. At a certain point, they “gave up” and made a sign that there was nothing left to do, or in other words, all Kohanim need to leave the Beis Medrash.
THE REBBE SUDDENLY LOOKED TOWARDS ME
In the place where I had been standing, near the Rebbe, there was standing a very emotional bachur by the name of Moshe Gorelik, and he began to cry out loudly in English, “Rebbe, he’s dead.” The second that he said that, the Rebbe suddenly looked down, in my direction. When the Rebbe looked at me, I began to convulse. The first sign of life.
When the Hatzala members saw signs of life of convulsing, they approached again and tried to start the breathing and get a pulse. As soon as they succeeded, the Rebbe made a sign that he wants to leave the room. The veteran Hatzala member, R’ Yingi Bistritzky, passed on the lead role to his fellow Hatzala members who continued their resuscitation efforts, and immediately returned to his place at the Rebbe’s side.
I will tell about what followed very much in brief: When the Rebbe went out, they took me outside to the ambulance parked there. The first time I woke up was when we were already inside the gate of the hospital. I woke up and realized that I am actually in an ambulance, but I realized that nobody can hear me. To this day, I can’t explain what that was about, but it is an extremely strange feeling. Maybe it was some kind of crossed wiring, where you think you are talking but are actually not.
At this point, I heard one of the paramedics say to the other, “This one is going to be a vegetable for life, in the best case scenario.” Let’s not forget that we are talking about twelve minutes without breathing.
WHAT AM I DOING HERE?
It was only at this point that I realized that those present could hear me. I asked R’ Moshe Klein, “What am I doing here?” and I asked to be taken back to 770 right away. Suddenly, I remembered where I was coming from and what I was doing in an ambulance. “Don’t worry, you will have plenty of time here to relax,” he said, trying to calm me. “But I am completely fine,” I told him, and on the spot I recited his name and all of the different vocations and avocations he was involved in. Everyone in the ambulance was in shock. Klein rubbed his temples in disbelief. Afterward, they told me that everyone there was absolutely certain that after such a long period of oxygen deprivation, brain cells begin dying off. Nobody wanted to hazard a guess as to how severe the damage would be, but they were all certain that the damage was there, and how!
The doctors received me right away, as they had been apprised of the seriousness of the situation, and they rushed me to frenzied CT and MRI scans, while I kept asking to go back to 770. My external appearance was terrifying. Besides for the blackened skin, my eyes were swelled up and flooded with blood. (When I returned to 770 later, people ran away from the sight of me.) The doctors told me that I had to stay in the hospital for at least twenty-four hours, in order for them to ascertain that all of the bodily systems were functioning properly. One of the doctors told the Hatzala people that only a few days prior, there had been a similar occurrence, when l’havdil, a crowd of football fans had crashed the gate at the entrance to the field, except that there the story ended with a number of casualties.
After long and extensive testing over many hours, the doctors came to the conclusion that there was no real damage, and the next day they released me home! People on the street and in 770 were shocked to see me, so to say, the person who came back from the “other” world.
Immediately upon my return, I wrote a thank you to the Rebbe for the miracle. Everyone knows that all “bestowals” of life are given to them through the Rebbe, but sometimes there are reminders, and as for me, I had gone through a literal “resurrection of the dead.” Therefore, I am committing that, with Hashem’s help, I will devote myself to all matters relating to Moshiach, until the revelation of the Rebbe Melech HaMoshiach in actual fact.
In truth, ever since then, I have merited to be involved in matters of spreading the “heralding of the Redemption,” and all along the way I see miraculous success, in a manner that is not at all natural, in every area. It is so miraculous that it is manifestly clear that it is not with my kochos, but with the kochos of the Rebbe.
I daven to Hashem that I will continue to work in all of the Rebbe’s matters, from a place of complete nullification, and I am certain that each and every person that will devote himself to the work of the Rebbe will see miracles and wonders.
It is now twenty-five years since that great miracle. We need to see to it that this very day… l’chat’chilla aribber, which as mentioned, is tapping into the infinite, the Ein Sof, we accomplish that the Rebbe be revealed in actual fact.
Yechi Adoneinu Moreinu V’Rabbeinu Melech HaMoshiach L’olam Va’ed!