• Secrets of Unknown Kuntreisim

    Over the years, Rabbi Zalman Chanin of the Va’ad L’hafotzas Sichos, was given many missions from the Rebbe in publishing matters. In this interview, Reb Zalman tells the story of several projects the Rebbe personally “ordered,” going into the smallest details for reasons that remain unknown to him… • By Beis Moshiach Magazine Full Article

    Avrohom Reinitz, Beis Moshiach

    For many years, Rabbi Zalman Chanin has been involved in the holy work of spreading the wellsprings. At first, he only worked on the Rebbe’s sichos as director of the Vaad L’Hafotzas Sichos. However, during the 1970s the Rebbe occasionally gave the members of the vaad additional projects of printing works of Chassidus like the reshimos of the Tzemach Tzedek on Megillas Eicha (in 5730), Kesser Shem Tov (in 5733), and the responsibility for printing the Tanya (in 5737). In 5739, the members of the vaad were appointed by the Rebbe to take charge of all of the publications of Kehot. Thus, R’ Chanin had the privilege of printing numerous sifrei Chassidus under the Rebbe’s guidance.

    Over the years, he got used to receiving instructions from the Rebbe before a special Chassidic date in the calendar, to publish something in connection with the baal ha’hilula or the like. As the Rebbe put it (20 Cheshva 5746) that “everyone knows for many years now (and thus we heard from our Rebbeim) that when an ‘auspicious day’ arises that is connected with a nasi, we publish his teachings.” But sometimes there were unusual otherworldly instructions whose meaning were not understood and are still not understood by R’ Chanin.

    In an interview in honor of the upcoming Lag B’Omer, R’ Chanin agreed to tell us some stories about his holy work but he first wanted to say what the Rebbe told Rabbi Chodakov about instructions having to do with printing sefarim. The Rebbe said, “There are some mivtzaim (campaigns) that from heaven they allowed the reason to be revealed, like Mivtza Tefillin that accomplishes “tearing off arm and even head,” and Mivtza Mezuza that protects inside the house and outside of it. However, the reason for the campaign to print sefarim cannot be revealed but we need to do as the Medrash says, ‘at all times your clothing should be white,’ always be ready to do the avoda when the order is given, if only we wish to take part in this wondrous merit.”

    As the Rebbe said, there were special printings that, till today, we don’t understand. They are closed and sealed off mysteries, or as R’ Zalman Duchman would put it, “Rebbe’ske zachen.”

    There were a few pamphlets that the Rebbe asked to print with great haste along with detailed instructions as to the type of paper and binding which, in the end, were not distributed to the public. At the time, few people knew of these kuntreisim and today they are completely forgotten, and only in R’ Chanin’s archives does there remain a single copy as testimony.

    THE KUNTRUS THAT WAS HIDDEN AND BURNED

    On Chol Ha’Moed 5738, a few days before the Rebbe’s heart attack the night of Shemini Atzeres, I got an order from the Rebbe to gather the general letters to the public that were issued before holidays and to print them in a special booklet called Kuntrus Michtevei Bracha. The Rebbe said to print three-four thousands copies and that it should be ready no later than Hoshana Rabba.

    In unusual fashion, the Rebbe also referred to the paper on which it would be printed and asked that I go to wholesalers that sell paper to the printers and choose nice paper, “a better and nicer and higher-quality paper, not like the usual paper that we use every day.”

    Likewise, the Rebbe said that even the binding should be a bit thicker than usual and a nice color and it could even be two colors (which was unusual for kuntreisim). The Rebbe said that he was willing to choose the paper himself.

    I quickly went to Long Island where there were dealers who sold paper wholesale and took some samples of nice paper both for the kuntrus itself and for the binding. When I returned to 770, I submitted the samples to the Rebbe through the secretary and a short time later I was given the samples that the Rebbe chose. I went back to Long Island and bought the paper that the Rebbe chose.

    In the meantime, the members of the vaad prepared the kuntrus according to the Rebbe’s instructions that it should include the general letters for Tishrei as well as the bracha for erev Yom Kippur and the bracha when the esrogim were given, etc. In accordance with the Rebbe’s instructions that the kuntrus be prepared secretly and speedily, the members of the vaad worked on it themselves without telling anyone about it and boruch Hashem, we managed to print about 2000 copies by Hoshana Rabba.

    When I returned from the printer after the distribution of lekach on Hoshana Rabba, I sent in three copies to the Rebbe as I had always done and asked what to do with the kuntreisim. The Rebbe said that in the meantime they should be put aside and not released to the public. We put them all in boxes in the offices of the Vaas L’Hafotzas Sichos.

    We thought that the Rebbe probably wanted to give them to guests who came for Tishrei before they returned home but then, after the heart attack, the Rebbe did not receive anyone for yechidus after Yom Tov and the kuntreisim were not given out.

    A while after the Rebbe recovered, I asked him what to do with these kuntreisim and his answer was: Put them aside until further orders. Thousands of kuntreisim remained in the office for some years until, in the big fire in 5743, they were all burned.

    For years, I thought that aside from the copies I had given to the Rebbe no other copies remained until I recently found a few kuntreisim in my files and was inspired to write about it as a testament and memorial.

    THE ROYAL KUNTRUS FOR PM BEGIN’S VISIT

    In telling the story of this kuntrus, I was reminded of the story of the kuntrus Ahavas Yisrael which the Rebbe also wanted printed on quality paper:

    In 5737, a few days before the media-covered visit of Prime Minister Menachem Begin for yechidus with the Rebbe, I got a phone call from Rabbi Leibel Groner, the Rebbe’s secretary. He asked me to come immediately to his office as he wanted to consult with me regarding an urgent matter.

    When I arrived, he told me that he had been in the Rebbe’s office and the Rebbe told him to print thirty to fifty copies of a special edition of the kuntrus Ahavas Yisrael (which the Rebbe had printed a few months earlier). The Rebbe asked that the kuntrus be printed in a special way and gave precise instructions although he mentioned a few things that were unfamiliar to him. He figured that the words that the Rebbe mentioned were in Russian and since I understood the Russian spoken among Anash, he began to read the Rebbe’s instructions from a note he had written to himself:

    Print a kuntrus called Ahavas Yisrael on special paper, nice paper b’gashmius with a majestic binding made of velvet. The color should be blue, dark or a bit light, it does not matter but it should be thick paper, that they should feel that it is a binding, and that the binding be made (stamped) with gold letters like sefarim with hard covers (I will give you the wording later). And around the kuntrus on the spine make a decorative thread which should enrich its appearance externally.

    R’ Groner did not know what certain words meant and after I explained them, he asked me to get the necessary materials. Back then, I was still a novice when it came to printing and I also did not know where to get the type of paper that the Rebbe wanted. I called R’ Refael Gross of the Gross Brothers print house and asked him to give me the address of someone who sold this special paper.

    He was willing to help and as soon as I arrived at his print house he went with me to one of the biggest dealers and I brought samples to R’ Groner. After he submitted them to the Rebbe and the Rebbe chose the type of paper himself and for the cover, the Rebbe told him that this kuntrus would be printed in honor of the visit of Mr. Menachem Begin and on the binding it should say “Special edition – the second of Menachem Av 5737.

    Although when there are only a few copies made you do not do it on the big printing machines but on ordinary copying machines, since the Rebbe wanted it to be regal, I convinced R’ Refael to print it on a quality machine and indeed, the kuntrus was very nicely done.

    When I brought the kuntreisim to 770, the Rebbe was very pleased and he said, “Very nice.” He gave a copy to R’ Groner to give to me and said, “This is schar tircha (payment for the exertion).”

    Since I wasn’t in the Rebbe’s office during Mr. Begin’s visit, I don’t know just what the Rebbe did with the kuntrus. I recently found the copy I got from the Rebbe and I asked R’ Groner whether he remembered what happened with it but he did not remember.

    COLLECTOR’S ITEM – LIKUTEI TORAH

    Since I am reminded of those days, I remember another story that happened in the winter of 5744:

    Around Kislev 5744, we got instructions from the Rebbe to reprint Likutei Torah but to first add the missing sources and fix whatever needed fixing to the extent possible. As far as the actual printing, the Rebbe said we would print two editions, a thousand copies on regular paper and a thousand copies on bible paper (a thin grade of paper used for printing books which have many pages, such as a dictionary which, although it is thin, is opaque so you do not see what is printed on the other side). The latter is more expensive and is usually used for books with hundreds of pages.

    R’ Aharon Chitrik, who was responsible for preparing the Alter Rebbe’s teachings for publication, began preparing the sefer for print, including corrections etc. Every week or two, the Rebbe asked where it was up to and I had to submit a detailed report.

    After a few weeks, the Rebbe said to tell us that since in a little while we would be starting to learn the parshiyos of Likutei Torah (from Vayikra and on), we had to hurry and finish the printing before that, “so we can learn the Chassidishe parsha in this publication of Likutei Torah.”

    Likutei Torah is one of the largest Chabad sefarim both in the number of pages and in its large-sized format. Back then, the printing machines were not as advanced as they are today and printing a sefer like this took a long time. I was under a lot of pressure since I knew that the work was far from finished.

    While R’ Chitrik worked on the content, I worked on the technical parts of the printing as much as I could. I ordered the amount of paper needed for two editions and let the print house know that in a short while I would be coming with a very big sefer to print and I would need it immediately.

    After informing the owner, he happily told the employees that in a few days they would be getting a book from the Rebbe to print and they should be ready to print it within hours. He did not imagine what size we were talking about and thought it could be done in a few hours.

    Boruch Hashem, R’ Chitrik finished preparing the sefer quickly and after the Rebbe edited the preface, where it noted that this new edition was made per the Rebbe’s instructions, I had a few days left before they would start learning Vayikra.

    I tried to get the sefer to the Rebbe at least before Shabbos, and was able to bind about fifteen (maybe twenty) sefarim before Shabbos. I brought them to 770 Friday morning.

    When the Rebbe arrived at 770 at 10:15 (if I am not mistaken) I was waiting outside 770, and when I saw the Rebbe enter the building, I took two sefarim and ran to give them to R’ Groner so he would give them to the Rebbe immediately so the Rebbe would be made happy the earlier the better.

    When I walked into 770, the Rebbe was already in gan eden ha’tachton and was about to open the door to his office. I managed to give the sefer to R’ Groner a moment before the Rebbe entered his office and when the Rebbe took note of this he turned to R’ Groner and asked what this was about. R’ Groner told him this was the new edition of Likutei Torah and he handed the sefarim to the Rebbe.

    As he stood in the doorway to his room, half in and half out, the Rebbe began looking through the sefer. He took the edition with the bible paper and told R’ Groner that there was a mistake and the pages were not in the correct order.

    I was still standing outside gan eden ha’tachton and R’ Groner immediately told me what the Rebbe said. I told him that I had bound only a few sefarim and we would make the correction immediately and the sefarim would be ready after Shabbos.

    The Rebbe heard what I said and reacted, “The sefarim that are here should remain here and the rest should be fixed. And it should be written into the list of prints of Likutei Torah, since they will become a collector’s item,” the Rebbe said with a big smile.

    It turned out that in every section there were sixty-four pages and they made a mistake in the folding and did not put the paper in the right way and it came out upside-down. But the last section had to be reprinted in its entirety.

    In the list of editions printed at the end of Likutei Torah it says, “In the first copies that came (erev Shabbos Kodesh Tisa, Purim) there was a mistake in the last section in the order of the pages… and the section had to be reprinted.”

    At the farbrengen held on Shabbos, the Rebbe spoke about the printing of Likutei Torah and explained why at the beginning of the sefer there are maamarim on parshiyos Beshalach and Pikudei and other details regarding Likutei Torah. The Rebbe said that Chassidim ought to make a big commotion about these sefarim and be very happy. The Rebbe spoke in praise of the editors and said “fortunate is their lot and great is their merit and may blessing come upon them, all those who were involved in the publishing and went without sleep the past nights and tried to publish the sefer with utmost possible speed, all those involved in editing the notes and sources, etc.”

    After the sicha, the Rebbe said that those responsible for the editing should come forward to receive a bottle of mashke with which “to hold a big Chassidishe farbrengen in which they will agitate about increasing the study of Torah and especially, the teachings of Chassidus starting with Likutei Torah etc. The Rebbe spoke at length about the importance of participating in this farbrengen and said that even those who would not participate in the farbrengen should be affected and “dragged into matters of warmth and holiness.”

    R’ Chitrik was not present at the farbrengen and the Rebbe called my name and asked me to come forward. When he gave me the bottle of mashke he said I should not forget to invite the printer and the one who bound the sefer to attend the farbrengen, and that we should make a big commotion about the farbrengen.

    WHAT THE FATHER OF THE BINDER TOLD ME

    When I called the binder and said the Rebbe told me to invite him to the farbrengen in 770, he did not believe me at first. He was a Klausenberger Chassid and he said: You’re joking … Who am I that the Rebbe would tell you to invite me to the farbrengen? I told him that I did not play around with what the Rebbe said and it was the Rebbe’s instruction and he should come to the farbrengen.

    He did not believe me and I heard him telling someone in the house, “What do you say, they are joking with me and saying that the Lubavitcher Rebbe said to invite me.”

    I heard that member of his family say to him, “Who are you talking to?” He said, “The person who gives me the print jobs for Lubavitch.”

    The person said, “In Lubavitch they don’t make jokes using the Rebbe’s name. Let me speak with him. I want to tell him a story about the Lubavitcher Rebbe.”

    The person was the father of the binder and he told me the following fascinating story. He came to the United States in 1947 after World War II with his wife and two of his children that they were able to save from the Nazis. When he arrived in New York and looked for a yeshiva for his sons he did not find a Chassidishe yeshiva except for Yeshivas Tomchei Tmimim Lubavitch and he sent his sons there on Bedford and Dean. They learned there for two and a half years until the Klausenberger Rebbe opened a yeshiva and they transferred there.

    He was living in Williamsburg at the time. Around 5711-5712, a member of his family (I think it was his sister) was very sick. He decided to go to Crown Heights and ask the Rebbe for a bracha. Since his sons had previously learned in Tomchei Tmimim, he was sure he would be allowed to see the Rebbe right away.

    He took a bus to Crown Heights and got off on Eastern Parkway. Since he did not know where 770 was, he went over to someone he saw on the corner and asked him, where is the beis medrash of the Lubavitcher Rebbe?

    The man asked him: Where are you coming from? He said, Williamsburg.

    The man asked: What do you have to do with the Lubavitcher Rebbe? He said that someone in his family was gravely ill and he came for a bracha from the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

    The man said: Aren’t there Admorim by you in Williamsburg? There is the Satmar Rebbe, the Klausenberger Rebbe and other Rebbes. Why did you have to come to Crown Heights just to get a bracha when you could have gotten a number of brachos from Gutteh Yidden (lit. good Jews, i.e. Admorim) in your neighborhood?

    The Klausenberger Chassid responded sharply: Yungerman, you understand a Rebbe like a cat understands the moon!

    The man did not reply, just showed him how to get to 770 and walked away.

    The Chassid walked into 770 and asked for the office. He met Rabbi Chodakov who explained that the Rebbe was not receiving anyone at the time and if he needed a bracha he should write the name of the sick person and her mother’s name and he would submit it to the Rebbe.

    Since, to him, a bracha is something you get directly from a Rebbe, not through intermediaries, he did not want to accept this suggestion and he walked into the beis medrash to talk to the bachurim and ask them how he could get a bracha directly from the Rebbe. One of the bachurim advised him to wait until 3:15 when the Rebbe would come in for mincha and then he could go over to him and ask for a bracha.

    He liked this idea and he sat near one of the tables, took a Tehillim and poured out his heart. When it was time for mincha, they prepared the beis medrash for the Rebbe and cleared off the table near the door where the Rebbe would sit. He himself sat at a table behind the Rebbe’s table and marveled at how the Rebbe would be sitting at an ordinary table like everyone else without a special tablecloth. He had not seen simplicity like this with Polish Admorim and he was quite surprised.

    Suddenly, he saw the Rebbe and realized he was the man who had asked him why he came here when there were Rebbes in Williamsburg. As soon as he recalled the sharp words he had uttered to the Rebbe on the street, he fainted.

    The bachurim roused him and brought him water until he got back to himself and calmed down a bit. He davened mincha with the Rebbe.

    Right after the davening, before the Rebbe left the beis medrash, the Rebbe looked at him with a broad smile. He did not miss the opportunity but hurried over to the Rebbe to ask for a bracha for his sick relative. The Rebbe blessed him and she recovered and lived many more years.

    I heard all this directly from the person it happened to, the father of the binder of Likutei Torah.

    *

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