The Royal Visits to the Public Sedarim



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    The Royal Visits to the Public Sedarim

    An overview of the Rebbe’s Pesach Night royal “tour” through the Crown Heights streets, visiting the Sedarim of his precious sons and daughters at: Hadar HaTorah, “1414,” FREE, and Machon Chana • By Beis Moshiach Magazine • Full Article

    Every year, after maariv on the first night of Pesach, the Rebbe went up to his room where he gave out matzos to those hadn’t received any in the afternoon. When he was finished, he visited the mosdos.

    On this most exalted of nights, the Seder night, the Rebbe went to the mosdos chinuch in Crown Heights in order to see how the students were conducting their sedarim and how everything had been prepared.

    This had been the custom of the Rebbe Rashab. As the Rebbe Rashab walked home from shul, he would look in on the Pesach dining room of the yeshiva to see how things were arranged. He examined everything and inquired about every detail.

    Before making his own seder, the Rebbe, Nasi of the seventh generation, would go to the dining room of Yeshivas Tomchei Tmimim. Over the years, he also went to other mosdos.

    This was the time that the yeshiva bachurim closed their sefarim. Even the most diligent among them, those who usually grabbed another look into a sicha or maamar, made their way to the dining room.

    With fatherly love, the Rebbe did not rush to conduct his own seder before seeing how his beloved children were ready for this holy night. In fact, the only time the Rebbe visited his children, the tmimim, in yeshiva, was on Seder night. It was at this time that the Rebbe wanted to see the Chayolei Beis Dovid in their environment, in the dining room at the table, not just in the zal near the sefarim.

    Many tmimim nostalgically recall those sedarim for which they prepared for many days. The bachurim, knowing that the Rebbe would be coming, knew that the dining room could not look as it did all year. They prepared the area, cleaning and scrubbing every corner (because of possible chometz but not only for that), and made it look as nice as possible as is fitting when hosting the king.

    One tamim described the scene as follows, “In anticipation of the Rebbe’s visit to the dining room of the bachurim, everything was already prepared and looked very nice. The tamim Shmuel Rivkin set up lights at the entrance and two rows of lights at the steps.”

    At the appointed time, the Rebbe left 770 accompanied by the secretaries. The legendary cook, Mrs. Mussia Nimotin a’h was waiting for him. (Any of Anash who learned in 770 in those decades, knew her – see sidebar.) The Rebbe saw what was going on and wished her, “Ah kosher’n un ah freilichen Pesach.”

    When the Rebbe entered the dining room and kitchen he would sometimes also check the rooms near the Pesach kitchen such as the room in which they cooked, the storage room, etc. In 5740, the Rebbe also went into the year-round meat kitchen.

    In 5738, when the dining room moved to the new building 1414, the Rebbe expressed his pleasure over the spaciousness of the new building. When he saw that in certain places the kitchen construction was unfinished, he said to Rabbi Tzvi Yosef Kotlartsky, who was the menahel gashmi of the yeshiva and in charge of construction: “I hope that the kitchen is, apparently, not yet finished.”

    When they went to the dining room, he took in, in a quick glance, the set tables for between 100 and 200 bachurim and in later years, even more than 300 bachurim.

    Although it was a quick glance, nothing escaped him. He once pointed out that under one of the covers there was no ke’ara and another time he commented about the strainer attached to the faucets (see sidebar).

    Here is one description written by a bachur: “The Rebbe shlita entered the room and looked at everything, at every single ke’ara, every sign. He entered the kitchen and looked at the sacks etc. Then he came back into the room and looked at everything. In the middle he turned back and said ‘Gut Yom Tov’ to Rashag.”

    This visit, which was one of a kind, was an opportunity for the Rebbe to point out what needed fixing or improvement in yeshiva life as well as regarding the halachos and customs of Pesach:

    “In 5713, when the Rebbe came in, the bottles of wine were not yet on the tables. The Rebbe asked, ‘Where’s the wine?’ and then said, ‘You probably won’t be celebrating the seder with milk …’”

    Lemaan Yilmidu Chosson Kallah

    In 5734, the Rebbe said each table should have two candles, one of them for havdala.

    Some of the halachic comments were in unusual years such as when Pesach night fell out on Shabbos. In 5714, the Rebbe asked whether challa had been taken and whether the maror had been prepared with a shinui. The Rebbe said to ask Rabbi Shmuel Levitin what the din is and R’ Levitin permitted it after the fact.

    In 5741, the last year that the Rebbe visited the yeshiva’s kitchen, he asked whether the candles had been lit by a woman who said the shehechiyanu blessing (it was a Pesach night that fell out on Shabbos), and when he was told no, he entered the kitchen and asked Mrs. Mussia to bring the candles out so the tmimim could see the candles during kiddush. The Rebbe explained that just as we gaze at the wine during kiddush, we should also gaze at the candles.

    The comments were not always to be more careful; sometimes it was the opposite. In 5713, when the Rebbe entered, he noticed that certain bachurim had placed maror in paper cups. When he asked them why they did this, they said it was out of concern for shruya. The Rebbe said, “I did not see this with my father-in-law; why start new things? And anyway, it’s not respectful of the mitzva. And if it’s because of shruya, the Rebbe would shake off all the liquid.” He said they could put it on two or three paper napkins.

    When he arrived at the dining room Seder night 5728, he went over to the rosh yeshiva, Rabbi Mordechai Mentlick, and asked him whether all the bachurim were present. R’ Mentlick nodded yes but the Rebbe continued asking, “Including the bachurim from Eretz Yisrael?” He said yes.

    The Rebbe asked again, “Even those who arrived in recent days?” R’ Mentlick said yes.

    The Rebbe asked, “They didn’t go to relatives or balabatim?” R’ Mentlick said no.

    With a little smile the Rebbe said, “They shouldn’t go to relatives or balabatim.”

    After a quick check it was discovered that one bachur was missing. He had gone to spend the seder with his uncle who lived in East Flatbush. One of the bachurim volunteered to run and get him.

    For forty-five minutes all the bachurim of the Kevutza waited.

    The Rebbe’s concern down to the smallest details in the lives of the bachurim was noticed on these visits. In 5712, for example, when the Rebbe visited the kitchen, after inquiring about everything and expressing his satisfaction, he said that pillows were missing for the seder to be conducted in an expansive manner and they would probably correct that. Likewise, the Rebbe said they should ensure that the wine was not near the oven where it would go sour. He also pointed out that the mezuza on the outer door was not diagonal as it should be.

    On his way out, the Rebbe stood somewhere in the center of the dining room and said a brief blessing to the talmidim. The exact place where the Rebbe would stand was not known in advance, which is why it wasn’t possible to prepare and grab a place. It was customary for all the bachurim to remain standing and not to make a commotion in order to stand near the Rebbe and hear the bracha, aside from a few bachurim who approached the Rebbe. Only a few bachurim heard the bracha and afterward “chazara” of the bracha was held for all the tmimim.

    Some of the times, the Rebbe noted the day of the week. Several times he referred to a verse in his new chapter of Tehillim. In the early years, the bracha was very brief and in later years it turned into a sort of short sicha.

    Over the years, the Rebbe visited all the places where there was a dining room for bachurim starting with Beis Rivka in the early years, 676 Eastern Parkway (between Brooklyn and New York), then the building at 749 Eastern Parkway or the “Uforatzta” building (at Kingston and Union) in years that followed, and then the permanent location of the seder of the tmimim until today, the building at 1414 President Street.

    Before he left, the Rebbe wished the bachurim “ah freilichen seder,” for surely they would sing niggunim and farbreng. “Ah gut Yom Tov.”

    IN HADAR HATORAH AND “FREE”

    In later years, the Rebbe also began visiting the seder at Yeshivas Hadar Hatorah which is on Eastern Parkway [until 5738, when the tmimim ate in the Uforatza building, he first went to them and then to Hadar Hatorah; in 5738, when the tmimim’s dining room moved to President Street, he first went to Hadar Hatorah and then to 1414 President St].

    The Rebbe went up to the second floor to see the rooms there and then went down to the dining room and looked at all the ke’aros. Then he went to the kitchen and wished the cook “ah kosher’n un ah freilichen Pesach.” At the end, he wished the cook again “ah gut Yom Tov.”

    From there, the Rebbe went to the seder made for Russian immigrants which was organized by the FREE organization. When he walked in, he wished everyone “ah gut Yom Tov.” From there, he went to the third floor by the side stairs, wanting to see the library. In the library, he took out some pamphlets from the bookcase. Then he went to the dining room where they held the seder.

    During the tour, the Rebbe visited all the main rooms of the building and when he came downstairs one year, he said, “Chag Pesach kosher v’somayach.” Then he continued (in Russian), “May all of you together with Moshiach soon be in Eretz Yisrael, in a good way and with good health, along with children and grandchildren (looking at the children and smiling) and good parnassa.”

    One year, the people present wished the Rebbe, “until 120.” To many of them, the Rebbe said, “you too,” and to one of them he said, “together with you.”

    MACHON CHANA

    From FREE, the Rebbe went to Machon Chana, a school for baalos teshuva. The reason the Rebbe went there, he said, was in gratitude for the school being named for his mother. These visits began in 5734.

    Mrs. Gita Gansburg, the house mother, stood waiting in the doorway and the Rebbe wished her “Gut Yom Tov.”

    Actually, the attention given the students at the Machon began before Pesach when the principal, Mrs. Sara Labkowski, would receive a package of matzos for the girls, with the Rebbe giving this special attention. One time, when Mrs. Labkowski did not come for the matzos, the Rebbe expressed his surprise. When the menahel, Rabbi JJ Hecht arrived to replace her, the Rebbe asked, “Where is Yissochor?” (i.e. Mrs. Labkowski who was in charge of the ruchniyus of the school).

    This required a special arrangement since she was the only woman who received matzos from the Rebbe. She would enter via a separate door (the front door) and the distribution to the men was halted so she could be given matzos for Machon Chana.

    As mentioned, starting in 5734, the Rebbe went to visit and bless the students of Machon Chana the night of the seder. The girls prepared for a long time, cleaning the dormitory and the entire place. The years that snow fell, they cleared a path themselves from the Rebbe’s house until the Machon.

    The Rebbe was accompanied by the secretaries, Rabbi JJ Hecht, Mrs. Labkowski and other Chassidim.

    In comparison to the other mosdos that the Rebbe visited, Machon Chana received especially warm attention, as is apparent from the following two anecdotes:

    One year, when the Rebbe left a mosad for Machon Chana he said to R’ Hecht, “Now, I’m going home.” Another year, R’ Hecht asked the Rebbe: Since it is named for your mother, when is she there? The Rebbe said, “Since the girls who live there go in her ways, she is constantly there.”

    When the Rebbe went to Machon Chana on President Street, he visited every room in the building, going up even to the upper floors where he walked around the dormitory. R’ Itzke Gansburg who lived there with his wife said that when the Rebbe left the rooms he walked out while facing the room.

    One year, one of the students brought a fresh bouquet of flowers and set them in different arrangements in an empty bookcase in the living room. When the Rebbe walked in and perused all of the details, he spent a few minutes near the flowers examining them from up close. His holy countenance showed clear signs of pleasure.

    After the tour of the first and upper floors, the Rebbe went down to the basement where the dining room was and the girls were gathered for the seder. This is where the “official ceremony” began. The gashmi and ruchni staff were all present. First, the Rebbe wished each of the staff “Gut Yom Tov” and then he went to the kitchen to wish “Gut Yom Tov” to the cook, Mrs. Galperin.

    In the kitchen, the Rebbe would look at the utensils and food. One time, he asked the cook if she also prepared homemade food in the kitchen of the Machon the way she did at home or were there things she made at home and not here. After that, every year she was particular about cooking every type of food so it would really be like home.

    One year, when the Rebbe saw the plastic cups for the four cups of the seder, he said in surprise to R’ Hecht, “For girls?! This is not suitable!” The following year, there were silver cups.

    The Rebbe would then say a bracha to the students. During the sicha, the Rebbe blessed the girls that the following year each should merit to be in her own home with her family. The visit was over and the Rebbe left.

    Every year, there were different reactions from the Rebbe during the visit. One year, after the sicha, the Rebbe asked Mrs. Gansburg where the candles were. She motioned to where they were and the Rebbe said he was surprised that they didn’t know that on Shabbos and Yom Tov the candles belonged on the table.

    Another time, the Rebbe said to her, “Thank you for raising my daughters.”

    One year, the Rebbe stopped near the staircase and said to the young son of R’ Moshe Feller (shliach in Minnesota, who ran the seder for the girls) who was standing there whether he knew the “Ma Nishtana” by heart. The boy said yes and the Rebbe asked, as he pointed at his father, whether he knew how to answer them. The boy said yes. Then the Rebbe asked, since you were given answers last year, why are you asking again this year?

    The Rebbe answered this question based on an explanation of the saying, “In every single generation, a person must see himself as going out of Egypt,” that each time requires a loftier going out of Egypt than the previous time and the father’s answer, “We were slaves,” is also on a higher level. (Pesach is also the birthday of the young protagonist of this anecdote and when he mentioned this, the Rebbe told him that this idea also pertains to a birthday.)

    IRANIAN MAROR

    An unusual visit took place in 5739. It was after a thousand Jewish Iranian boys and girls had been taken out of Iran and brought to New York. It was an unprecedented operation that took place after Moslem extremists ousted the Shah and took over the government, installing Khomeini as the new leader, and instituting a series of extreme Islamic laws. Diplomatic relations between Iran and many western countries including Eretz Yisrael and the United States were severed.

    Iranian Jews, who had lived in peace and relative security for years, were in danger. They feared that the Islamic government would persecute Jews. The Rebbe had the young generation extricated from Iran for the purpose of saving them both physically and spiritually. The idea was that they would be followed by their parents, who couldn’t leave so fast and leave behind their wealth and their deep roots in an ancient and glorious Jewish history.

    In this brave and daring operation, executed by some Lubavitcher Chassidim, about 1000 boys and girls were brought in the months of Shevat and Adar 5739. They were placed in Chabad mosdos until their parents arrived. Rabbi JJ Hecht oversaw the project.

    The Rebbe gave special attention to these children, inquiring about their needs and constantly looking out for them.

    The Rebbe also wanted to visit the sedarim arranged for these children (boys and girls separately). Each group received his bracha for a kosher and happy Pesach.

    It began after chatzos when the Rebbe gave out matzos that were baked that day. When R’ Hecht passed by, the Rebbe told him to enter his office where he gave him a package of matzos for the bachurim from Iran and another package for the girls.

    “Where are the girls having their seder?” asked the Rebbe.

    “In Beis Rivka,” said R’ Hecht.

    The Rebbe asked for four portions, that is eight k’zeisim of the maror that the Iranian children ate. R’ Hecht was taken aback by this request and the Rebbe explained, “I don’t mean for the gefilte fish but for the maror.”

    This was a rare display on the part of the Rebbe in light of the difficult and bitter state Iranian refugees were in at that time so that he wanted to eat their maror.

    ***

    Only after visiting his sons and daughters, talmidim and talmidos, did the Rebbe return to 770 to have his own seder whether in the home of the Rebbe Rayatz or on President Street (starting in 5731).

    For thirty years, 5711-5741, the Rebbe visited the mosdos chinuch on Seder night. The practice then stopped, but the memories are still cherished by the thousands of bachurim and students who are dispersed around the globe.

    *

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

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    1. This Yr In Yerushalayim

      Thank U So Much For Sharing This Info With The World, We Wana C The Rebbe, Our King Moshiach Again Take Us Straight 2 Yerushalayim Ir HaKodesh B4 Pesach, Say Goodbye 2 Golus, Hello Geula

    2. chossid gadol

      Mazal Tov!!!

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