When Rebbe Appeared Unannounced




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    When Rebbe Appeared Unannounced

    Once, a group of Chassidim stood in the lobby of 770 and were trying to imagine the moment of the Geula. Unexpectedly, the Rebbe walked out of his room and told the startled Chassidim “This is how it will be…” • In anticipation to the most expected yet sudden hisgalus of the Rebbe MH”M, Beis Moshiach spoke to several Chassidim who were zoche to witness over the years sudden appearances of the Rebbe and bring to you first-hand accounts of these exhilarating moments • Full Article

    By Mordechai Wolf, Beis Moshiach Magazine 

    The following incident is well known. It was in the fifties when some Chassidim stood in the lobby of the entrance to 770. They were talking about how Moshiach will appear. One leaned towards this way, his friend another way, and the discussion reached a surprising end when without prior notice the door to the Rebbe’s room opened and to their astonishment of them all, he said, “This is how Moshiach will come.”

    There is no better way to get a picture of the future Geula than those times that the Rebbe surprised the Chassidim. Just as he entered suddenly, and with his entrance he changed the “usual” plans, so too, when Moshiach will come. All of a sudden, from one moment to the next, everything will change for the good.

    Several times during the nesius, the Rebbe surprised the Chassidim and went out to them not at the usual times. Often, these appearances were accompanied by behaviors and expressions that were unique and otherworldly.

    We spoke to some Chassidim and mashpiim who were present on these special occasions and agreed to share interesting details with our readers.


    Shabbos parshas Zachor:

    The seder Chassidus began, as usual, at 8:00. For various reasons, the number of bachurim in the zal was meager. If the bachurim had known about the surprise that awaited them, they wouldn’t have missed the opportunity. At nine, the Rebbe suddenly entered the small zal, went over to Rabbi Dovid Raskin, the mashgiach, and said, “Those who want to hear Chassidus, should go into the room.”

    “I was a young bachur,” recalled the mashpia, Rabbi Sholom Dovber Lipsker. “We were about ten bachurim in the zal and a few yungerleit. This was an utter surprise. Of course, we hurried to the Rebbe’s room. The Rebbe stood in the doorway and waited for everyone to enter. Then he sat down and began a maamar, ‘Zachor es asher asa lecha Amalek.’ The bachurim who came right after the door was closed, were not allowed to enter.

    “You can imagine how upset they were for missing this. In diaries of the time it was noted that Gershon Mendel Garelik (later, shliach in Milan) stood in a corner and sobbed.

    “A few weeks later, the Rebbe said sadly that he had come to the zal at nine in the morning and found only a few bachurim. Four months later, 17 Tammuz was on Shabbos. This time, the zal was full in the morning. This time too, the bachurim were invited unexpectedly to the Rebbe’s room to hear a maamar. I arrived a few minutes after eight and the door was already closed. Whoever was late, even by a few minutes, was unable to hear anything behind the closed door.

    “On Shabbos Tisha B’Av, the same opportunity presented itself but, unfortunately, because I had gone on Merkos Shlichus at the beginning of the month, we missed it.

    “One might say that because of the ‘shock’ that the Rebbe gave the tmimim on Shabbos Zachor, many tmimim began to be more careful about the seder Chassidus before Shacharis on Shabbos. It is noteworthy to mention here the rosh yeshiva, Rabbi Mentlick. Even though he was not required to be present for seder Chassidus, since the Rebbe spoke about the importance of the matter, he came every Shabbos to the zal even before eight o’clock.

    “The final surprise of this sort occurred on 13 Iyar 5721, which was the yahrtzeit of the Rebbe’s brother. The Rebbe unexpectedly invited the tmimim to hear Chassidus. The bachurim entered the Rebbe’s room and he said the maamar, ‘Mi yitencha k’ach li.’ This maamar was published thirty years later in an edited  kuntrus for 13 Iyar 5751.”


    Motzoei Yom Kippur 5724. At the end of the davening, Anash and the tmimim went home or to the yeshiva dining room to break the fast. At that time, the Rebbe ate the Yom Tov meals together with the elder Chassidim in the Rebbe Rayatz’s apartment on the second floor of 770. At the end of the meal, the Rebbe went downstairs to his office and everyone knew he would soon be going home.

    “It was about two hours after the fast was over,” recalled the mashpia, Rabbi Sholom Dovber Lipsker. “I was standing in the small zal facing the aron kodesh and talking to my friend, Rabbi Elimelech Zweibel. There were about ten bachurim there, some of them learning, some of them talking.

    “Suddenly, the Rebbe walked in with a siddur under his arm. He walked slowly toward his place, to the table where he davened. It is hard to describe our astonishment. The zal was a mess. The table that the Rebbe davened at regularly was full of the remnants of the farbrengen which ended not long before. It wasn’t respectable for the Rebbe to sit in a place like that. As usual, the Rebbe touched the paroches and sat down on the bench closest to the table [the Rebbe’s chair was downstairs in the big zal].

    “Berke Wolf barged into the secretaries’ office and announced, ‘Farbrengen!’ They knew him to be a prankster and were sure he was joking. Within a few minutes they had also come in but they had missed the beginning of the maamar.

    “The Rebbe went over to the table and began pulling the edge of the tablecloth. When he had part of it in his hand, he covered his hand with it and began the maamar, “L’Havin mah sh’matzinu b’divrei Raza’l shedoros ha’rishonim.” The maamar explained the special avoda of tzaddikim and the subtle differences between the avodos throughout the generations.

    “As I said, when he began the maamar, there was less than a minyan of bachurim in the zal but the zal began to fill up. By the end, the place was full of Chassidim. One of those present, Yisrael Chodakov, had a key to his father’s office. He ran and got a tape recorder. The maamar was twelve minutes long out of which he was able to record four minutes.”

    R’ Lipsker concluded his recollection with a smile and a wish, “May we merit that the Rebbe surprise us again and be revealed before our eyes, eyes of flesh, and he will redeem us.”


    Rabbi Sholom Yaakov Chazan, editor of the Hebrew Beis Moshiach, who was present at the unusual Purim 5741 event, shares his memories:

    That year, Purim was on a Friday. It seemed to be an ordinary Purim with the reading of the Megilla with the Rebbe at night, Shacharis and another Megilla reading. Then Chassidim went home to take care of the other mitzvos of the day. Purim is a busy day full of mitzvos, especially when it falls out on a Friday.

    I davened Shacharis early and after hearing the Megilla I went on mivtzaim. I brought joy to all the offices and businesses I went to and I urged people to do the mitzvos of the day.

    When I finished my route, I got back to Crown Heights at three and felt happy that at least I would be able to daven Mincha with the Rebbe. The Rebbe would be coming in for Mincha in fifteen minutes.

    At that time, 770 was almost empty since Chassidim were busy with the mitzvos of the day and bachurim were bringing the mitzvos of the day to as many Jews as possible. That left Chabad world headquarters empty and quiet.

    Mincha took place in the zal on the first floor. No more than thirty people were present. The Rebbe came in and put his siddur on the shtender while the chazan began “Ashrei.” At the end of the davening, the Rebbe went to his office while everyone else went on their way.

    Since I had done mivtzaim already and there was no place I had to go to, I thought I’d wait until the Rebbe went home and only then would I go to the yeshiva kitchen to eat the Purim seuda.

    A group of us bachurim stood in the hallway and waited for the Rebbe to leave. Suddenly, the door to Gan Eden Ha’tachton opened and the Rebbe emerged in full majesty, wearing a gartel. He was followed by R’ Leibel Groner who was holding a bottle of wine.

    We were bewildered. What was going on here? We had been sure that the Rebbe was going home but the Rebbe walked quickly to the small zal where he went to his usual place in the south-east corner. When he went in, he told R’ Groner to close the doors and windows.

    As we went in, completely befuddled, the Rebbe took a handkerchief out of his pocket and wrapped it around his fingers. The sign was clear; the Rebbe wanted to say a maamar Chassidus!

    Since this was unexpected, the place wasn’t set up for this. The Rebbe’s chair had already been taken down after Mincha to the big zal, for Kabbolas Shabbos (at that time, the Rebbe had only one chair).

    One of the bachurim ran downstairs to get the chair. In the meantime, the Rebbe stood at his place and continued arranging the handkerchief around his fingers. We knew the Rebbe was about to say a maamar but he had not indicated that we should begin singing the Hachana niggun which was usually sung before a maamar.

    I quietly asked Rabbi Binyamin Klein to quickly go to the secretaries’ office and bring a small tape recorder so the maamar could be recorded. I knew he had one there, ready for situations like these.

    Only about twenty people were present and the zal was mostly empty. The feeling of standing there, facing the Rebbe, was almost like yechidus.

    R’ Klein, who seemed to be afraid he would miss something, stayed where he was. He gave me his pen so I would write down what the Rebbe said.

    Tzvi Hirsh Raskin, who was learning in the mesivta of Oholei Torah, took out some air mail letters from his pocket, on which he wrote letters to his father in Morocco, so I would have something to write on.

    The chair arrived and the Rebbe sat down. Without having us sing the niggun, he began saying a maamar that began with the words, “La’Yehudim hayesa orah v’simcha v’sasson v’yikar.” It was a relatively short maamar and I quickly jotted down what was said.

    Rabbi Sholom Dovber Levin, who was there, also wrote a hanacha of the maamar. This was so important because the usual chozrim were not there.

    Outside, there were Chassidim on the sidewalk who did not know what was going on at that moment, a few yards away from them on the other side of the locked doors and windows.

    The Rebbe spoke for twelve minutes. When he finished, he said, “I will stay here another few minutes; they should say l’chaim without limitations.”

    One of those present thought of bringing the Rebbe’s cup from one of the nearby rooms but the Rebbe said, “No.” He wanted to say l’chaim on a plastic cup like everyone else. The Rebbe told Rabbi Mentlick to pour into the cup a ‘kos malei yayin’ and said ‘l’chaim’ to all those present and urged everyone to say l’chaim without limits.

    A handful of Chassidim realized that it was an auspicious time and they hurried to say l’chaim to the Rebbe . He responded graciously to each one. At a certain point, the Rebbe even stood up so he could see everyone.

    The Rebbe began singing “Uforatzta” and continued to say l’chaim to all.

    At the end, the Rebbe told R’ Mentlick to pour another full cup and said l’chaim again to those present. Then he said a bracha acharona and left the zal.

    At a later point in the spontaneous farbrengen, when they began to sing, one of the people standing outside noticed that something was going on. Some bachurim jumped inside through the windows. When the Rebbe got up to leave, he noticed the open door and said to R’ Groner, “We had spoken that the doors need to be closed,” and he left the zal.

    We bachurim stayed with the few yungerleit and began to say l’chaim ‘without limits’ as the Rebbe said to do and then we danced. The circle got larger as more people joined and the dancing went on until Kabbolas Shabbos.

    The chozrim, Feitel Levin and Simon Jacobson came and together we did a chazara of the maamar. Those people who were trained in the holy work saw to it to print the maamar even before Shabbos.


    Shabbos, 12 Sivan 5751

    R’ Sholom Ber Spielman shares memories of that farbrengen.

    “The Rebbe farbrenged that Shabbos, as on every Shabbos, at the usual time, 1:30. Then he davened mincha and returned to his room. Everybody went home to eat the Shabbos meal.

    “About half an hour before sunset, I returned to 770. The mashpia, Rabbi Pinchas Korf was giving a shiur in a maamar to six or seven participants. The shul was still set up from the farbrengen with the pyramid in the center. The Rebbe’s chair and shtender were on the farbrengen platform and not on the davening platform. Here and there were a few Chassidim who were still davening Shacharis.

    “I was standing with my friend to the left of the aron kodesh and talking. Suddenly, we heard the sound of  benches scraping on the west side of the shul. We looked up and our jaws dropped at the sight of the Rebbe walking alone, with not one of the secretaries, toward us, on the east side of the shul. He was holding a cup of water, a towel, and a siddur. We had never seen anything like this and were in utter shock.

    “We didn’t have time to think. We took the green shtender used for giving out dollars and put it up on the bima, but the Rebbe stood next to the aron kodesh and began to say, ‘A keili is needed for hand-washing.’ People began to shout, ‘Shissel, shissel!’ R’ Avrohom Holtzberg brought the coffee tub from the Vaad Seudas Shlomo and the Rebbe washed his hands over it. Then the Rebbe motioned for challa and everyone began shouting, ‘Challa!’ The Rebbe stood and waited for challa as he dried his hands. In the meantime, someone brought the chair from the farbrengen table and put it next to the aron kodesh where the Rebbe was standing. R’ Binyamin Klein who was called in, brought  challa from his house and the Rebbe said ‘hamotzi’ and cut the challa.

    “Then the Rebbe asked whether it was possible to go up and when he was told yes, he went up on the farbrengen platform. He put his siddur on the railing of the steps and began singing, ‘Bnei Heichala.’ Since not everybody knew the words, they didn’t sing it properly and when they concluded, the Rebbe pointed out that they hadn’t finished the song.

    “That was a ‘sight,’ an amazing sight beyond imagination. The Rebbe sitting without a table in the front of the shul while everyone stood around him, and the Rebbe spoke as usual, like at a farbrengen.

    “The Rebbe began with a short sicha and said to sing all the niggunim of the Rebbeim with their names, saying: with these niggunim we will conclude the galus.

    “I stood close by and we saw how the Rebbe sang with the crowd. His face was awesome looking especially during the niggun ‘L’Chatchile Ariber,’ when he closed his eyes. With his left hand he counted how many times they sang the well known ‘tenuah’, all ten times. He swayed very strongly from side to side with his eyes closed. It was an extraordinary, heavenly sight.

    “The Rebbe said another sicha at the end of which he announced that he wanted to bentch and even give out kos shel bracha! It was all so sudden and special! Nothing we had experienced all the years matched up to the current situation. There was not even a table to separate the Rebbe from the rest as there usually was. The Rebbe sat very close to the crowd which was very unusual.”


    The Rebbe giving out “kos shel bracha” after the ‘suprise’ second farbrengen on Motzei Shabbos Naso

    We hear about the extent of the surprise from the testimony of R’ Shmuel Spritzer who also shared his memories:

    “It was Shabbos toward evening and I was home when suddenly, my nephew yelled from below, ‘Shmuel, the Rebbe is farbrenging!’

    I ran from my house on Montgomery, usually a ten-minute-walk, to 770. At first I entered through the parking space [doors that open to the back] because I thought the Rebbe was farbrenging in the usual place on the farbrengen platform but I saw that the Rebbe was not sitting in his usual place and that Chassidim were on the makeshift bleachers on the east side [the front of the shul]. I went over there but wasn’t able to see the Rebbe nor hear him.

    I began crawling on the floor under the benches but didn’t know exactly where to go. While crawling in the ‘tunnel’ under the benches on which many people stood, I saw R’ Dovid Raskin crawling too. He kindly motioned to me which way to go. After pulling on the legs of people who were standing, one of them pulled me out and helped me stand. There I was, standing on the floor right near the davening platform where the Rebbe was farbrenging.

    “It was very hot and I didn’t have air to breathe and it was nearly a dangerous situation but boruch Hashem everyone emerged okay.

    “When the Rebbe finished the sicha, he motioned in all directions, ‘Down from the bench, down from the bench!’ Since I was on the ground, I was able to continue seeing and hearing the wondrous giluyim, giluyim of Yemos HaMoshiach.”


    These unexpected surprise events took place on rare occasions. Not so, in the year 5753, the year that all of Anash were constantly wondering when the Rebbe would come out for Shacharis or Mincha. That year was a year beyond regular times. A yeshiva bachur at that time could not plan his day because it was possible that at any minute the Rebbe would come out for davening and to encourage the singing of Yechi. Who would miss that opportunity to see the Rebbe?

    R’ Yisroel Botnick, resident of Crown Heights, experienced 5753 as a bachur in 770 and he describes things from his perspective:

    “The unexpected in 5753 was not just a detail but part of the entire essence. The first time we felt this was on Shavuos 5752, after the Rebbe hadn’t appeared in public in a long time, since Chof-Zayin Adar I.

    “To the tmimim, the feeling was that it was impossible not to see the Rebbe for such a long time. When we came back from tahalucha, we said that surely the Rebbe would welcome those who returned. We didn’t know anything; it was just our feeling.

    “When we got back, several hundred of Anash and the tmimim were already standing in front of 770, hoping to see the Rebbe.”

    Now, R’ Botnick jumps ahead to Rosh Hashana 5753:

    “On the second day of Rosh Hashana I stood on the bima during the tekios. The feeling was miserable – for the first time to hear someone else blow the shofar and not the king himself. Then, suddenly, the blinds of the left window were opened and the Rebbe could be seen, maybe not in the clearest way but it was enough to electrify the thousands of Chassidim. The crowd began to sing Yechi, some with words and some without.

    “When you consider the fact that on Shavuos 5752 many of Anash were not there, this was the first time that the Rebbe came out to everyone.

    “I was in 770 on the second day of Sukkos 5753. The Rebbe had already davened Mincha in his new room that had been built on the west side and when the davening was over, he returned to his room.

    “Less than half an hour later, someone shouted that the Rebbe was coming down to farbreng. It wasn’t that clear; maybe he meant to the new room, but a few minutes later, the Rebbe seemed to suddenly appear (seated on a chair) in the big zal.

    “The place was topsy-turvy. The tables were tied, the Rebbe’s table wasn’t in its usual place on the bima. I ran to call my father and when I returned fifteen minutes later, it was no longer possible to go in.

    “That farbrengen – which was written about at length on various occasions – is etched into me till this very day. The surprise of suddenly seeing the Rebbe near you, after more than half a year in which he stayed in his room was a shock and shook the very soul.”

    R’ Botnick recalled a few  more incidents that capture the feeling of that era:

    “In 5753, there was a time that the Rebbe did not come out for a few days and he davened in his room. One Friday night, the Rebbe suddenly asked to go out to the corridor on the first floor of 770. The Rebbe was in the corridor and then even peeked into the small zal, something which was a real surprise.”


    Now, more than thirty years after the Rebbe announced that “Moshiach is not only on the way… but immediately, the door to the Beis Knesses/Beis Medrash/Beis Maasim Tovim of Rabeinu, Nasi Doreinu will open and we will see Moshiach Tzidkeinu,” no doubt the great proclamation that will be made at that moment won’t be a surprise and we will be ready. After all, we had so much time to prepare.

    * * *

    Beis Moshiach magazine can be obtained in stores around Crown Heights. To purchase a subscription, visit bmoshiach.org


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