Manechem Zigelbaum, Beis Moshiach
On Chanuka 5712, the Rebbe gave out Chanuka gelt for the first time; it was for the yeshiva bachurim. But it was only for those bachurim who kept the yeshiva’s sedarim.
A few days earlier, at the Yud-Tes Kislev farbrengen, the Rebbe hinted to what was coming but kept the details under wraps. “In ten days, I will ask for a list of the talmidim once again. It will be in connection to a certain matter and in order for there not to be complaints that if they knew they would have behaved differently, I am informing you ahead of time.” By saying this, the Rebbe expressed his request to receive a list of those talmidim who kept to the learning schedules for Chassidus in 770.
This followed the Rebbe’s request of the hanhala of the yeshiva that he wanted a list of the talmidim and the situation was not satisfactory. The Rebbe therefore wanted to motivate the bachurim to strengthen their adherence to the schedules.
Indeed, ten days later, on the fifth night of Chanuka, the Rebbe told the mashpia, Rabbi Yisrael Jacobson, to compile a list of talmidim who came to the Chassidus seder on time, saying he would give Chanuka gelt to the students who appeared on the list. The Rebbe also gave a “break” to those bachurim who were present at just three sidrei Chassidus since Yud-Tes Kislev, so they could also be included on the list.
The excited tmimim prepared in the short amount of time remaining and when the time came, they went to the Rebbe’s office, accompanied by Rabbi Jacobson.
The Rebbe glanced over those present and said to R’ Jacobson that there were some talmidim who did not deserve to be there. In response, R’ Jacobson said that these talmidim entered without permission and he approached to submit the list to the Rebbe. The Rebbe smiled and said, “Indeed, if they wish to conduct with kindness and mercy that is different, but this is not the time for that … Still, we will not expel those who already entered.”
Then the Rebbe passed his holy hand over his forehead, his expression grew grave, and he said a sicha about the role of the talmidei ha’tmimim to be “illuminating lights.”
At the conclusion, the Rebbe gave each of the bachurim a silver dollar and blessed them, “A gutten Chanuka.”
This became a regular practice throughout the years. In the days approaching Chanuka, the Rebbe would enter the zal and look over those who were at seder. To those bachurim who were not present, the Rebbe did not give Chanuka gelt. One time, the hanhala included those who didn’t deserve it and the Rebbe reacted, “If the hanhala included them out of ahavas Yisrael, they should get from Rabbi Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev.”
This distribution by the Rebbe stopped in 5721, when the Rebbe told the hanhala to give out Chanuka gelt in his name.
WHO GETS CHANUKA GELT?
Rabbi Sholom Ber Gansbourg, who served as a personal aide in the Rebbe’s home, related:
In 5713 already, I helped the old Rebbetzin (Nechama Dina) a’h and ate meals on Yom Tov with the Rebbe in the Rebbe Rayatz’s apartment. In addition, I would occasionally visit the Rebbe’s home.
In those years, the Rebbe would give a silver dollar on the fifth night of Chanuka to the tmimim who met the criteria that the yeshiva hanhala set forth. I was a talmid in yeshiva at the time and although I didn’t meet all of the conditions, I greatly desired to receive a dollar.
Since I helped in the Rebbe’s house, I decided to approach the Rebbe when he distributed the Chanuka gelt. When Rabbi Mentlick, who stood next to the Rebbe during the distribution, noticed me, he tried to stop me with his hand. When the Rebbe saw me, he lifted his hand above R’ Mentlick’s hand and gave me a dollar.
CHANUKA GELT FOR THE WOUNDED
R’ Leima Minkowitz related:
In 5716, when the Rebbe gave out Chanuka gelt to the talmidim in yeshiva who kept the Chassidus sedarim, I wasn’t there because I had been in a car accident and wasn’t well. The Rebbe asked the menahel, Rabbi Dovid Raskin, “Where is Leima Minkowitz?” He said that I was at home in Brownsville.
The Rebbe gave him a silver dollar for me. R’ Dovid, with his unique brand of hiskashrus, did not delay but traveled that night by bus to give me the coin from the Rebbe.
PLAYING DREIDEL IN THE REBBE’S PRESENCE
Around the year 5716, some children were playing dreidel near the Rebbe’s room. Among them were Sholom Yisrael Chadakov and Abba Piekarski.
The Rebbe suddenly arrived from home and when he saw the children playing he took out a dime, threw it down on the floor and told one of the children to spin the dreidel.
The dreidel fell on the letter “hei” and the Rebbe asked the children what happens with a hei. The children said they divide the pot. In the meantime, the Rebbe entered his room and the children hurried and made a lottery between themselves and Abba Piekarski won the Rebbe’s coin.
CHANUKA GELT FOR THE BROTHER
On 28 Kislev 5719, the fifth night of Chanuka, as the Rebbe gave out Chanuka gelt, R’ Reuven Dunin remembered that his brother Avrohom had asked him to get Chanuka gelt for him too.
When he made inquiries, he found out that the Rebbe was particular about giving only to those who were actually present and it was not the practice to ask on behalf of others. R’ Reuven accepted the fact that this was the rule, and he decided not to ask for his brother.
The amazing thing is that when he approached the Rebbe, the Rebbe handed him Chanuka gelt for himself, and after a split second handed him additional Chanuka gelt saying, “This is for your brother Avrohom,” without him ever having said a word!
INTERROGATION ABOUT CHANUKA GELT IN TAMMUZ
From the following amazing incident, one can learn to what extent the Rebbe valued the custom of giving Chanuka gelt.
One of Anash whose son wasn’t well, had yechidus and asked for the Rebbe’s bracha. Although the yechidus took place in Tammuz, the Rebbe spoke about the custom of Chanuka gelt.
The Rebbe: Did you give your son Chanuka gelt? The man said he did.
The Rebbe asked: Each day? The man said yes.
The Rebbe: Did you give to all the children? The man said yes.
The Rebbe continued to grill him: Did you not forget even one day?
The man said he did not forget even once.
To his great surprise, the Rebbe asked: Did it not happen that you added on one of the days? The man said it was the same amount every day.
The Rebbe concluded: Then there is no room for concern and it will be fine.
And so it was.
CHANUKA GELT WITH A SHINUY
On Rosh Chodesh Kislev 5734, after the Torah reading, when the Rebbe entered his room, one of the Chassidim, Rabbi T, stood in gan eden ha’tachton and asked the Rebbe for Chanuka gelt, saying he would be out of town on Chanuka. An unusual conversation ensued:
The Rebbe: Vos eppes mit a mohl? (Why all of a sudden now?)
R’ T: The past two years, the Rebbe gave me [gelt].
The Rebbe: Twice is not a chazaka.
R’ T: There is a view in the Gemara that twice is a chazaka.
The Rebbe: But that is not the final ruling. I will give you with a change and don’t ask next year.
R’ T: Why?
The Rebbe: What difference does it make? The change will be that I will also give you for your wife. Take along with you candles for Shabbos as well.
The Rebbe: Will you be in … [the Rebbe specified a place]. R’ T said, probably.
The Rebbe: When you will be there, you will know who it is for.
THE REBBE SENT THE SECRETARIES FOR A CERTIFICATION
In 5734, there was great excitement in that after many years in which Chanuka gelt was not distributed, it was announced that the Rebbe would be giving out Chanuka gelt to those who were active in Mivtza Chanuka, a campaign that began that year.
Those who wanted to receive Chanuka gelt from the Rebbe had to get a special certification from Rabbi Dovid Raskin, director of Tzach, that they had particpated in Mivtza Chanuka.
The distribution took place on the last day of Chanuka, Zos Chanuka, in the doorway of the Rebbe’s office. The Rebbe gave each one a dollar bill and said, “A freilichen Chanuka,” and was particular about giving only to those who went on Mivtza Chanuka. Some members of the secretariat wanted a dollar and the Rebbe sent them to get certification in writing that they had gone on mivtzaim.
DIALOGUE WITH THE EDITOR OF THE ALGEMEINER JOURNAL
Among those who passed by that night was Rabbi Gershon Ber Jacobson, editor of the Algemeiner Journal. The Rebbe asked him: Did you take part in Mivtza Chanuka today?
Where? Asked the Rebbe.
R’ Gershon Ber: I printed the paper today and it has a sicha of the Rebbe about Mivtza Chanuka.
The Rebbe smiled and said: But do you commit to participating tomorrow in Mivtza Chanuka?
R’ Gershon Ber: Yes, tomorrow I will sell the paper.
The Rebbe smiled broadly and gave him Chanuka gelt.
“DON’T BE ANGRY AT ME”
One of the elder Chassidim also wanted Chanuka gelt and the Rebbe asked him whether he participated in Mivtza Chanuka. The man said that due to his great weakness, he was unable to do so. The Rebbe said:
“G-d forbid, I don’t have any complaints about you, but this Chanuka gelt is something special and therefore, I cannot give it to you. Don’t be angry with me.”
When a different elder Chassid passed by and his answer was that he participated in Mivtza Chanuka in Manhattan, the Rebbe smiled broadly and gave him a dollar, and even after he passed by the Rebbe continued to look at him with a smile on his face. It was clear that the Rebbe had great nachas.
EXACTLY FIFTY COINS
One year, the askan, R’ Meir Zionce went to the Rebbe for Chanuka. During his stay, the Rebbe gave out Chanuka gelt (dimes) to the public. When R’ Zionce approached the Rebbe, the Rebbe asked the secretary, R’ Leibel Groner to find a closed roll of dimes that contains fifty coins.
It turned out that all the rolls had been opened. After a short wait, the Rebbe raised his hand and said, “Nu, meila” (a dismissive expression). At the same time, he reached into his pocket, took a handful of coins, and gave them to R’ Zionce as Chanuka gelt.
When R’ Meir counted the coins, he was astounded to discover precisely fifty dimes!
YOU TOILED AND YOU FOUND
Along with the general letters that the Rebbe sent to Jewish children, he sometimes added Chanuka gelt. Many children expressed their thanks to the Rebbe for the Chanuka gelt that they received in his name. The Rebbe responded to some of them.
This is what the Rebbe wrote on 20 Adar I 5733, “To the students (boys and girls) of the Akiva school in Nashville, Tennessee:
“I was pleased to receive your letters that acknowledged the receipt of Chanuka gelt. I was especially pleased to read of your good decision to add in Torah, avoda and gemilus chasadim. There is a promise in every good thing: You toiled – and you found. With blessings for success in all that was mentioned and for good news.”
NO NEED TO EXAGGERATE
R’ Yosef Reitzes relates:
In 5734, Rabbi Moshe Yitzchok Hecht, shliach in New Haven, took a group of bachurim from 770 to New Haven for Chanuka, where we were very successful.
We were in a positive environment as we slept in the basement of R’ Hecht and also farbrenged with him. In short, it was very successful and very geshmak.
On Zos Chanuka we arrived early at 770 and waited to be the first on line to receive Chanuka gelt from the Rebbe.
R’ Hecht stood near the Rebbe’s room.
The moment the Rebbe came out, R’ Hecht went over and began talking excitedly while pointing at us, saying that the bachurim did amazing work, “Mamosh with a mesirus nefesh,” and he praised us to the skies.
I was the first one in line and I thought, it wasn’t all that much mesirus nefesh … Yes, we were successful, but still …
The Rebbe stood there, listened and smiled and then, in fatherly way reserved for the Hecht family, he said, “R’ Moshe Yitzchok, we don’t need to exaggerate …”
CHANUKA GELT DISTRIBUTION WITHOUT LIMITATIONS
On Chanuka 5738 there was a one-time distribution of Chanuka gelt by the Rebbe. This was during the Rebbe’s recovery from a heart attack on Shemini Atzeres of that year, two months earlier.
It was the second night of Chanuka, 26 Kislev, which fell out on a Tuesday. Already in the morning it was known that the Rebbe would daven mincha downstairs in the large beis medrash but the reason wasn’t given. After a long time in which the Rebbe did not daven with the public, this was exciting news.
At the appointed time, exactly 3:15, the Rebbe entered the beis medrash while holding a siddur and a package of dollar bills. After davening, the Rebbe said a sicha in which he spoke about the fact that Chanuka follows close after Yud-Tes Kislev, the Chag Ha’Geula, and is also connected to the spreading of pnimiyus ha’Torah. At the end of the sicha, to everyone’s surprise, he said:
“Since Chanuka is connected with ‘at the doorway of his home to the outside,’ Chanuka gelt will be given out now at the doorway of the shul and beis medrash, the dalet amos in which the Rebbe the Nasi led the entirety of the Jewish people, together with his Chassidim and Anash who follow in his ways, and in a way that impacted all places and all times until the coming of Moshiach Tzidkeinu and afterward too.”
The Rebbe went on to say that the money was for each person to do with as he saw fit, in a manner of “good toward heaven and good toward people,” and that each person should add from his own money. “And being that ‘great is tzedaka that beings closer the Geula,’ this will speed up even more the true and complete Redemption through Moshiach Tzidkeinu.”
When he finished, the Rebbe began walking toward the door of the big beis medrash on the western side (where the porch was later built).
A long line quickly formed.
As mentioned, this was in the middle of the Rebbe’s recovery and some tried to stop people from approaching the Rebbe, trying to spare him from standing for a long time. The Rebbe noticed that the secretaries were inclined to prevent people from approaching and he gave each of them a dollar and said, “Today the distribution will be without limitations.”
They got the hint and stepped aside.
While distributing gelt, the Rebbe told people to bring their children too and he gave each child a dollar for Chanuka gelt but after a while, the number of people diminished. Then the Rebbe said twice, looking serious and pointing at himself, “Those who hold back the tzibbur should know they are starting up with me!”
At that point, all restraints were removed and the distribution began to pick up pace. When everyone present received money, the Rebbe said to tell the bachurim that now the women would pass (and the bachurim should step aside) and the Rebbe gave a dollar to every woman and girl.
Then the Rebbe gave to the men again, those who did not receive any earlier. This took two hours which left a deep impression on all those who were there.
THE GREATEST CHANUKA GELT
The third night of Chanuka 5752. Sixty-two editions of Tanya that were printed in the CIS by R’ Shnuer Zalman Chanin, director of Vaad L’Hafotzas Sichos and Rabbi Leibel Zionce, were brought to the Rebbe.
The Rebbe’s face shone and he said, “These are the best Chanuka gelt that a Jew could get; the greatest Chanuka gelt that a Jew could get, a Tanya!”.
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