Wednesday, December 23, 2009

What's a Professor’s Role on Campus? Interesting Letter & Photo of The Rebbe

How profoundly can a professor affect his university students? Could he, perhaps, shape the rest of their lives? The Avner Institute is pleased to present an interesting letter, written by the Rebbe to a professor in a Californian University. The Rebbe describes the potentially tremendous role that he could play in the life of his student, and the great responsibilities that accompany him in delivering his lectures.

We have also included a photo of the Rebbe, courtesy of The Rebbe Archive.

Good Shabbos

By the Grace of G-d
20th of Kislev 5732
Brooklyn, NY
Prof. –

Greeting and Blessing:

I was pleased to receive regards from you through our mutual and esteemed friend Rabbi S.D. Raichik, who has written to me about his visit with you and your participation in the worthy cause, in which you also took in your children as partners.

In the light of what Rabbi Raichik has written to me about his acquaintance with you, I am confident that you will utilized your distinguished position, which brings you into personal contact with Jewish youth, to strengthen also their Jewish identity. To be sure, the courses which you teach are undoubtedly far removed from the religious and spiritual aspects of Jewish identity. However, it is surely unnecessary to emphasize to you that students generally look up to their professors not only as experts in their particular field, but also as persons and individuals who have accomplished a great deal in their life, and have attained high status.
Consequently, the views and ideas that a professor expresses,

and especially his personal way of life and world outlook, directly and indirectly influence the students, and create in them a desire to emulate their professors. And even those who for one reason or another are rebellious inwardly recognize that the achievements of their professors should be emulated.

In the light of this, a professor in college or university has an extraordinary opportunity to benefit his students by word, and even more so, by example. Even if an extra effort in this direction may entail certain difficulties which are sometimes not imaginary nor magnified, but real – the thought of how much good a little extra effort might be, and how much it can be reflected and multiplied in the loves of the young people who so badly need guidance and inspiration, should make all such difficulties worthwhile.

Although the above has been written in general terms, with a view to disseminating Jewish values, etc., it is important to bear in mind the dictum of our Sages of blessed memory that “the essential thing is the deed,” namely the actual Jewish experience in the daily life. For, Judaism is a way of life that is not relegated to several days in the year, specific holy days, or even Shabbos, but embraces the entire Jewish life each and every day. It is for this reason that the Torah and Mitzvoth are referred to as “our life,” indicated that it must be continuous and uninterrupted, just as life must be continued and uninterrupted. Herein the Jewish religion radically differs from any other religion in that it is not something additional to a person, but is intimately the person himself, for a Jew and the Torah and Mitzvoth are inseparable.

Much more could be said on this subject, but I trust the above will suffice. I will only conclude that inasmuch as we are about to celebrate the festival of Chanukah, when we will be lighting the Chanukah candles in growing numbers from day to day, indicating the need to spread the light of the Torah and Mitzvoth in a growing measure, since it is written, “A Mitzvo is a lamp and the Torah is light,” thereby illuminating the Jewish soul of which it is said, “A lamp of G-d is the soul of man” – may this be so with you and me and all our people.

With esteem and blessing,

Remarkable Photos of The Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe

Purkersdorf , Austria, 1935.

Yud Tes Kislev (the “Rosh Hashanah of Chassidus”) marks the release of the Alter Rebbe (first Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi) from Czarist imprisonment. With his trail and unequivocal vindication, the official green light was given to his teaching of Chassidism, reflecting Heaven’s approval of their dissemination. Immediately thereafter, the wellsprings of the Baal Shem Tov’s teachings began to be spread in earnest, preparing the world for Moshiach.

In honor of the auspicious date, the Avner Institute is pleased to present two remarkable photos of the Previous (sixth) Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn – courtesy of the Rebbe Archive; with special thanks to Yechi Ezagui.

The photos were taken during the month of Adar, 1935, in Purkersdorf, Austria.

We have also included two quotes from the Rebbe, on (a) the study of Chassidus; and (b) the nature of a Chassid (special thanks to Sichos In English).

Good Yom Tov.

What is a Chassid?

Dr. David Weiss has achieved world renown for his work in cancer research. Although he came from an observant home, his involvement in American culture presented him with many challenges. His encounters with the Chassidim and the philosophy of Lubavitch helped him overcome these hurdles.

Once while at Yechidus with the Rebbe, he asked him if he could consider himself a chassid. "I am attracted to the chassidic way of life," he explained, "but can never see myself donning a black hat or chassidic garb. Does this disqualify me?"

The Rebbe responded, "When a Jew endeavors to take a step forward in the service of G-d and the love of his fellow man every day, I am happy to consider him my chassid." This is the thrust of this chapter: to share examples of how the Rebbe has personally encouraged people to advance in Jewish practice”

Why is Chassidus So Important?

“In the first years of the Rebbe's leadership, during the farbrengen of Purim 1953, the Rebbe told one of the participants to study Chassidus. The person voiced his hesitation; he had never been trained in this system of thought, nor did he understand how this study would contribute to his personal development.

The Rebbe replied with a rhetorical question: "When you board a train, do you fully comprehend its precise mechanical functioning?

"When a passenger sits in the coach, whether he understands how it works or not - the train crew will perform their task, and the train will transport its travelers to their desired destinations”

Can a Woman Serve as a Rabbi?

Can a woman serve as Rabbi? In an insightful letter (courtesy of the Nissan Mindel Archives) written to a woman from Winnipeg, Canada, the Rebbe addresses this issue.

We have also included a picture of the Rebbe (courtesy of the Rebbe Archive; special thanks to Yechi Ezagui).

Good Shabbos,

By the Grace of G-d

Winnipeg 9, Man., Canada

Blessings and Greetings:

I am receipt of your letter of_, as well as the previous correspondence. It surprises me somewhat that you ask my opinion on a question which I have already replied to you long ago; inasmuch as you press the subject, I will again give you my unequivocal opinion. It is:

The primary function of the Jewish woman is to be the Akeres Habayis (foundation of the Jewish home), namely to establish and conduct her home in accordance with the Torah, Toras Chaim, and the Mitzvoth, whereby Jews live. And to the extent that it does not conflict with the Jewish sense of Tznius (modesty), the Jewish woman is also expected to participate in charitable activities in support of worthy institutions, etc., and the like. It is altogether not within her sphere, nor should it be her aspiration, to be (G-d forbid) a Rabbi. This stand has been firmly established in various authoritative Jewish sources. As a matter of fact, the more familiar a Jewish woman is with the Torah world outlook, and the more versed she is in her knowledge of the Torah in this area, the better she should realize that it is not her province to be a Rabbi. The very aspiration to be one is in itself proof of the lack of adequate knowledge and feeling of the true Jewish outlook on life.

As already mentioned above, I have already indicated to you my views on this subject, though perhaps in different words. I repeated only on your insistence. I want to add again that this stand is no reflection (G-d forbid) upon a woman’s worthiness or intelligence, etc. It has to do only with the particular function which has been Divinely allocated to particular things in the word, and the function of a woman, as noted above is to be the Akeres Habayis and to contribute her share in the areas of philanthropy and social service, which are not less important then the functions of a Rabbi.

I trust that the above will once and for all resolve your question, so that there will be no point in any further discussion on this matter.

With blessing.

"The Jewish Community in Mumbai"

Wednesday, the First of Kislev, marks the first Yahrtzeit of Rabbi Gabi and Rivka Holtzberg hy”d. Gabi and Rivki served as the Rebbe’s emissaries to Mumbai, India, until their horrific murder along with four other Jews – guests in their welcoming Chabad House on the night it was targeted by terrorist.

The Avner Institute would like to present a letter composed by the Rebbe and sent to a Rabbi in Letchworth, Hertfordshire, England. The Rebbe expresses great interest and concern in the Jewish Community of Mumbai.

We have also included a unique collection of pictures of the Rebbe, courtesy of the Rebbe Archive; special thanks to Yechi Ezagui.

This email is dedicated in honor of the murdered emissaries and their guests; and in honor of the upcoming third birthday and opshernish of their surviving son, Moshe Holtzberg – may he enjoy many years filled with much revealed blessing, generating nachas for his family and for klal yisrael.

Good Shabbos,

Letchworth, Herts, England.

Greetings and Blessings:

It has been brought to my attention that the Jewish community in Bombay is facing a serious crisis. According to my information, which apparently comes from a reliable source, there are at present about 450 Baghdadi Jews there, whereas the Bnei Israel community numbers about a couple of thousand, spread over the whole of India.

Of the three existing Jewish schools, two are expected to close in May 1970, partly for lack of funds, and partly because the number of students has fallen. The largest Jewish school is the Jacob Sassoon School, where about 300 children, including some Bnei Israel, receive more or less free education and free meals; however, because of lack of funds, free meals might soon be stopped, while snacks will be given only to the poorer children.

I am further informed that poor orphans and widows, and the aged, face increased hardships because of cuts in their monthly allowances etc, A case in point in the recently widowed wife of the Chazan of the Magen David Synagogue, left with eight children and so placed that, unfortunately, she is no longer able to maintain the middle-class family life that they have been accustomed to.

Knowing of your keen personal interest in the Jewish community of India, especially Bombay, and of how much your ancestors have done to provide vital education and social services for our brethren there, I am confident that you will look into the present situation, and do all that you can, in the great tradition of your family.

Hoping this letter finds you in the best of health.

With blessing

The Soul of A Gentile.

The Avner Institute is pleased to present an insightful letter of the Rebbe, discussing the nature of the respective souls of Jews and non-Jews. (Special thanks to Rabbi Schapiro and The Nissan Mindel Archives for the letter.)

We have also included a photo of the Rebbe giving L’chaim at a farbrengen marking the Previous Rebbe’s passing in 1972.

Good Shabbos


Mr. _ Brooklyn, New York

Greeting and Blessing:

I am in receipt of your letter, in which you refer to a discussion that you had on the question of whether or not Gentiles have a neshama . . . .

I cannot see where there could have been any difference of opinion on this matter, inasmuch as it is explicitly stated in various sources, and statements are also found in various sections of Tanach (Isaiah 42:5, 57:16), to the effect that Gentiles also have a neshama . . . . It seems to me, therefore, that you may have been arguing at cross-purposes, and that perhaps the question related more to the fact that there are different levels and qualities of soul. Now if this was the point of contention, then it is true that the soul of the Gentile and the soul of the Jew differ in their nature, this being connected with one of the basic principles of the Torah – the fact that the Jews are a people chosen from among the nations of the world. This chosen-ness originates in the fact that when G-d was about to give the Torah at Mt. Sinai, He first offered it to all the other nations of the world, who refused to accept it. The Jewish people did accept it. Needless to add, this is in no way inconsistent with the statement of our Sages, to the effect that the righteous among the Gentiles have a special status and, according to the Rambam, also have a share in the World-to-Come.

Judging by your letter, it is surely unnecessary for me to emphasize to you what has already been indicated above, namely, that our belief in the chosen-ness of the Jewish people is not a matter of chauvinism or fanaticism, but rather the deep-felt realization that this uniqueness carries with it great responsibilities and special obligations. This is why, for example, Jews have to fulfill “Taryag (613) mitzvoth,” whereas Gentiles are not obligated to observe kashrut and various other restrictions connected with the idea of holiness, holiness being the essential aspect of the Jewish soul.

If I allude here to the special obligations which are incumbent upon a Jew, as a Jew, it is only for the sake of emphasizing that what is at issue is not whether a Jew should meet minimal, or even average standards, but that it is in fact incumbent upon him to attain the very maximum. In truth, this is self-evident for, inasmuch as G-d has given us the innate capacity to attain the very heights of the spiritual and the holy, it is only right that we learn how to recognize this incomparable Divine gift; while any lack of effort to utilize it to the utmost would be in the nature of a derogation. And if, in one’s business or profession, one always tries to give of one’s very best – for to do less would be to risk being branded a failure – how much more so in regard to spiritual capacities, which are of vital benefit not only to one’s self, but also to one’s surroundings and the world at large.

With blessing,

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

"The Rebbe’s face was Beaming with Joy"

This year marks thirty years to a very memorable Simchas Torah with the Rebbe and a subsequent year blessed with many interesting and joyful events. The Avner Institute is pleased to present a “glimpse” of hakafos with the Rebbe from that year. The material is taken from Zalman Jaffe’s “My Encounter with the Rebbe, Volume 3” currently being prepared for print (

We have included some wonderful photos of the Rebbe, courtesy of The Rebbe Archive.

Good Yom Tov.

Hakofohs With the Rebbe:

"We had by now reached the seventh hakofah. The gabai then announced that all those men who had been honored and privileged to take part in the first hakofah should now come forward for a sefer Torah and participate in the last round.

I did not relish another “fiasco” as at the first hakofah, besides which I would rather watch the Rebbe dancing with the Rashag, a scene I had not been able to witness before.

Standing on the platform, where I was now joined by another hundred people, I could just about see the Rebbe and the heads of those men who were carrying the sifrei Torah. The Rebbe had reached the small platform for the dancing, and I was preparing to enjoy a spectacle to which I had been looking forward since I had left Manchester, when –

WHOOSH! Everyone stood up on the edge of the platform in order to obtain a better view. All I could see was – once again – a solid wall of people’s backs. Some of my more athletic friends had pity on me. One, putting his left arm around a pillar and his right arm around my waist, yanked me upwards, so that my feet were resting on another friend’s neck. In this way, I could just manage to see through a gap.

I saw the Rebbe dancing with his brother-in-law. A small sefer Torah was held on each right shoulder, and each left hand rested on the left shoulder of the other. They danced round and round, even faster, the Rebbe forcing the pace all the time. Looking down, all I could see was what looked like a thick black carpet, moving up and down with quick rhythmical movements. From every pillar in the hall which supported the roof and ceiling hung four or five boys. They resembled palm trees with hanging bunches of coconuts or clusters or dates"

Kos Shel Bracha:

"Ma’ariv took place at 12:30 a.m. After midnight, the Rebbe made havdolah, drank a major portion of the wine, refilled the becher (glass), and commenced the distribution of kos shel brocha. When the glass become only a quarter full, someone would top the becher up again – and so it went on – all night. There was always some of the original havdalah wine remaining in the glass.

The Rebbe’s face was beaming and a happy smile lit up his whole countenance in anticipation of handing out the wine. It was beautiful to behold.

It was then my turn to receive my rations. The Rebbe poured me the wine into my paper cup and handed me, also, a small bottle of vodka. I thanked him profusely for everything and wished him well, with plenty of good health, and hoped, please G-d, to see the Rebbe next year at Simchas Torah. The Rebbe observed, “It will be even better next time,” and added, “You will be able to write about it in your diary.” (This was indeed great encouragement.)

The Rebbe’s face was beaming and a happy smile lit up his whole countenance in anticipation of handing out the wine. It was beautiful to behold.

It was then my turn to receive my rations. The Rebbe poured me the wine into my paper cup and handed me, also, a small bottle of vodka. I thanked him profusely for everything and wished him well, with plenty of good health, and hoped, please G-d, to see the Rebbe next year at Simchas Torah. The Rebbe observed, “It will be even better next time,” and added, “You will be able to write about it in your diary.” (This was indeed great encouragement.)

Simchas Torah 1980 & Photos of the Rebbe

This year marks thirty years to a very memorable Simchas Torah with the Rebbe and a subsequent year blessed with many interesting and joyful events. The Avner Institute is pleased to present an interesting letter to the Rebbe composed by the legendry Zalman Jaffe a”h prior to visiting 770 in 1979.The material is taken from Zalman Jaffe’s “My Encounter with the Rebbe, Volume 3” currently being prepared for print (

We have included some wonderful photos of the Rebbe, courtesy of The Rebbe Archive.

Good Yom Tov.

My Dear Rebbe, Shlita:

I am writing this letter at home, and I hope, please G-d, to bring it with me tomorrow. So when you receive this note, then you will realize that, B”H, Roselyn and I have arrived, together with Chaim Dovid (Avrohom’s eldest son, 14), and Chaya (Hindy’s eldest daughter, 12). Yossie and Mendel, Hindy’s eldest sons, have been at Crown Heights for the past few weeks. We are staying with Meyer and Raizy Minkowitz for one week. We would like to have stayed longer but we do not wish to impose upon friends.

I do know that Crown Heights is packed to overflowing. I hear that people are sleeping on the floor of 770 in their sleeping-bags. Yehuda Kramer wanted to go to 770 for Succoth with his wife and child. There was definitely nowhere to stay!

I have been warned by Dovid Abenson to take my oldest suit, my most battered hat, and – if possible – steel-toed boots for the farbrengen and for Simchas Torah. I will be crushed from all sides and my ribs may be broken. The heat will be stifling, and I should also take a bottle of oxygen. It sounds terrible. In fact, I do not think I will actually enjoy myself; I may not even be in a position to see or hear what is going on. But maybe I will be able to write a few pages for my next edition. I have heard that the whole seder is different than on Shavuous, the seating arrangements in particular.

Roselyn, as I have mentioned, will be with me. I surely cannot imagine what she will do all the time. To find a place to see or even hear in the women’s shul will be a sheer impossibility. It is bad enough on Shavuous. However, it will be a new experience – to which I am looking forward – with some little trepidation.

Anyway, here I am.

I wish you a happy and freileichen yom tov.

We all missed you on Shavuous.

Best Wishes for a Good Year

As Rosh Hashanah approaches, it is customary to wish each other “a happy and sweet new year!”

The Avner Institute is pleased to present a handwritten note composed by the saintly mother of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rebbetzin Chana Schneerson. In her note, she expresses good-year wishes to Rabbi Greenglass, a prominent Chabad Rabbi in Montreal, Special thanks to Rabbi Mendel Feller.

We take this opportunity to wish all of our readers kesivah v’chasimah tovah – a sweet new year; and express deep thanks to those who sent us their archive photos of the Rebbe to share with the world during this past year.


"The Rebbe's Hand Trembles When he Writes”

Tishrei at 770 was always a memorable month, with many guests pouring in from all around the world. They came to spend the month with the Rebbe and savor the unique experiences offered by each holiday.

The Avner Institute is proud to present the first of a photo-series capturing special Tishrei moments with the Rebbe. Photos are accompanied by a story told by Rabbi Yossi Goldstein about the Rebbe and his father-in-law (the previous Rebbe) Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson that took place the first night of Rosh Hashanah 1943.

Special thanks to the Rebbe Archive and a group of readers for the photos. This week’s email is dedicated in honor of the wedding of my sister Devorah Leah with Issur New; may they build a Binyan Adei Ad.

Good Shabbos,

Rabbi Goldstein relates:

"It was Tishrei 5703, and a visitor came to 770 by the name of Rabbi Weiler. He had purchased a large number of machzorim for public use, which he brought to the room where the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, the Rebbe Rayatz, held his minyan. One of the machzorim was specially left for the Rebbe Rayatz himself.

On Rosh Hashana night I prayed in my regular spot, at the northwest corner. I saw the present Rebbe standing near his father-in-law, who davened while weeping fervently. Following the service, after everyone had exited the room, I stayed behind to help arrange the chairs and tables.

Rebbetzin Nechama Dina, wife of the previous Rebbe, entered and asked me to help her gather the machzorim. Suddenly I noticed how she went over to the lectern of her husband, removed the machzor, and placed it in the pile along with the others. I marked which machzor was the Rebbe's and ran over to her.

“I think this is too heavy for you,” I said, and I offered to carry out the pile instead of her. Seizing the opportunity, I removed the Rebbe's machzor, and as soon as the Rebbetzin left I ran back to the room with the machzor from which the Rebbe had prayed.

Turning the pages of ma’ariv, the evening service, I noticed an amazing thing: under the words "u'malchuso b'ratzon kiblu aleihem” (and His kingship is willfully accepted upon them) there was a line written in pencil. Although still unfamiliar with the entire liturgy, I understood that Rosh Hashana is the time for binyan ha'malchus (establishment of kingship). On the day preceding Rosh Hashana the Rebbe had apparently written this for reasons of his own.

I was ecstatic with my find. I had a machzor with the Rebbe's writing in it! I figured I had to show it to the present Rebbe. So I hastened to him and said, “Here is the machzor the Rebbe [Rayatz] davened from.”

He looked at it and asked, “How do you know it's the Rebbe's machzor?”

Turning the pages to ma’ariv, I showed him the line, proving it was his father-in-law’s handwriting.

The Rebbe looked at it and trembled. “Yes,” he said, “my father-in-law wrote that, but how did you know that he wrote it?” In other words, while he himself naturally recognized it, he wondered how I possibly would.

“Well,” I explained, “I can see the line isn’t straight, since the Rebbe’s hand trembles when he writes.”

The Rebbe asked, “How do you know my father-in-law's hand trembles when he writes?”

I told him that I once sat in the beis midrash, and that Rebbe Rayatz’s secretary Reb Chaim Lieberman had walked in and remarked how difficult it was for the Rebbe Rayatz to write in a straight line. The latter generally avoided writing paper that had printed lines on it. Instead, the Rebbe Rayatz requested a sheet of paper with black lines drawn on it, on top of which he would place another paper and see the lines underneath, thus enabling him to write straight.

“So Reb Chaim wanted me to have my father print up paper like that,” I concluded. “I asked him how far apart to make the lines, and since he didn't know, he went up to your father-in-law and came down a few minutes later with a paper on which the Rebbe had drawn two lines so I would know how wide to space them. That's how I knew when the Rebbe made lines – the writing was shaky.”

Holding up the machzor I exclaimed, “This is precious – a real treasure.”

"Ya, ya (yes, yes),” the present Rebbe agreed, and took the machzor from my hands. I never saw it again.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

"Victory Entebbe" – A Wonderful Letter and Photo of the Rebbe

On 4 July 1976, Israel Defense Forces saved the lives of 104 Jews hostages held by terrorists at Entebbe Airport, Uganda.

The Avner Institute is pleased to present a wonderful letter sent by the Rebbe to a Chabad supporter in Cleveland, Ohio, in which the Rebbe explains the lessons to be learnt from the miraculous victory of Operation Entebbe.

We have also included a unique photo of the Rebbe – special thanks to The Rebbe Archive.

Good Shabbos

Greeting and Blessing:

I just received your letter with enclosure. It was gratifying to read the good news that you succeeded in inducing the Federation to make an initial grant to the Chabad House in your city, thus breaking the ice, as it were, in getting it to begin to move towards supporting Torah-true Chinuch.

Here my thoughts turn to the recent miraculous rescue of the hostages from Uganda. One cannot fail to note the extraordinary aspects at both ends of the hijacking. On the one hand, the ease with which the four terrorists hijacked the airbus in Athens, and on the other, the extraordinary success of the rescue operation. In other words, both the initial crisis and the eventual delivery clearly point to the hand of G-d. And while every Jew is grateful to, and admires the mesirat nefesh of the brave rescuers, we must not lose sight even for a moment of the warning and lesson at the bottom of it all, not just in regard to the danger of hijacking in the ordinary sense but, even more importantly,

In regard to the “spiritual hijacking” of so many of our younger generation by alien and freakish cultures which, unfortunately, capture so many of our innocent boys and girls in Eretz Yisrael as well as in the Diaspora. With all anxiety and love which welled up in every Jewish heart for those unfortunate hostages at Entebbe Airport – surely no less concern should be shown for the spiritual hostages that are abducted daily, and no less mesirat nefesh, to save them. It is also particularly painful to contemplate the secularized education to considerable segments of Jewish youth in the land which even the nations of the world recognize as the Holy Land, where one would have reason to expect that all Jewish children would be brought up in an atmosphere of holiness befitting that Holy Land. It is for this reason that our Chabad people in Eretz Yisrael and everywhere else have undertaken special rescue operations in the area of Jewish education.

May the zechut of the participation in this work stand you in good stead in all your affairs, particularly to have ever-truer nachat from all your near and dear ones.
Last but not least, I was gratified to note that you commemorated the passing of your late wife, of blessed memory, by publishing one of our Holy Scriptures, the Book of Ruth, with a commentary, and with selected Midrashim of our Rabbis, our teachers, for all generations, in a way that makes it accessible to those who need chinuch and inspiration.

With blessing,

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Chaim Potok & The Rebbe

The Avner Institute is pleased to present a fascinating conversation between noted writer Chaim Potok and Rabbi Dalfin, in which the writer discuses his first visits to the Rebbe, and why he never experienced a private audience (Yechidus). Special thanks to Rabbi Dalfin.

We have also included a unique photo of the Rebbe, special thanks to Rabbi Levertov.

Good Shabbos


D: How did you first meet with the Rebbe. Was it in private or, at a Farbrengen?

P: As I told you, I never met the Rebbe in private. I met the Rebbe twice at Farbrengens and once at a Mincha service. It must have been in the 70’s. All 3 times, if I remember correctly, I was accompanied by Rabbi Shemtov. The second Farbrengen I sat up in front with a large group of others, and spoke to the Rebbe in front of all the people there. I was at the time the editor of the Jewish Publication Society. His words to me were, “Remember to put the Jewish back in the Jewish Publication Society.” We always published books that had to with Jewish scholarship, Jewish history, Jewish thought. Therefore, I wasn’t entirely sure what he meant. That was the 2nd time I met him. We stayed, my wife and I, very late that night, and we also heard the Rebbe speaking Chassidus. It was about 2-3 o’clock in the morning.

Then I met the Rebbe at a Mincha service, when a group of Yeshiva boys were about to leave on a worldwide mission. He noticed me and nodded. After the Mincha service the students gathered around him. He gave them a Brocha and he went away.

D: You didn’t talk to him on that occasion.

P: No.

D: Did you understand what he meant about, “Remember to put the Jewish back in the Jewish Publication Society.” Did you ask him?

P: There was no opportunity to ask him, because there were others waiting to speak to him. It was very puzzling to me.

D: The first time you came, Rabbi Shemtov introduced you to the Rebbe?

P: If I remember correctly, he knew that I was coming. I had just written either The Promise or My Name is Asher Lev. He knew that I was a novelist, but said nothing to me about the novels. The conversation lasted longer than with all the others who came before me, and some staff people seemed to be annoyed that I was taking so much of the Rebbe’s time. One or two of them came over to me and asked, “What did the Rebbe say?”, so I told them what I’m telling you now.

D: What motivated you to go see the Rebbe?

P: First, I grew up in a world of Chassidus and Chassidism. My mother was a direct descendant of one of the sons of the Rizhiner. Her father was a Chortkover and my father was a Belzer. My uncle was a Belzer. The whole family comes from that world. Second, I became especially interested in Lubavitch because my wife grew up at 576 Eastern Parkway. She had seen Lubavitch expand in that neighborhood, had seen that neighborhood transformed from a middle class neighborhood to a Chassidic neighborhood. I was very curious about that. And, my in-laws still lived at 576 Eastern Parkway, so when I visited them, I would see Lubavitch everywhere.

After I wrote The Chosen and The Promise - I had always been interested in art - I began to think about the possibility of writing a story about an artist who had grown up in a very religious world. It was at that point that Rabbi Shemtov walked into my office one day. My interest in that subject and Rabbi Shemtov came together, and the focus became Lubavitch, although I wasn’t particularly interested in writing specifically about Lubavitch. What a writer does is research and become very familiar with a specific world and subject. Then the imagination takes over. So the streets where my wife grew up, became the focus of my interest, and since Lubavitch was still on those streets, it all came together into the Asher Lev story. When Rabbi Shemtov invited me to come to a Farbrengen, I said sure, let me see what’s going on, and we went.

D : That brings me to your statement to Ted Koppel on Night Line. He asked you, “Why didn’t you take advantage of the opportunity to have a private visit with the Rebbe?”, or something to that effect, and your response was that your objectivity would have been absorbed or swallowed up, I forget the exact word. Did you say you were scared?

P: I don’t know if I was scared, but if I did use that word all I meant was that I was concerned about how such a meeting would affect what I myself want to write about regarding this group. If the Rebbe were alive today, I still wouldn’t want to go see him, and I’ll explain to you why, with the following story.

A very close friend of mine is one of the great political cartoonists in the United States. Some months after President Clinton was elected, he invited a small group of cartoonists to meet with him in the White House. Clinton is a very charismatic person. He is, when you see him in person, quite awesome. He’s tall, almost monumental,

and gives the impression of being a very real, a very authentic human being, when you meet him face to face. Now, it is the business of a political cartoonist to be cool, cynical, and objective. And this political cartoonist told me that it took him months to restore his objectivity after that meeting, because he was overwhelmed by the personality of Bill Clinton. He really came out of that meeting with a profound regard for that man. I know of this dynamic. I’ve experienced it before with teachers that I’ve had.

I didn’t want to meet personally with the Rebbe because it was very clear to me that this was a most unusual human being. I didn’t want to spend 20 minutes or half an hour in a room with him, and then have to rethink, undo, restructure, my imagination after that experience. That’s all I meant by that.

A writer does the necessary encountering for his or her work, and when he feels that his imagination has enough encounter with the reality that he wants to write about, he walks away from the reality and lets the imagination work. You don’t let the reality overwhelm the imagination. That’s precisely why I didn’t want to see the Rebbe, although Rabbi Shemtov, on many occasions, urged me to do so, and it would have been very easy to do so.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

“The Importance of Music” & Beautiful Photo of The Rebbe

The Avner Institute is proud to present a lovely letter of the Rebbe, written in Kislev 1969, in which he describes the fundamental role and “highly evocative” impact music has played in Chassidic life. Also included is a unique photo of the Rebbe – special thanks to The Rebbe Archive.

Good Shabbos


Picture Description:Zalman Shazar, former President of Israel, paid a number of visits to the Rebbe in the early 1970’s. On each occasion, Shazar presented the Rebbe with a gift or a precious manuscript of Chassidic teachings, transcribed by previous Rebbeim of Chabad.

The above picture impressively captures the Rebbe receiving such a gift from the hands of the President.

By the Grace of G-d
5th of Kislev, 5729
Brooklyn, NY

Detroit, MI 48236
Greeting and Blessing:

This is to acknowledge with thanks receipt of your letter of November 22nd. I was indeed pleased to learn that you have accepted the Chairmanship of the Chassidic Concert being given for the benefit of Camp Gan Israel and Chabad Lubavitch Org. in your community.

What is particularly gratifying is the spirit of enthusiasm which you have displayed in this connection. This is surely indicative that you will communicate this enthusiasm to all the participants, and that it will be carried over to the entire environment long after the event itself has taken place.

It is customary to look for depth and insights in everything, and the Chassidic concept of negina [song] is indeed rich in both. It is well known, and a matter of experience, that music in general is highly evocative of inner feeling, much more than other forms of human expression such as oratory, or painting, and the like. Even verbal articulation as a medium of vocal music is on a different plane.

This is why Chassidic negina is so important in Chassidic life, for it is the very objective of Chassidus to permeate the daily life of the Jew to such an extent that all actions should be imbued with inner feeling, even soulful expression. For then every action assumes a different quality and meaningfulness, and even its external aspects and scope are greatly stimulated.

I send my prayerful wishes to you and all your colleagues and co-workers to enjoy great hatzlocho [success] in connection with the forthcoming event, particularly as it is dedicated to the most worthy cause of benefiting Camp Gan Israel and the Chabad-Lubavitch work to strengthen attachment of Jews – men, women, and children – to our eternal Torah and eternal people of Israel.

With blessing,

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Inspiring NY Times Article and Unique Photo of The Rebbe

"The Lubavitch Rabbi Marks His 70th Year with Call for Kindness by Israel"

The Avner Institute is pleased to present a wonderful article that appeared in The New York Times, March 27, 1972, by Israel Shenker. Also included is a unique photo of the Rebbe – special thanks to The Rebbe Archive.

Good Shabbos

"Menachem M. Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, reached the Biblical age of 70 yesterday, but he has been living in the age of the Bible every one of those years. The Rebbe decided to use his birthday as a pretext for demanding of his followers what he called "an additional portion of study and devotion to the cause of spreading goodness and kindness..."

At a recent audience, just before the rays of dawn eased over Eastern Parkway, the Lubavitcher Rebbe gazed intently at his visitor, and from time to time a warm, remarkably gentle smile lit his face. Stroking his gray beard, he explained his role as "awakening in everyone the potential that he has."
On fundamentals, the Rebbe has no doubts,

"If you can accept that G-d Almighty created billions and billions of atoms, why can't you accept that G-d Almighty created a human being?"

"If you are enthusiastic to substitute for the term 'G-d' the word 'mystery,' then I'll ask you the same thing about 'mystery.' It is much easier to accept one human being, two human beings, than to accept billions of disordered atoms whirling around without any concept, any pattem, and then with a big bang or a small bang the universe is created."

To the suggestion that his orthodoxy marks him as a conservative he objected, saying:

"I don't believe that Reform Judaism is liberal and Orthodox is conservative. My explanation of conservative is someone who is so petrified he cannot accept something new. For me, Judaism or halacha [Jewish religious law], or Torah encompasses all the universe and it encompasses every new invention, every new theory, every new piece of knowledge or thought or action.

"Everything that happens in 1972 has a place in the Torah and it must be interpreted, it must be explained, it must be evaluated from the point of view of Torah even if it happened for the first time in March of 1972. "
Who is to be the eighth Lubavitcher Rabbi?

"The Messiah will come and he will take all these troubles and doubts," replied the seventh, and added smilingly: "He could come while I am here. Why postpone His coming?

"My intention is to live many years more, and the Messiah can come tomorrow or the day after tomorrow," he said. "There's a very great deal to achieve, enough not only for my life but even for more than 120 years."

He added: "The Messiah will be a real human being. Don't translate him as something abstract. He is tangible. He has two eyes, two ears, two legs, two hands. And one heart. The heart has four compartments. One compartment is for impure blood, which the heart makes into pure blood. And that is the function of the Messiah."

Monday, July 6, 2009

Unique Photos of the Rebbe at a 1990 Women’s Convention

The Avner Institute is pleased to present a beautiful collection of photos from the N'shei Chabad Jewish Women's Convention, Iyar 25, 1990. Special thanks to Rabbi Yossi Lew and The Rebbe Archive for the pictures.
Good Shabbos


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Rebbe Accompanies the President into 770

Zalman Shazar was first elected President of Israel by the Knesset in 1963, and then re-elected in 1968 and 1973. He shared an extremity close and unique relationship with the Rebbe. Rabbi Sholomo Maydanchik, a Chabad activist in Israel, in an address to a group of college students in the United States, explained, “Mr. Shazar is not only an admirer of Chabad – he is also a dedicated Chassid and follower of the Rebbe.” The President visited the Rebbe a number of times, and each visit turning into a truly special event.

The Avner Institute has captured photos of these historical visits – in 1966 and 1973. Special thanks to the Zionist archives of Jerusalem and the Rebbe Archive.

Good Shabbos

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Rebbe’s Dedication to Jewish Education

One of the Rebbe’s main drives and ultimate goals was to establish institution all over the world that would provide children with a proper Jewish education. The Avner Institute is proud to present A beautiful Photo showing the Rebbe interacting with children. Special thanks to the Rebbe Archive for the pictures.

In addition, below is a transcript originally published by the Young Leadership Cabinet following their meeting with the Rebbe on March 4, 1973. The transcript brings to attention the Rebbes’s care for and dedication towards children’s education.

This week's email is dedicated to my sister, Devorah Leah, in honor of her engagement to Isser New; may they build a Bayis Ne'eman B'yisrael!

Good Shabbos

From a transcript published by the Young Leadership Cabinet after their meeting with the Rebbe:

"There is a special goal which takes priority over all others and that is education. By educating people you are preparing the young leadership of tomorrow and the day after tomorrow. Education is not a question of making someone who is not so learned, more learned, someone who is not fluent, more fluent, someone who is not charitable to become charitable or more charitable. Education now is a question of saving a soul, saving a human being for the Jewish people. And saving him even for humanity.

Taking into account that a child is someone whose need for education must be met at the first opportunity possible-money can be borrowed now and paid tomorrow or a year from tomorrow. Even if you have no money already in cash or in pledges it is the first priority and the first duty and the first obligation of every Jew who can do something in this realm to invest it in education.

I am not asking you for a check,what I am asking is that every one of you, before asking someone for a check tomorrow, to become more Jewish than today by adding at least one mitzvah in your personal life, in your private life and in the life of your family. And, in addition, and I know this from my personal experience, I am now seventy years old and nevertheless I hope that tomorrow morning, I will be a better Jew than today. Performing a mitzvah in your private life as a private person-has an immediate impact on your communal activities"

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

"Suicide" - A Unique Letter from The Rebbe & A New Photo

Do all Jews go straight to Heaven? Is there a life in the next world for one who takes his own life? The Avner Institute presents a unique letter of the Rebbe, discussing the tragic consequence of suicide in the World to Come; and stressing the importance of a Jew’s responsibility in this world. Included is a newly released photo of the Rebbe, courtesy of Rabbi Goldstein and The Rebbe Archive.

Good Shabbos

By the Grace of G-d
10th of Nissan, 5721
Brooklyn, NY
Greeting and Blessing:

I received your letter, in which you write about your efforts to implement my suggestion in connection with Purim. I trust that you have also been active in the matter of distribution of Shemura Matza before Pesach, together with our friend Mr. Fisher.

With regard to the question of Gehinom and how it affects sinners in general, and suicides in particular, you can well imagine that this is a subject about which I do not encourage discussion, especially in the case of a young man whose whole life is ahead of him and who has to utilize the years which G-d bestows upon him, and utilize them with energy and joy and complete trust in G-d.

Thus, this and similar morbid topics are not conducive to the proper attitude and activity which should fill one’s life. However, in order not to leave your question altogether unanswered, let me say briefly this. Besides the fact that one who takes his own life has no share in the world to come, and this is a result which few transgressions bring about, there is the added consideration that there is no escape from G-d, and, as it is written (Psalm 139:8): Im osek shomayim sham atah ve’etziah shaul hincha (If I ascend up into heaven You are there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.)

Therefore, one who takes his own life in the hope of avoiding suffering actually adds to his woes in that in addition having to go through all the things which he had hoped to escape, he has to suffer also the consequence of having tried to escape his duties and obligations, etc. However, the main point is, as mentioned above, this is not a topic to be delved in, but one should be totally immersed in Torah, which is called Toras Chaim, the Law of Life, and the Mitzvoth whereby Jews live, and to do one’s utmost to spread the light and life of the Torah and Mitzvoth in the environment at large.

Hoping to hear good news from you, and wishing you a Kosher and happy Pesach.

With blessing,


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

"Dear Rebbe, Should we Compromise?"

The following is a beautiful Yechidus that took place in the winter of 1962 between the Rebbe and a student of Yeshiva University. Included is a newly released photo of the Rebbe, courtesy of the Rebbe Archive.

Good Shabbos

Question: Often a great many of our students are like “goyim” [gentiles], incapable and unreceptive to absorbing Jewish education. I have heard of Lubavitch’s success in disseminating Judaism in even remote parts of the globe. How are these people approached?

The Rebbe: It is always possible to convey even difficult concepts in an orderly and uncomplicated manner, using simple terms that even a beginner may understand. In addition, the better students may often serve as intermediaries between the instructor and the slower students. Lubavitch has often found that wherever the “darkness” of spiritual ignorance was greater, the response to Torah and mitzvoth was greater. One must not be dismayed by the infinite amount of work and teaching that must be done, but must strive to accomplish a limited amount each day in order to improve the world. Beginning from [Hebrew letters] Aleph-Bais, one must continue to progress until the goal is reached. Just as the Torah, which is limitless, has, nevertheless, confined itself into 613 precepts which every Jew, even the American Jew, is obligated to fulfill, so must the endless task of disseminated Judaism is limited to a certain amount of progress every day.

Question: You said that we should make religion part of our daily lives. However, some students feel that they cannot accept religion completely; they are not interested in fulfilling all the precepts. Is there any value in compromise?

The Rebbe: No one is perfect. “There is no tzaddik [holy man] on earth that has never sinned;” even the most righteous can be found lacking in some spiritual aspect. However, these imperfections do not impair the good that one performs. Every mitzvah accomplished adds impetus to fulfilling more precepts. Let each one do as much as he can today; tomorrow he will do more, or perhaps the day after tomorrow. G-d has infinite patience, but why postpone until tomorrow what can be done now?

Question: How should one begin in instructing his students, with just performance of the mitzvoth, or should he talk about hislahavus [ecstasy] as well?

The Rebbe: You must choose the approach that fits the individual you are dealing with. If hislahavus will appeal to him, choose that method. But one must be cognizant of the fact that the essential is ma’aseh be-poel, the actual performance of mitzvoth, and it is wise to begin with the essential so that if your talk becomes soporiferous in the middle, your audience will at least go away with an essential.

Question: Is quality more important than quantity?

The Rebbe: Einstein said that quantity transfers into quality, mass into energy. The Midrash Rabba cites an interesting point: If even one Jew of the 600,000 had been missing at Mt. Sinai, G-d would not have given the Torah. Not just a Jew like Moshe Rabbeinu, but even the Jew who had an idol in his tent, pesel mika; had he not been present, the Torah would not have been given. Nine Moses’ cannot make a minyan [quorum of ten] to say a kedusha, though that would be a tremendous amount of quality; but if you have ten in quantity, you can say kedusha, just as the Midrash Rabba stated that 600,000 was not necessary for the Revelation. This indicates that quantity and quality are transformative.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Rebbe's Room

The Avner Institute is proud to present a unique photo of the Rebbe leaving his room in 770. This room was the Rebbe’s private study from the day he arrived in the U.S. in 1941; it was here where he received thousands of visitors. special thanks to the Rebbe Archive for the picture.

Also included is a lovely diary written by a student in the winter of 1966, in which the Rebbe describes his room’s specialness.

Good Shabbos


From a Student's Diary:

"In 1966 the president of Israel, Zalman Shazar, who shared a unique relationship with the Rebbe, made a visit to 770 under tremendous pressure, since legally a traveling president had to conduct business from where he was staying. When the president entered 770, the Rebbe walked him through the doors to the upstairs study hall. “This is where my father-in-law davened (prayed),” he said.

“This is where my father-in-law celebrated Simchas Torah." Showing him the place where the bachurim (students) sat and learned every day, he concluded, “All this I could not bring to you had I gone to see you at your hotel in Manhattan."

Then they entered the Rebbe’s room. The Rebbe pointed and said, “From this table the tears of many Yidden (Jews) were heard. This room helped free many from Russia, and here my father-in-law gave over discourses in Chassidus. “All this,” concluded the Rebbe, “I could not have brought had I come to your place of residence.”

Friday, April 24, 2009

What is The Job Description of a Rebbe?

What is The Job Description of a Rebbe?

What is a Rebbe?

Why must every Jew be connected to a Rebbe?

The following is a unique yechidus (audience) of the Rebbe that took place in the winter of 1969 with a Chabad supporter, reprinted with permission from the "Zionist Archives" of Jerusalem. Included is a unique photo of the Rebbe, with special thanks to the "Rebbe Archive."

Good Shabbos.

"Strength of a Leader"

Question: The Rebbe's energy is so instrumental in helping us serve G-d properly, how is it possible that we still have free will?

The Rebbe: The Torah says, regarding Moshe Rabbeinu: "I stand between G-d and the Jewish people," because connecting directly with G-d is a challenge. The Yidden (Jews) pleaded with G-d to place an intermediary between the Yidden and G-d. Each generation has its own Moshe Rabbeinu.

To understand this from a worldly perspective: when a regular person has an appointment to speak with the king, it is such a momentous occasion that in preparation for even a brief audience, the person dons brand new clothes and buys new shoes. He will need to know in advance what to speak about and, more importantly, how to speak to a king.

How does such a person prepare himself? He contacts an official or a lawmaker who is intricately familiar with the laws and customs of speaking to a king, and who will advise him on how to get a message across to a king.

The same applies spiritually: G-d intended for you to get involved in a specific type of business through which you became, Baruch HaShem, very wealthy. Now your avodah (task) is also to give tzedakah (charity). There are times during the year, like Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, when it is relatively easy for a Yid to communicate directly with G-d. However, reaching G-d on your own on a regular basis is a very difficult task. You go to a tzadik (holy man), who knows how to speak to G-d, and this tzadik communicates on your behalf.

Regarding your question of free will: A wealthy and respectable person who wants to build a house still needs to find a contractor who will actually do the work, an architect to make the blueprints etc.; he will have to find someone specific for each detail of the house. In building a house it is impossible for one person to do everything.

It is true that there may be some people who are wealthy and they are also contractors themselves and this person can build a house on his own, but only a select few individuals can do all things involved in building a house.

When this wealthy person builds a house, the fact that he relies on various different people, with different professions, doesn't mean that his image as a wealthy and respectful person is diminished. Rather, he needs money to pay other professionals to do the various tasks, and without money, he indeed would not get anywhere.

The same in spirituality: a Yid who is occupied with business and with giving charity still needs a tzadik for help. On his own, a Yid does not have sufficient merits; he therefore needs the tzadik to elevate him closer to G-d.

For example: how do you connect a Yid here in Brooklyn who gives money in order to help free a Yid in Russia? How a can a Yid in Russia give someone a part in a mitzvah? The same thing regarding a Yid from here who gives money, enabling a Yid in Tel Aviv to don tefillin -- how are those two people connected?

The fact that the Yid from here is connected to me and the Yid who is in Russia is also connected to me, and I know how to speak to the Above, I connect both of these Yidden together. I am a physical human being like you. It is just that G-d gave me the strength to help out Yidden.

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Rebbe And Children

In honor of Yud Aleph Nissan, the Rebbe’s birthday, the Avner Institute is proud to present a first-time released photo of the Rebbe entering 770 in the winter of 1979. Special thanks to the Rebbe Archive and to Mrs. Brod.

A Happy & Healthy Passover!


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Jewish Leaders Meet In Brooklyn

In honor of Yud Alef Nissan, the day the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, was born (April 18, 1902), The Avner Institute, together with the Rebbe Archive, is proud to present two new photos with a recollection written by Mr. Yehuda Avner for the Jerusalem Post, Oct 5, 2004.

A Happy & Healthy Passover!


Mr. Yehuda Avner Relats:

"SOME TIME later, on a balmy July day in 1977, Menachem Begin was similarly confronted. A bushy-haired reporter in a baggy suit asked him with Village Voice effrontery, "You are the newly elected prime minister of Israel, so why have you come to see Rabbi Schneerson? Surely, protocol requires he come to you.

"This altercation took place on the steps of the Lubavitch headquarters, where the Rebbe was welcoming Mr. Begin amid a blaze of photo flashes. "Why, indeed?" the prime minister began with easy rapport. "A good question."And then, with an air of deep reverence,

"I have come here because I am en route to Washington to meet President Jimmy Carter for the first time. So it is most natural for me to want to seek the blessings of this great sage of the Jewish people. Rabbi Schneerson is one of the paramount Jewish personalities of our time. His status is unique among our people. So yes, certainly, his blessings will strengthen me as I embark on a mission of acute importance for our future."

"Would the rabbi care to comment on that?" asked the reporter.He said, "Only to reiterate my fullest blessings. And to add, I accept the honor of the prime minister's visit to me not on my own account but in recognition of the Lubavitch movement's dedicated work in spreading the love of God and His Torah among our fellow Jews, wherever they be.

"The two men had been friends for years, and they closeted themselves for a good hour, at the end of which Mr. Begin informed Rabbi Schneerson that I would return to New York from Washington to brief him on the White House talks"

A Warm Welcome

The Rebbe greets a group of Canadian guests, during the summer of 1984, on the way to his father-in-law’s gravesite.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

How To Deal With Depression? A Unique Letter of The Rebbe

Where does depression come from? Is it in any way positive? In the following letter the Rebbe addresses a student who was going through difficult times that it’s all in the mind, and in that the mind can change more easily than we think. Included is a newly released photo, courtesy of the Rebbe Archive.

By the Grace of G-d
27th of Teveth,
5721 Brooklyn, NY

Mr. ----- 5265 Park Avenue Montreal 8, Que.

Greeting and Blessing:

I received your letter and enclosures.

It is explained in many places in Chasidus, beginning with the Tanya, about the negative aspects of all forms of sadness, depression, despondency, etc. It is also clear from experience that these attitudes belong to the bag of tricks of the Yetzer Hora in order to distract the Jew from serving G-d. To achieve this end the Yetzer Hora sometimes even clothes itself in the mantle of piety.

The true test, however, is what the results are, whether these attitudes bring about an improvement in, and a fuller measure of Torah and Mitzvos, or the reverse. This should be easy to determine.

On the other hand we have been assured that “He who is determined to purify himself receives Divine help.” The road to purity and holiness, however, is one that should be trodden step by step, and by gradual and steady advancement.

Needless to say, the idea of your continuing at the Yeshivah for some time is the right one. As for the question how and what to write to your parents, I suggest that you consult with Rabbi Joseph Weinberg, who knows them personally, and who could give you some useful suggestions.
Hoping to hear good news from you in all above,

With blessing,

Good Shabbos

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Senator And The Rebbe

The Senator And The Rebbe

The Rebbe gives a hearty welcome to Senator Jacob Javitz, shown here with his grandson, in a private audience where the topics Jewish lineage and education were combined. The Avner Institute is proud to present this newly released photo of the Yechidus, along with a fond recollection by Rabbi Groner, a member of the Rebbe’s secretariat who was present at the time.

Children & Grandchildren

Rabbi Groner relates:

At time of this yechidus (audience), Senator Jacob Javitz was chairman of the Senate Judicial Committee. The senator told the Rebbe that before coming to the visit he had asked his staff to prepare a survey comparing the crime rates between public and religious schools. It was found that while certain crimes – over 70% – took place in public schools, the same crimes were either nil or of very low occurrence (1-2%) in religious schools.“According to this,”

The Rebbe answered, “we see the importance of having religious education. Only through religious education can students be taught how to behave properly.” He urged the senator to find a way to publicize the results of this survey and to have parents enroll their children in parochial schools. Senator Javitz, however, argued that this was not the position of the Senate. “If that’s the case,” the Rebbe said, “at least publicize your results and show the difference between children who are educated in public schools and those who are educated in religious schools.

Show how religious schools prevent them from doing things that are negative and against the law.”The Rebbe also mentioned that he believed Senator Javitz was directly descended from Rabbi Yaakov Emden, known as the Yavitz, which was the Hebrew equivalent of Javitz. “Therefore,” the Rebbe said, “conduct of a descendent of the Yavitz should be in accordance to the wishes of your forefather Yaakov Emden.”

Good Shabbos

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

How To Resolve Conflict? A Beautiful Letter of The Rebbe.

The Avner Institute is proud to present a letter from the Rebbe to a frustrated Jew who had left the Torah path and written him explaining why. Included is a newly released photo of the Rebbe, with special thanks to the Rebbe Archive.

B”H 15 Iyar,

5738 Brooklyn, NY

Sholom Ubrocho:

I am in receipt of your letter of May 13, in which you write about your present state and feelings toward Jews, Yiddishkeit, the Torah, etc., which you blame on the attitude towards you on the part of the Yeshiva and its students.

Needless to say the connection is most surprising, for it is plain and obvious that a Jew, whoever he may be, who believes in the Torah and does his best to observe its mitzvoth, does it because of his personal commitment to G-d’s Torah and mitzvoth, which were given to each and every Jew at Sinai, and as our Sages tell us that the souls of all Jews of all generations were present there and accepted the Torah and mitzvoth. Hence, if a Jew should declare, G-d forbid, that he does not accept the Ten Commandments because his friends or teacher do not conduct themselves as they should – I do not think that anyone will say that this is a proper or sensible approach.

To put it a different way: If a teacher whom you respect will say that two times two is five, it is incorrect; and if a teacher whom you do not respect will say that two times two is four, it is nevertheless correct, for Torah is independent. Judging by your writing, there is surely no need to elaborate to you on what is self-evident. As for you, your complaint about your friends’ attitude toward you – it is also clear that neither I nor anyone else can make a judgment on this without first hearing what both sides have to say.

Now, let us assume – from your point of view – that you have reasons to complain – surely you know, and must have seen it yourself from other situations where people have a disagreement, that in every dispute between two people it is impossible that one should be 100% right and the other 100% wrong. It would be rare indeed, if it ever happened, although one does not have to be 100% right to win his case, and 99% against 1% is also sufficient. But when one of the parties, who is personally involved and subsequently subjective, claims to be 100% right and all the other 100% wrong,

this is most extraordinary. Don’t you think that someone who examines the whole situation objectively may find you also wrong, at least to the extent to 1%? If this be very likely, how is it that you don’t mention anything about it in your letter, not even by as much as a hint? All that has been said above is by way of response to your writing, dealing with the “letter” as distinct from the “spirit.”

The crucial point, however, is that suffice it to consider the fact that Yiddishkeit, Torah and mitzvoth, and the Jewish people have survived 3500 years of persecution, pogroms, the Holocaust, etc., and yet our people are alive and thriving to this day, while many powerful nations and “civilizations” have disappeared without a remnant – to be convinced (despite your assertions in the beginning of your letter) that the Torah is Toras Emes, and its mitzvoth are Emes, and that “they are our life and the length of our days,” both for our Jewish people as a whole and for every Jew individually.

It is also self-understood that G-d desires Jews to observe his mitzvoth not for His benefit, but for the benefit of the one who lives in accordance with G-d’s Will. In light of the above, I hope and trust that you will do all that is in your power to learn the Torah with devotion and diligence and to fulfill the mitzvoth with hiddur – not because I, or anyone else, tells you to do this, but because it is the Truth itself, as has been amply verified by the uninterrupted history of our people from generation to generation. And although this is an obvious “must” for its own sake, this is also the channel to receive G-d’s blessing for hatzlocho in all your needs, as well as for your parents and all your dear ones.

With blessing,

M. Schneerson

Good Shabbos.


Thursday, March 5, 2009

New Photo of the Rebbe

The Avner Institute is proud to present a first-released photograph of the Rebbe, at a farbrengen in the mid 1970's - with special thanks to Rebbe Archive.

Good Shabbos,


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

"The Nature of Music" A Beautiful Letter of The Rebbe.

What is unique about Chabad nigunim? What makes them so special?

The following is a beautiful letter of the Rebbe, written to a Chosson who asked if he could play Chabad nigunim at his wedding. Also attached is a first-time released photo of the Rebbe, with special thanks to Rebbe Archive.

By the Grace of G-d
Chanukah 5722
Brooklyn, NY

Blessing and Greeting:

I am in receipt of your letter, and I hasten my reply as requested, and because time is of the essence in this case.

You write that you would like to use some of the published Nigunim of Chabad at your forthcoming marriage and ask my opinion about it.

My reply is as follows: There could be an advantage, or otherwise, in using these Nigunim depending on the circumstances (a) or (b).

If – as is expected of every Jewish girl and boy who are about to be married the marriage is entered into with a firm resolution to establish a truly Jewish home, on the foundation of the Torah and Mitzvoth, and likewise, or course, the preparations before the wedding are also as they should, with observance of the laws and regulations of Taharas Hamishpocho (which an observant rabbi has no doubt explained to you), and the Chuppah and Kiddushin is carried out by an Orthodox rabbi, etc. – then the use of the Lubavitcher Nigunim would not only be appropriate, but also desirable and auspicious. For a Nigun is closely linked with the soul of its author and those who have used it on sacred occasions (which is also the reason for the above-mentioned condition that everything connected with the wedding should be in according to the Torah, since the Torah was their whole life and ideal).

On the other hand, if, G-d forbid, there is a deficiency in the above conditions From the viewpoint of the Torah and Shulchan Aruch, the inference is obvious. However, I do not wish to dwell on this, since I feel certain that, judging by your letter, everything is in accordance with the Torah and Shulchan Aruch, and moreover, that there is a constant effort to advance in all matters of Torah and Mitzvoth, in accordance with the principle that all things of holiness should be on the ascendancy, as also indicated by the message of the Chanukah lights which are kindled in increasing number.

On the basis of this firm belief, I extend to you and your Chosson my prayerful wishes that the marriage take place in a happy and auspicious hour and that you should both build a Binyan adei ad.

With the blessing of Mazal Tov.

M. Schneerson

Thursday, February 19, 2009

A New Photo of The Rebbe.

The Avner Institute is proud to present the following first-time released photo of the Rebbe taken in the mid-1970s by a visiting student of Cornell University.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

"Mrs.Schneerson Told Me About The Request"

Monday, 22 Shevat (February 16), marks the 21st anniversary of the passing of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson, of blessed memory. The Avner institute is pleased to present two charming encounters related by Rabbi Shmuel Lew, Headmaster of the Lubavitch Senior Girls School, London, U.K., whose family over the years had warm relations with the Rebbetzin. Also attached is a unique photo of the Rebbe, courtesy of the Rebbe Archive.


My father-in-law, Zalmon Jaffe a"h, born in Manchester, UK, was a descendent of Chabad Chassidim. He and his wife Roselyn were privileged to enjoy a close relationship with the Rebbe.

On Shavuos 5728 (1968) my father-in-law was invited to the yom tov meal with the Rebbe at the home of the Rebbe's mother-in-law Rebbetzin Nechama Dina, widow of the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn. After yom tov the Rebbe met with my in-laws in yechidus. "Mrs. Jaffe," he asked, "did you permit your husband to have the meal with me rather than with you?"

"Yes," Roselyn answered.

"You didn't mind?" the Rebbe wondered.

My mother-in-law explained, "When I saw the Rebbetzin forgo it [i.e., having a meal with the Rebbe], I also gave it up – and with simcha (happily)." The Rebbe exclaimed, "The Rebbetzin gave it up for forty years already!"


it was during that visit that my wife got a look at the Rebbe's menorah. In spite of a large and ornate menorah in the Rebbe's house, the Rebbe preferred to light Chanukah candles from a small and simple one. This connects to another encounter between the Rebbe and my father-in-law.

On the Rebbe's 80th birthday -- 11 Nissan 5742 (1982) -- my father-in-law wanted to present the Rebbe with a beautiful silver decanter. He simply felt it wasn't fitting for the Rebbe to be handed a plain bottle of wine in a paper bag at farbrengens. But worried the Rebbe wouldn't use it, my father-in-law first wrote to the Rebbetzin, explaining the Manchester community's desire to buy the Rebbe a silver decanter but not wanting to do something against the Rebbe's wishes. He asked the Rebbetzin to consult with her husband and promised to call a week later for the answer. My father-in-law was courageous, and so a week later he phoned the Rebbetzin.

The Rebbetzin said that the Rebbe had not reacted. A day or two later, my father-in-law received a letter from the Rebbe at the end of which lay the Rebbe's response.

P.S. Mrs. Schneerson told me about the request about the bottle and the paper bag, and forgive me, but we will have to accept the thought as though it actually happened, but I prefer a bottle with a paper bag more than a beautiful, silver bottle.

The Rebbe added, There are many reasons, but I'll tell you one of them that I hope you will understand. I do not want to make a barrier between my way of life and the way of life of those around me. He gave an example: I have many silver esrog boxes, but I prefer to use a cardboard box.

Good Shabbos.