Wednesday, October 7, 2009

"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.

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