Reb Yoel Remembers – Part 1

In preparation for Gimmel Tammuz, we bring you some special memories of the Rebbe related by Reb Yoel Kahn, mashpia of the yeshiva at 770 and the Rebbe’s choizer.

Quoting From Memory

The Rebbe’s outstanding memory in all parts of Torah is well-known and needs no proof. One need just flip through a volume of Likkutei Sichos and see the thousands of references over a wide range of topics to appreciate the extensiveness of the Rebbe’s Torah knowledge.

Nevertheless, as part of my work to review and transcribe the Rebbe’s sichos, I had the chance to catch a glimpse of his amazing memory from up close.

For example, after a certain sicha was given to the Rebbe for editing, the Rebbe added a number of lines from the sefer Resisei Layla from R. Tzaddok HaKohen of Lublin. Since he didn’t have the actual sefer at hand, the Rebbe asked that the quote be checked for accuracy before the sicha was printed. We visited the Rebbe’s library and checked up the quote in the sefer. Aside for a word or two, we discovered that the entire citation was accurate! (The quote is printed in Likkutei Sichos 5 p. 86.)

Now, the sefer Resisei Layla was written relatively recently (the author passed away in 5660 [1900]), yet the Rebbe was familiar with its content word for word! Besides for demonstrating the Rebbe’s outstanding memory, perhaps this indicates the high regard the Rebbe had for the sefer and its author.

A similar incident took place not long after the Rebbe accepted the nesius in 5711 (1951). At that time, we began compiling and publishing the sichos said by the Rebbe during the previous year (the year of mourning for the Frierdiker Rebbe), and a number of these sichos were edited by the Rebbe.

One time, after the Rebbe finished editing a certain sicha, Rabbi Chodakov gave me the sicha to prepare for printing. As I glanced at the sheets, I noticed a reference written by the Rebbe to Sefer Chassidim section 1129. Curiously, the Rebbe had added a line over the number of the siman (תתשכט).

I was baffled. What was the meaning of the line, and how was I to continue? I couldn’t ask the Rebbe himself as he had already left 770, so I entered Rebbi Chodakov’s office and asked him what to do. Rabbi Chodakov looked at the page and was similarly puzzled. As we were speaking, the telephone rang and I left the room. A few minutes later, Rabbi Chodakov called me back and told me that the Rebbe had been on the line. The Rebbe had asked him to tell me that the reference marked with a line was correct. The reason he had added the line was because the sefer was not in his room at the time and the reference had been written from memory. He hadn’t wanted to rely on his memory alone, so he had marked the reference to indicate that it should not be printed until it was verified. When he returned home, he had checked the actual sefer and saw that the reference was indeed accurate. (The reference is printed in Likkutei Sichos 2 p. 511.)

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