As we prepare to mark Shabbos Chazon, A Chassidisher Derher presents for the first time in English—a vivid description of Shabbos Chazon and Tisha B’Av with the Rebbe in 5742 (1982). In these diary entries of Aharon Kurant, we get a sense of life around the Rebbe during this time of year.
SHABBOS PARSHAS DEVARIM – CHAZON – 4 MENACHEM AV
On his way into Shacharis, the Rebbe notified that he plans to farbreng in the afternoon.
In the first sicha at the farbrengen, the Rebbe discussed the famous teaching of Reb Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev that on this Shabbos everyone is shown a vision of the third Beis Hamikdash. The Rebbe explained that although we don’t personally see it, our mazal (neshamah) sees it. We see this from the story of Chananya, Mishael, and Azarya, who were tzaddikim, but still did not merit to see this vision – yet they nonetheless trembled, as their neshamah experienced it.
In the second sicha, the Rebbe mentioned that this week (5 Av) is the yahrzeit of the Arizal, who was the first to reveal the innermost secrets of the Torah.
Later in the farbrengen the Rebbe discussed this week’s Pirkei Avos. One of the lessons explained was that our ideal avodah is to submit ourselves completely and ensure that our entire day is full of Torah and mitzvos. Similarly, when we encourage others to grow in Yiddishkeit, our objective is that they adopt a lifestyle full of Torah and mitzvos, not compromising on anything. Of course, we begin by asking: Did you lay tefillin today? Do you wear a tallis katan? Do you have kosher food? Start with one mitzvah, then the ten mivtzoim, until they finally keep all 613 mitzvos.
In a sicha about Hilchos Beis Habechira, the Rebbe discussed the shape of the menorah. He said that although some sefarim describe the shape of the menorah to be a semi-circle, and they even bring a proof from the Rambam, that is only because they did not see the original manuscript of the Rambam, which was only recently discovered. There, the Rambam illustrates the menorah with straight, diagonal branches.
Towards the end of the farbrengen, the Rebbe explained how the kedushah of the Beis Hamikdash is eternal. Nowadays, this is expressed in all shuls and batei midrash, which will be replanted in Eretz Yisroel when Moshiach comes. This does not only refer to the congregation and occupants of each shul – but even the physical ceiling, walls, and floor of the shul and its materials—wood, bricks, and dirt, will all be replanted in Yerushalayim. This is especially the case regarding the shul in which the Frierdiker Rebbe learned and davened for many years, which indeed has eternal holiness. Thus these walls and bricks will soon be attached to the Beis Hamikdash in Yerushalayim, including the ezras nashim, which will be attached to the ezras nashim of the Beis Hamikdash. Similarly, all the hachlatos made here in this shul will have a greater effect and a special long-lasting power.
When it was announced that the third sefer Torah haklali would be completed on Chamisha Asar b’Av, the Rebbe instructed the person who had made the announcement, as well as the sofer, Rabbi Zirkind, and Rashag, to say l’chaim, and then began singing the hakafos niggun.
The Rebbe gave Rabbi Mentlik a bottle of mashke to distribute to those around him and told him that he should have hatzlacha with hafatzas haTorah.
After Havdalah, a child under bar mitzvah drank the wine. The Rebbe smiled as the child finished rov kos.
SUNDAY – 5 MENACHEM AV
In the afternoon, the Rebbe went to the Ohel. Before the Rebbe went to mikveh, he gave some letters to Rabbi Binyomin Klein. After he returned from the mikveh, he distributed tzedakah. A little girl took a coin and ran right out. The Rebbe called out after her “leigt arein in pushka” (put it in the pushka). The Rebbe waited until the girl returned to the lobby, smiled, and entered his room.
MONDAY – 6 MENACHEM AV
Tonight, “the basketball coach” was present during Maariv, and the Rebbe smiled at him.
WEDNESDAY – 8 MENACHEM AV, EREV TISHA B’AV
When the Rebbe arrived to 770 this morning, he reprimanded all those who were standing and waiting for him in the corridor: “In der tzeit voss m’vart do, ken men besser lernen Torah, Hilchos Beis Habechirah, un helfen tzum binyan Beis Hamikdash” (Instead of loitering here, you can utilize the time productively to learn Torah, Hilchos Beis Habechirah, and help rebuild the Beis Hamikdash). As the Rebbe headed towards his room, he repeated again in a lower tone, “Voss vart men do!” (Why are they lingering here?!)
The Rebbe came down for Maariv with his siddur and kinos. He sat at the edge of a wooden crate coated in plastic. During Eicha, the Rebbe read along with the baal koreh. He sat on the crate with his head slightly inclined and his arm resting on his thigh. After Eicha and kinos, the Rebbe went home with a sefer in his hand. (Usually, the Rebbe would take home letters or the like.) The Rebbe walked out rather slowly, and the car’s back seat was covered with a board of plywood.
THURSDAY – TISHA B’AV
During Shacharis, the Rebbe had a siddur and an Or Hatorah open on his shtender. Throughout davening, the Rebbe read from the Or Hatorah and would periodically turn the pages of his siddur to wherever the minyan was up to. When the chazzan said Shema, the Rebbe covered his eyes, and during the first half of chazaras hashatz, the Rebbe continued to look in the Or Hatorah. When the minyan began shemoneh esreh, the Rebbe moved his crate to the side as if he was about to take three steps back, but he didn’t step back.
On his way out of Mincha, the Rebbe noticed a tefillin bag on top of a siddur and moved it aside.
Right after Maariv, the Rebbe replaced the bookmark of his siddur to kiddush levanah, and as he made his exit, Rabbi Groner told the Rebbe that there was a moon visible. The Rebbe went outside to do kiddush levanah, and before facing mizrach he glanced at the moon. After Aleinu, the Rebbe put his siddur under his arm and shook two strands of his tzitzis three or four times. Before departing, the Rebbe wished a gut chodesh to those standing near him.