The iconic Aron Kodesh in 770’s main shul, built by R’ Yankel Lipsker in 1968 and heavily used since, was touched up and repainted this week to bring it back to its original glory and beauty.
By Anash.org reporter
After many years of heavy use, the iconic Aron Kodesh in 770’s main shul was restored and repainted this week to bring it back to its original beautiful look.
The Aron Kodesh was built by R’ Yankel Lipsker, who later served as a gabbai in 770, in his classic style. First built in 5728 and expanded in 5733, the Aron Kodesh has since become an iconic item for Chabad chassidim, and many replicas of it can be found in Chabad shuls worldwide.
The story of how the Aron Kodesh was built is told in a biography authored by his great-grandson Rabbi Memkeh Schmukler, and is reprinted here:
When the Shul was expanded, Yankel decided he needed to grace the front wall with a beautiful new Aron Kodesh. Yankel had worked on the Aron in the upstairs Shul as well – only decorating the one that was already there from the days of the Rebbe Rayatz, based on the Rebbe’s directive. Yankel also improved the Amud for the upstairs Shul in the same fashion
Now, he would have a chance to build something from scratch. Something glorious that befits the Rebbe’s Shul. At this time there was a small, six-foot- tall Aron Kodesh. One of the major issues was that during Farbrengens it was a perfect place to keep bottles of wine. This was a major problem if the bottle got knocked over, with all its contents seeping inside the Aron Kodesh. To rectify this Yankel wanted to build a large tall Aron Kodesh.
As with the bima he built, he brought his drafts to the Rebbetzin, and once more she gave her feedback and new ideas, like incorporating a crown in the design at the top of the Aron Kodesh.
With the help of his son Zalman, he spent long nights in his basement working on bringing his dreams to reality. Creating it in pieces, he rolled it all to 770 on poles late one night during the days of Slichos in Elul of 5728/1968. Putting it all together on a giant frame to make his grand Aron Kodesh, took almost the whole night.
Initially Yankel wanted to design it so that it should be built into the wall, like the style of many Shuls of the time. The Rebbe told him no, since that’s not how it was in the Shul of his father-in-law, the Rebbe Rayatz. He then lined the inside with waterproof sheets to keep the Sifrei Torah safe.
When 770 got expanded during Tishrei of 5733/1972, the Aron Kodesh got an expansion as well as now there were many new Sifrei Torah and more room was needed. Erev Yom Kippur Yankel, with the help of some of his sons and Bochurim, added the two cabinets on the side, completed the Aron Kodesh as it looks until today.
Each year on Erev Yom Kippur the Gabbai of 770, Reb Yochanan Gordon, would go into the Rebbe’s to give him the traditional Malkus. Whilst there in 5729/1968, right after the Aron was completed, the Rebbe asked “אַז געבויט דעם ארון קודש האָט יענקל – ליפסקער ווייס איך, אָבער פון וואו האָ ט ער גענומען די האָלץ” – That the [new] Aron Kodesh was built by Yankel Lipskier I know, but where did he get [money for] the wood from?
Though Yochanan replied he didn’t know, most of Yankel’s projects he paid for himself, feeling that the responsibility was for nobody but himself.