How Long Did You Wait in Line at the Ohel?

Waiting in line to see the Rebbe was more than just ‘waiting,’ it was ‘anticipation.’ Today, we wait for no one and nothing, as we can enter at the time of our choosing. But yesterday, tens of thousands of Yidden waited in that line. 

By Rabbi Mendel Itzinger


They used to be part and parcel of daily life. 

Not even thirty years ago, you expected the minimal written conversation to take a week. 

There was something important to that. 

Somehow, the wait made us appreciate the communication more. It made us put more thought into what we wrote. 

Actually, the wait made those letters all the more special. We held on to those precious communications forever.

Don’t believe me? Rummage through your grandmother’s draws… somewhere she has shoeboxes full of letters.   

But those days are gone. 

I got a message? I’ll ping off a response. Spelling is wrong? No problem I’ll rewrite the word and put a * beforehand. 

Or I won’t. 

It doesn’t really matter. 

It’s really not a big deal this message. I get multiple a day. 

I miss those letters of yesteryear. Somehow their communication felt all the more serious. 



It used to be part and parcel of daily life. 

What time is Mincha? It depends on when the Rebbe comes back from the Ohel. 

What time are you home after Maariv? I don’t know. Depends on if there will be a Sicha, or Chaluka, or both, and how long the Rebbe will speak for… 

Are you coming? Hold on, I’m just going to wait here to see the Rebbe come into 770.

“Nu? The Rebbe is already deep into the Sicha”! “Wait, one more minute. The hookup is almost set up” … 

And then there was The Line 

Snaking through the Shul on a Sunday… Waiting along Eastern Parkway in the days before Rosh Hashana… Waiting in line for Kos Shel Brocha… 

Inching ever so slowly closer to the Rebbe. 

Closer. Closer.  

An hour. Two hours. More. 

Waiting for a chance to spend the shortest of moments in front of the ארון ברית ה. 

We learned to wait.

We spent many hours of our lives ‘waiting in line’. 

It wasn’t actually waiting. It was ‘anticipation’. 

I was still so young. But even then I knew that The Bochurim don’t wait. No, no. They prepare. 

That’s what a Bochur, whose name I doubt I ever knew, and who looked to my five-year-old self like עוג מלך הבשן, explained to me whilst passing me a תהילים. 

The waiting is part of the הכנה. 

One of the physical acts that focus the mind. 

Today, we don’t wait much. 

I mean, the most we wait every week is for the one-minute introduction to the Sicha in Living Torah to end. (Apologies to the donors, they truthfully deserve much more than our moment of acknowledgment)… 

Yeah. In these dark days, everything is open. 

We wait for no one and nothing. 

We need something… We just want to be close… We can just go…

To be clear, we need that access in these times… This isn’t my ‘Hergesh’. The Rebbe explains ויישם בארון במצרים… חזק חזק ונתחזק. 

But I miss that wait. I miss that line. 

I miss being ushered in front of the holy-of-holy’s at a time not entirely of my choosing. 


There was another thing about the line. 

It was מאחד. Chassidim young and old. 

Maskilim, Oivdim and Baalei Eisek. 

People born in the alleyways of Yerusholayim, and a Yid with his new or borrowed Yarmulke from middle-of-nowhere Wyoming. 

In this line there are no מפורסמים.  

Outside those ד אמות this group is as diverse as they come. Some are quiet and came to listen. Others must talk.

But here, on this line, all that fades away. 

Their Pidyonos are also different. The Mashpia has different requests than this Yid from middle-of-nowhere Kansas. 

The Shliach who brought him has a דו”ח about the thousands of people who came for the Gimmel Tamuz event on Sunday, which was also the opening of the new ten-million dollar Chabad house, and new Shluchim moving to the next town.

The Bochur standing a row behind is worried about a Chavrusa for next year.
But in this line, they don’t read their פ”נ. 

In this line, they wait. 


In anticipation of their moment in the holiest place in the world, standing in front of אדונינו מורינו ורבינו. 

As soon as they leave here, they will each go back to their role. But here they wait together for Moishe, for he transcends those differences.  


That line still exists.

The wait is still there. 

Not where we wish it was… and not as often… 

But yesterday, tens of thousands of Yidden waited in that line. 

For hours on end. 

Preparing, anticipating, that short moment of Yechidus at the Ohel. 

Yeah, the darkness is often overwhelming because it is oh-so-real. 

But there, on Francis Lewis Blvd, waiting in line for hours, surrounded by כלל עמך ישראל, tens of thousands of Yidden saw for themselves and showed the world, that this darkness is so full of light.

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  1. BH
    Very very well said and beautifully written.
    This touched me deeply.
    It truly resonates.

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