When the Rebbe Told Me to Learn Rambam

As he watched the video, he heard the Rebbe answer questions he had in his learning from the morning. Rabbi Mordechai Rubin, shliach in Colonie NY, shares how the Rebbe’s words have inspired his dedication to learning Rambam daily.

By: Rabbi Mordechai Rubin

Every Chossid has his moment with the Rebbe. Being born in 5753 (1993), I don’t remember seeing the Rebbe physically. But, personally, I feel like I have the Rebbe in my life in every way, especially as the zechus to be his Shliach. 

Boruch Hashem, in many instances, I have even felt the Rebbe talking to me and giving me specific directives in my life. However,  a real-life Yechidus is something I never thought I would be zoche to until Moshiach comes. 

I want to take you back in time with me to Chicago, 5769, I was in shiur bais mesivta. We were learning Masechta Kesubos with Rabbi Yossel Cohen, and the Siyum HaRambam was coming up in a few weeks. I was going to finish Rambam Perek Echod for the first time – a full cycle that I had started 3 years earlier. I was very excited. 

It would be a packed day in Yeshiva: After a full day of Seder, we would head to the Skokie Yeshiva and learn chassidus with non-Chabad bochurim there (During our time learning there for 2 years on Thursday nights, two of the bochurim became full Lubavitcher Yungerleit).

The day was a Thursday around the 13th of Iyar – the Rebbe’s brother, R’ Yisroel Aryeh Leib’s, yartzeit – and so our yeshiva decided to have a video of the Rebbe that Thursday night.

While learning the Gemara in the morning, I saw a difference between the Bavli and Yerushalmi on a certain issue. I was excited about it and wrote it down as a question in our yeshiva’s internal mini “Kovetz Haoros” for that week. 

After returning from a successful learning night at Skokie Yeshiva, we got back and watched the Rebbe video. The hanhala allowed those of us who wanted to stay up for the entire long farbrengen, an unusual occurrence for us young bochurim in Shiur Bais.

The Farbrengen they chose was one of 20 Menachem Av 5742, a long Farbrengen with no subtitles. The date I’m assuming was because it was a Farbrengen for the Rebbe’s father’s – R’ Levi Yitzchok’s – yartzeit, the closest you could do for his brother’s yartzeit. In addition, the themes the Rebbes spoke about reflect a lot on the significance of a Yartzeit. 

I loved watching Rebbe videos. Earlier with “Living Torah” and as I got older and in Yeshiva. Sometimes it would already be an entire lengthy sicha, but never before had I watched a full long complete farbrengen, let alone one without any subtitles.  

However, the Rebbe really pulled me in, I didn’t only feel like it was just the right thing to be there or chassidish to stand at attention by the Rebbe video. Rather, I felt like I was at the Rebbe’s farbrengen in 770 and I was so interested in what he was saying, so much so, that I simply couldn’t wait for what was coming next. 

That is because the Rebbe then taught a glorious “Hadran” on 2 entire sedarim of Shas: Mo’ed and Nashim. 

The particular uniqueness of this “Hadran” was its focus, comparing the differences between 2 talmuds, the Bavli and Yerushalmi in their general style. It was so geshmak and then I realized that this explanation also answered the questions that I wrote down that morning! 

I was amazed at the Hashgacha Pratis, I felt the Rebbe being my teacher and explaining it all so well. During the next niggun, I immediately wrote down the answer to my question based on the Rebbe’s teaching that I had just heard. 

As you can imagine, I was fully in. This was my Farbrengen & My Rebbe! Even though at this point there were still a nice number of bochurim still in the Zal, I felt like I was here alone with the Rebbe. Or better yet, although I was physically standing in the Zal in Chicago, I really felt like I was at the farbrengen in 770. I was waiting for what other amazing things the Rebbe would say next.

This is all setting the stage for the next bombshell from the Rebbe to me. 

The Rebbe began quoting the Rambam:

“שטייט אין רמב”ם ספר הלכות הלכות פי”ג פון הל’ אבל..”

“It says in Rambam, a Sefer of “Halachos Halachos”, in the laws of Avel Perek 13…”

At this point, I was certain that I would know what the Rebbe was about to say. That was the Perek for that very day’s shiur Rambam. How amazing that after the Rebbes answered my day’s question in Gemara now he was to explain to me the daily Rambam, this was unreal.

I was ready because I tried to learn the Rambam very well each day, I was wondering what piece would the Rebbe talk about.  Listen to the quote that the Rebbe shared:

“And he should search through his deeds and do Teshuvah”. יפשפש במעשיו ויחזור בתשובה 

I was confused. I didn’t remember learning that. I couldn’t hold myself in, and I immediately opened up the Rambam and realized that because of my extremely hectic day, I had totally forgotten to learn that day’s Rambam. I had generally always done it before Shkia, so I wouldn’t have thought then that I didn’t do it yet.

Not only did the Rebbe quote the daily Rambam, but – listen to which words it was on: “And he should search through his deeds and do Teshuvah”. 

The way I heard it was: You can do a lot of good things, learn in yeshiva, write Haoros and even teach others chassidus, but you can’t forget my takana of learning Rambam. I had felt so good about my avodah that day, especially learning Gemara well, learning Chassidus with bochurim in a Litvishe yeshiva, and now the whole Rebbe’s farbrengen & him answering my Haora’s question; I was on a real high! But the Rebbe then taught me, that no matter how high you are feeling, even in the holiest matters, you can never miss a day of the Rebbe’s personal takana of learning Rambam. 

I had to wait till the end of that Sicha to hear the rest, then I ran and learned that day’s Perek which without the Rebbe reminding me – I wouldn’t have even known I had missed! Trust me, I learned Perek 13 very well.

I really felt the Rebbe talking to me like in Yechidus, a private reminder to learn Rambam.  Till today, I can hear and see those words; of the rebbe talking to me privately. This was my real and “live” Yechidus with the Rebbe. 

There are many lessons to this story, but certainly at its center is the importance of learning Rambam. That was the “Teshuvah” the Rebbe wanted from me. 

In addition, we all experience this but it’s still important to stress this point: The Rebbe is full with us and can even have a Yechidus. If you do experience this, please don’t think its holy to keep it to yourself, share these experiences with others. We all need Chizuk in this area, and many are looking for it.

But we need to make those windows in our lives to allow the Rebbe to talk to us, in a real way: watching videos, learning his Torah, and doing his Mivtzoim & Shlichus.

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