Throughout the years, chassidim marked the anniversary of the Rebbe and Rebbetzin by giving gifts of Torah and tzedaka. Read about some of the milestone anniversaries, the chassidim’s gifts, and the Rebbe’s response.
By A Chassidisher Derher
On Yud Daled Kislev, we celebrate the anniversary of the Rebbe’s Chassuna—the day the Rebbe described as having connected him to the Chassidim. In this article we take a glimpse at how Chassidim expressed their gratitude to the Rebbe and the gifts they presented the Rebbe in hope to bring him and the Rebbetzin Nachas.
The Rebbe would speak precious little about his personal life, yet Chassidim endeavored to use every opportunity to honor the days that the Rebbe held dear. So when the Rebbe addressed the nature of Yud Daled Kislev openly, Chassidim were overjoyed.
In 5714, Yud Daled Kislev was on Shabbos, and after Maariv on Friday night, a group of Ziknei HaChassidim entered the Rebbe’s room to give him a Brocha. The Rebbe listened intently and replied: “If Chassidim will be Gezunt and Freilach, that will enable me to also be Freilach”!
The next day, Chassidim sat down to Farbreng after Davening. Every Shabbos, once the Rebbe had returned to his room from the upstairs Shul! in 770 a Kiddush would be set up and Lechaim was poured. After a dramatic series of events the Rebbe emerged from his room and surprised the Chassidim by joining the Farbrengen. The Rebbe said several Sichos and the Ma’amer of V’chol Bonayich’, and then said:
“A wedding is a public event in regards to an individual, however I was cajoled into public matters through this [the wedding]. I exert myself and you exert yourselves, Hashem should help that we should bear good fruits from our labor… This is the day which has connected me with you and you with me.”
The year of 5729 saw a series of events in connection with the 40th anniversary.
During Tishrei, the Rebbe repeatedly encouraged the Chassidim to study Iggeres Hatshuva, which had just been reprinted by Kehos. Even in his letters to Chassidim around the month of Tishrei the Rebbe mentioned this idea. In the following letter to a Chossid, written on Zayin Cheshvan, the Rebbe expressed his hope that he too was encouraging others to study Iggeres Hatshuva.
“I hope that you too are joining in spreading the study of the Alter Rebbe’s Iggeres Hatshuva which has just been released in its own booklet, to enable greater dissemination.”
Chassidim resolved to advance this initiative as a gift in honor of the Rebbe’s 40th Anniversary. Shiurim in Iggeres Hatshuva sprang up in Lubavitch communities worldwide. Young and old alike studied the Sefer thoroughly and endeavored to learn it by heart, and people could often be seen “chapping arain” a few lines of Iggeres Hatshuva at any free moment.
As Yud Daled Kislev approached, Chassidim from around the world sent letters and telegrams to the Rebbe. In addition to sharing the Hachlatos they had taken in learning Iggeres Hatshuva, they added Brochos and wishes for the Rebbe and Rebbetzin. Many chose to combine this with giving Tzedaka in sums of 40.
Word spread quickly about what Chassidim were trying to accomplish and even the local news agencies reported on it.
The following is a headline printed in one of New York’s newspapers.
An Original Present From Chassidim to their Rebbe – Studying the Work, Igeres Hatshuva
The article continued:
“This week will complete forty years of the marriage of the Lubavitcher Rebbe Shlita, the leader of Chassidus Chabad. His Chassidim have decided to present him with a novel gift: every Chossid will learn the volume of Iggeres Hatshuva— compiled by the first Lubavitcher Rebbe— by heart.
At the Rebbe’s behest, shiurim have been made available all over on this work, and a new printing has been made available in five languages: Hebrew, English, French, Spanish and Italian.”
However, since the Rebbe would rarely dwell on his personal life made Chassidim anxious to what the Rebbe’s response to this gift would be. And their answer was soon in coming.
THE SHABBOS FARBRENGEN
On the Shabbos after Yud Daled Kislev, the Rebbe addressed the efforts that had been made in honor of the anniversary and gave Brochos to all who had sent in their well wishes to the Rebbe.
The Rebbe then expounded on the meaning of the number forty among other Sichos, which are printed in Chelek Hei of Likkutei Sichos.
The following is a free translation of some of the Rebbe’s remarks at the Farbrengen.
“Many have given Brochos in honor of the 40th anniversary, so it is appropriate to mention that the number forty is innately connected with Torah, Tefilah and Teshuvah.
“This can be seen in the fact that Moshe Rabeinu spent forty days on Har Sinai to receive the Torah, and after the Chet Ho’egel and the Shviras Haluchos, Moshe Rabbeinu spent another forty days Davening for Klal Yisroel. This led to a third set of forty days, during which Moshe accomplished that Hashem should accept the Teshuva of the Yidden, as the posuk says, Solachti Kidvorecha.
“As a result, the forty days between Rosh Chodesh Elul and Yom Kippur were set aside for Teshuva. There also forty fasts of Teshuva that one needs to under- take in unique situations. A wedding too is connected with the number forty, as we are told that forty days before a child is born a Bas Kol announces the Zivug of that child. Moreover, the relationship between a wedding and Teshuva extends beyond the number forty, as Kabbolah explains that a wedding and Teshuva are both rooted in the Sefira of Bina.
“Additionally, we can understand the connection between Geula and the number forty through two Pesukim that refer to Moshiach’s coming (whose name also begins with the letter Mem):
“לםרבה המשרה ולשלום אין קץ”
“חומות ירושלים אשר המ פרוצים”
Interestingly, both Pesukim contain a odd mem. One is open where it should be closed [at the end of a word] and the other is sealed where it should be open [in the middle of a word]. The Posuk has specifically chosen the letter Mem to teach us that although the walls of Yerushalayim will be breached because of our averios, Moshiach will come and restore the cities walls.”
Having established the significance of the number forty, the Rebbe continued directly into addressing the Brochos and presents he had been presented with.
“The Torah rules that one who gives a Brocho to another Yid will receive boundless Brochos from Hashem. Nevertheless, it has become common practice, and thus a requirement, that one also reciprocate the Brochos he has received. This will, in turn, guarantee even more Brochos for the giver.
‘I would like give thanks to all those who have extended Brochos, even to those who are not present. May Hashem’s greatest Brochos be fulfilled for them in whatever their needs and whatever their desires.”
The Rebbe concluded:
“It would prove too time consuming to respond personally to each individual, so I will address everyone as we gather “Kulonu K’echad,” and thus the promise of the Posuk, “Borcheinu Ovinu,” will be fulfilled in our every need.”
A MATONA OF TORAH
Despite the Rebbe’s statement that he would not be able to respond to the Chassidim individually, the Rebbe persisted in sending out a personal response to many. The letters began with the following:
ותשואת חן על הברכות בקשר לתקופת ארבעים שנה.
נעמה ביותר שמחה רבה הידיעה אשר רבים מהמברכים צירפו להברכה וחזקו ואשרו אותה על ידי ענין בתורה. ובאתי בהצעתי -בקשתי אשר כל אחד מציבור המברכים יעשה שניהם, תלמוד ומעשה
Excitement permeated Lubavitch as the year 5739 arrived, the fiftieth anniversary of Yud Daled Kislev.
By the Rebbe’s instruction, the Ma’amorim that the Frierdiker Rebbe had said in 5689 (at the Rebbe’s wedding and Sheva Brochos) were prepared and printed in a special booklet.
In a rare occurrence, the Rebbe entered the big Shul in 770 for a Farbrengen on Wednesday night, during which the Rebbe posed a series of questions regarding the Farbrengen.
“Indeed,” said the Rebbe, “it was good for Yidden to gather together, and even more so in a Shul, but why on this night in particular?
The Rebbe then explained. “It is customary in many circles that on the anniversary of one’s wedding, many friends and relatives will gather together and hold a joyous Farbrengen.
“It is difficult to know how the Rebbeim behaved in regard to a fifty year celebration for only a small amount of them lived long enough to reach fifty years of marriage and of those that did, their conduct in these matters was not publicized.
“The Minhog of Yidden in this country is that when one reaches a milestone anniversary it is celebrated with increased enthusiasm, and one gathers with his friends and loved ones to rejoice together. And since we are Yidden, this as every activity must be utilized for the sake of Hashem…
“One of the Rebbeim who did mark fifty years of marriage was the Frierdiker Rebbe (from 5657 to 5707). At the time of his fiftieth anniversary many Seforim—which had been newly printed in Shanghai, China—were arriving in New York.
“A new sefer was brought to the Rebbe on each day of the “Sheva Brochos” following his anniversary. And the fact that something was done to mark his fiftieth anniversary brought tremendous nachas and koach to the Frierdiker Rebbe.”
During the Farbrengen the Rebbe spoke extensively on matters relating to a Chasuna in Torah, and two Sheva Brochos were held at the Farbrengen for two respective Chassanim and Kallos.
BROCHOS AND MATANOS
The Rebbe concluded the Farbrengen with encouragement that the Horaa from the Farbrengen result in adding in the Mitzvos of Hachnosas Kalla and Taharas Hamishpocha. The Rebbe also requested that when Chassanim receive the gift of a Shas, it should be combined with a Tzedokah Pushke.
Immediately following the Farbrengen Chassidim busied themselves with fulfilling the Rebbe’s Horaos. Kehos began preparing Seforim for print to ensure that each day of the next seven days a new Sefer would be presented to the Rebbe.
On the day of Yud Daled Kislev, at ten to two in the afternoon, Rabbi Avrohom Shemtov arrived in 770 and entered the Rebbe’s room with regards from President Jimmy Carter and a special letter he had sent for the Rebbe’s anniversary.
When the Rebbe emerged from his room before Mincha, a group of senior Chassidim were waiting in Gan Eden Hatachton and they gave the Rebbe a Brocha in the name of all the Chassidim and Shluchim.
A REVOLUTIONARY IDEA
The Simcha continued throughout the coming year, and a group of N’shei Chabad took it a step further.
They resolved to commission a Sefer Torah in honor of the Rebbe and Rebbetzin, as a gift from N’shei U’bnos Chabad. The Sefer Torah would then be housed in the Beis Menachem Shul of Kfar Chabad.
Due to a number of setbacks the writing of the Sefer Torah only began a year later on 13 Shevat 5740. A group of representatives merited to enter the Rebbe’s room and presented the Rebbe with a list of all those who were involved in funding the project. The Rebbe smiled broadly as he studied the pages and encouraged that the Sefer Torah be completed before the coming Yud Tes Kislev, and that a Yad and Mantel be ordered for the Sefer Torah,
Yud Daled Kislev, 5741—the fifty- second anniversary—was on Shabbos.
On Friday night, as the Rebbe walked home, crowds of Bochurim followed behind the Rebbe, singing the Niggun, “Meheira Yishoma,” and the Rebbe encouraged them by swinging both his hands.
After Shabbos, preparations began for the Siyum of the Sefer Torah that had been started the previous year in honor of the Rebbe and Rebbetzin.
On Monday evening, Rabbi Zushe Rivkin, Gabbai of Beis Menachem in Kfar Chabad, arrived in 770 with the silver Yad and an invitation signed by dozens of Anash inviting the Rebbe to join the Siyum Sefer Torah.
Reb Zushe entered the Rebbe’s room and presented the invitation to the Rebbe. The Rebbe gazed at it and said:
“Sholom Aleichem Reb Zushe, when are you traveling from here?”
“Tomorrow, at 4pm,” he replied.
“Are these signatures new?” The Rebbe asked.
“What time do you need to leave 770?”
“My plane leaves at 6pm so I must leave early enough to make it on time.”
The Rebbe then invited him to a special Farbrengen. “In honor of the Siyum Sefer Torah we will hold a short Farbrengen before your flight tomorrow. Tonight there is a wedding and it is impossible to hold a Fabrengen, however, since you have arrived specially from Eretz Hakodesh we will hold a Seudas Preida at 2:00 or 2:30. I will speak briefly and the Farbrengen will go on until Mincha. Leave the silver Yad with me as I want to bring it to the Farbrengen. Go rest up and perhaps before tomorrow we will already be greeting Moshiach!”
“Together with the Rebbe,” Reb Zushe said.
“Yasher Koach Gadol.”
When Reb Zushe left the Rebbe’s room and imparted the Rebbe’s message about a surprise Farbrengen, the Chassidim rejoiced.
That evening a choice of crowns was brought for the Rebbe to choose and the Rebbe chose the top of one model and the bottom of another. Throughout the entire night a welder sat and melded the two.
At 2:30 the next afternoon, the Rebbe entered 770 for the Farbrengen, and the Chassidim sang “We want Moshiach now.” In the Rebbe’s hands were the signatures of the Nshei Chabad and Anash from Israel, his siddur, the silver Yad that was brought from Eretz Yisroel and the Yad of the Moshiach’s Sefer Torah. A Mazkir followed the Rebbe holding the silver Kesser.
The Rebbe spoke about the idea of a Siyum Sefer Torah being inspired by Nshei Yisroel and only afterward had the men gotten involved, and compared it to Moshe Rabbeinu first addressing the women—Beis Yaakov—and only afterward the men—Bnei Yisroel.
At the end of the Farbrengen the Rebbe stood up and presented Reb Zushe with the Kesser and the Yad and specified that he was representing all involved.
Reb Zushe responded, “May we be Zoche that the Rebbe should place the Kesser on the Sefer Torah in Eretz Hakodesh.”
The Rebbe replied, “Amen.”
We have glimpsed into the enthusiastic efforts of Chassidim in expressing their Simcha and gratitude on this special day. May this serve as a catalyst to our own Matono to the Rebbe in honor of Yud Daled Kislev.
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