The Rov’s Salary

On the request of Gruzinian Jewry, the Rebbe Rashab delegated Rav Shmuel Levitin to serve as their first Chief Rabbi. Till then, they had been lead by Hachamim. In detailing the rampant ignorance of Georgian Jews concerning Judaism, the Rebbe mentions in his letters that their Hachamim barely understood a paragraph of Kitzur Shulchon Oruch.

Their ignorance was not limited to Yiddishkeit. In fact, Georgian Jews were very primitive and uneducated in general as this story is about to demonstrate.

As noon approached on his first Friday there, Rav Levitin was surprised that he did not yet receive his weekly salary as was customary then. He gathered together the lay leaders of the kehillah in the capital Tbilisi and demanded an explanation. The natives innocently explained: “We thought Rabbis are Malachim and don’t eat…”

That same day, they handed his salary along with a thousand or so apologies. Ever since, his salary came to him weekly without further incident.

The whole purpose in sending out Shluchim…

The Frierdike Rebbe tasked his devoted chosid Rav Shmuel Aharon Kazarnovsky to visit the Yeshivos he established throughout the States. Everywhere he traveled, the situation was devastating: The local shliach (back then usually a single bocher) would almost invariably tell him about his arrival in town: He went straight to the local Rabbi who welcomed him with open arms. After all, there were very few other Orthodox Jews in town and certainly precious with whom the Rabbi could engage in a Gemara discussion. The bocher would typically board at the Rabbi’s home. Rapidly he opened a Yeshiva and began a weekly Mesibos Shabbos group amongst a whole host of other activities. The Rabbi eventually saw how popular these activities were becoming. Fearing he might lose his status in his community, he’d then inform the bocher along with the local community that his Shul was taking over the school and all the other activities under its own auspices. The Rabbi and his Shul would then happily reap the fruits of the Lubavitcher Shliach’s hard labour. The hapless bocher had to then begin anew building himself from the bottom up.

Upon his return to 770, he entered the Rebbe’s room to report to him about his visit. In line with prevalent practise then, Rav Kazarnovsky wished to spare the Rebbe the devastating story he heard throughout his visit considering his precarious health. So he reported about the extensive educational and outreach activities he found wherever he visited and the Shluchim’s hard work throughout the States. The Rebbe asked, “און וואס נאך (What else)?” (The Rebbe did not usually grill in this manner.) So Rav Shmuel shared some more details about his visits. “און וואס נאך?” The Rebbe asked again. And Rav Shmuel elaborated some more. “און וואס נאך?” The Rebbe persisted. Rav Shmuel finally realized that he could not hide anything from the Rebbe. And he was compelled to share with the Rebbe everything you just read. But to his pleasant surprise, the Rebbe laughed very deeply, “דאס איז דאך געווען דער גאנצן כוונה (the entire purpose of sending Shluchim was to get the local Rabbi and Jews involved in education and outreach)”…

This story is about a resident of Mexico City who would travel to the Rebbe. As there was no direct flight to NY, he’d travel to some other destination to the states and from there take a connecting flight. He also traveled on the first direct flight from Mexico City to NY. At yechidus, the Rebbe advised him to delay his return trip several days. As our friend was eager to return to his business, he nevertheless stuck to his original plan. He was even too sheepish to bid the Rebbe farewell the day he traveled back as was his wont. Well, the plane’s engine caught fire on the runway. By some nes, he escaped the plane and returned to 770. When he told the Rebbe what happened, the Rebbe responded, “It appears one needs to bid farewell before traveling.”

As time bore on, his business began to decline. When his wife traveled to the Rebbe he requested her to tell the Rebbe about their difficult situation and ask him for ten dollars to help the business.  The wife asked the Rebbe and the Rebbe searched his entire office finally coming up with a dollar bill. Not wishing to disappoint her husband, she mustered all her courage saying, “My husband requested ten.” So the Rebbe searched more and handed her a 100 dollar bill. he told her, “As good as you are at asking, I’m even better at giving.”

The Rebbe then advised her that her husband should acquire a synthetic sewing machine as there were no such machines then in Mexico City.

Our friend contacted a chosid in London who dealt in these machines. When hearing that he was looking for a machine on the Rebbe’s advise, the chosid sold him one at a reduced price (or he gave him one freely). The locals of Mexico City began lining up to use his machine and kept him extremely busy. He ultimately obtained sixty machines to fill the demand!

Traces of prohibition

23 Ador Rishon 5776

A rov once visited the Chavos Daas (if I remember correctly) to discuss some matter with him. As the Chavos Daas was giving his regular shiur his Rebbetzin offered her illustrious guest a chair to sit on while he waited. Brushing off the dust on the chair the Rov remarked “Avak Ribis”. He was referring to the widely circulated rumour that in amassing his considerable wealth, the Chavos Daas did not follow closely the fine details of the prohibition against ribis (interest) in his business activities. The Rebbetzin rejoined,” No, my friend, not avak ribis but avak loshon horo” (reprimanding her guest for not carefully observing the prohibitions against accepting gossip and slander).

Mission Impossible

21 Ador Rishon 5776

(Recounted at the  recent yohrtzeit melaveh malkah.) As the war neared its end in 5704, the Frierdike Rebbe received a written account about the fate of his choice chasidim in Riga. The Nazis ys”v rounded R’ Itche masmid, R’ Chatche Feigin (former secretary of the Frierdike Rebbe) and one other chosid (sorry, forgot the name) with the other Riga yidden into the local shul. They then set the shul on fire and listened gleefully to the agonized screams of the doomed Jews inside.

Upon reading the letter, the Rebbe had a heart attack. The doctors warned the family that his heart would not handle the New York heat. As the Rebbe would not leave 770, they advised the family that he’ll only survive the summer if central air conditioning would be installed in his apartment.

Now, back then the costs of such a system were prohibitive. Chassidim, of course, began fundraising immediately but they didn’t have any real hope of raising the entire sum in time. Shortly after Pesach as summer was approaching, R’ Shmuel A. Kazarnovsky traveled to Montreal to see what could be done there. He tearfully explained to one of the yeshiva bochurim there the imminent danger facing the Rebbe. R’ Yitzchok Hendel had arrived only three years ago with some peers from Europe. They barely knew English and certainly weren’t very familiar with the Montreal locals. But he wasn’t deterred. He offered to bring Rabbi Kazarnovsky to one of the Yeshiva’s friends. But Rabbi Kazarnovsky would have to explain to her the Rebbe’s importance and make the appeal.

The mission was successful and our generous friend single-handedly paid for the air-conditioning system. The Frierdike Rebbe lived on six more years till 10 Shvat 5710.

To the point

21 Ador Rishon 5776

A vort that was repeated at the Melaveh malkoh on Motzoey shabbos(, mentioned in the introduction to Shorim Hamtzuyonim bahalochoh):

Megillas Rus mentions that Boaz greeted his workers in Hashem’s name: “ויאמר לקוצרים ד’ עמכם“. Darshonim interpret:” He said to those who keep it brief and to the point (למקצרים) Hashem is with you.”