I was a yeshiva student on shlichus in Safed, Israel, in 1984. In addition to our own full-time studies, we were involved in many outreach activities across the city, including running a kindergarten program and giving Torah classes.
On several occasions, the Rebbe had asked that his chasidim report on their outreach activities once a month, preferably at the beginning of each month, on Rosh Chodesh,. Usually, I would be the one to write the report of our activities on behalf of the yeshiva administration.
Writing a report to the Rebbe is no simple matter. Several days before, I would begin to to consider what I would report and how I would write it. And you don’t just dash off a letter to the Rebbe in half an hour. You need to find a block of several hours in order to prepare yourself, and then to write it properly. And then you need to decide what to write first, what deserves to be mentioned, and what to leave out. Of course, we used a typewriter – we didn’t have computers in those days.
The month of Adar had been hectic, with lots of activities. Suddenly we were in Nissan, and I still hadn’t written the report for Adar. There was so much to report: Purim celebrations, preparations for Pesach, many different outreach projects.
Before I knew it, it was the eleventh of Nissan, the Rebbe’s birthday, and I still hadn’t written the report.
“This is it,” I told myself. “No matter what, I’m writing this report tonight.” That night, I wrote and wrote. It was 3 a.m. when I was finished; I had written eight pages.
I felt so uplifted. There were so many good things in it. So much had been done to spread yiddishkeit, plus a number of activities in honor of the Rebbe’s birthday. I was sure they’d bring the Rebbe much nachas.
But then it occurred to me. “I can’t just sign off. I must finish the letter appropriately, with a blessing for the Rebbe’s birthday!”
Now, this was a problem. As I saw it at the time, a yeshiva student doesn’t give the Rebbe a bracha – he asks for a bracha from the Rebbe! From time to time, on special occasions, an elder chosid would stand up at a farbrengen, a chasidic gathering, and would bless the Rebbe in the name of the entire community; but never a young student!
But then I said to myself, “So what? It doesn’t matter who I am! I’ll give the Rebbe a bracha in the name of the administration.
“On the other hand, can I give the Rebbe a bracha on their behalf, when I’m really acting on my own? I must ask permission!” This dilemma was raging inside my head.