For the first time ever, in honor of his 50th wedding anniversary, 18/19 Kislev 5728-5778, Rabbi Yaakov Goldberg of Yeshivas Hadar Hatorah revealed private directives he received from the Rebbe relating to his wedding, and suggests it applies as a lesson for every Chosson and Kallah.
The following are selected highlights are from19 Kislev Farbrengens 5777 and 5778 at Merkaz Dovrey Ivrit, Crown Heights, as transcribed by Bentzion Elisha:
“When did you sign a contract with Hashem that you will only perform easy tasks and not hard ones?” The Rebbe answered a person who once complained to him about his challenges in life.
The difficulties of getting married are encapsulated in the famous verse, ‘Kashe Lezavgan Ke’Krias Yam Suf,’ it’s as difficult to match a pair for marriage as the splitting of the red sea,’ nevertheless people still get married even though it can be hard, very hard, ‘Kashe Ke’Krias Yam Suf.’
Recently, one of my younger sons, before agreeing to his Shidduch, was very indecisive and had a hard time making up his mind. He was going back and forth, to go ahead with it, or not to go ahead with it. He was stuck in indecision.
To break through his dilemma an idea came to my mind which I shared with him. Perhaps this insight was already written somewhere, but I don’t recall.
Why does the Gemara state, ‘Kashe Lezavgan Ke’Krias Yam Suf’? There were many other great miracles since then, why did it choose the splitting of the sea? What is the meaning of this connection of the Gemara with Shidduchim and this miracle?
Sometimes when a person is on the verge of making a Shidduch, he encounters the major obstacle of the final decision. Does he decide yes? Does he decide no?
The very same dilemma was experienced by the Yidden by the Yam Suf, the Red Sea. Should we jump into the water? Should we not jump? What should we do? The Yidden were actually divided into four groups, each one holding on to a different action plan, as the Rebbe elaborates in his talks. Nevertheless, they were stuck in indecision.
Then a fellow named Nachshon ben Aminadav rose up and declared that he isn’t interested in engaging in the conversation and controversy that consumed the nation.
He simply stated, ‘Hashem said. I’m jumping!’
He jumped into the sea and then, and only then, did the water split. This enabled the nation of Israel to pass through the Red Sea.
When it comes to finalizing a Shidduch, instead of being caught up in the boring state of indecision, endlessly contemplating yes, no, yes, no… Just jump.
A Shidduch cannot be finalized without a jump. It’s a necessary prerequisite.
Once you jump, then the Shidduch can be completed and only after this are you able to pass through this stage and build a married life with children.
Nachshon ben Aminadav jumped in and through this very act of jumping the matter was sealed.
Today, the 19th of Kislev, is an auspicious day in general, but in addition, it’s an auspicious day for me personally. That is because today, the 19th Kislev, is the anniversary of my marriage, and this year, 5778, we are celebrating 50 years!
You might wonder why I would bring up a personal matter here since we are gathered to Farbreng in honor of Yud Tes Kislev which is a public holiday which belongs and relates to everyone. However it isn’t a matter of distinction between me and you, ‘Ani VeHu,’ ‘Ze Keli Ve’Anvehu,’ ‘This is my G-d and I will glorify Him.’ (An emphasis to differentiate me vs. you)
We are together. Therefore, there are things that the Rebbe told me privately, nevertheless, I think that perhaps they belong and apply to all of you. Not to you, but to all of us.
Even though I’m about to reveal to you private matters, I must preface by telling you that sharing personal stories has been very difficult for me. As an example, I was approached to be interviewed about my experiences with the Rebbe and I declined. My connection with the Rebbe and interactions with him have been highly personal, therefore it’s been hard for me to speak about such things publicly, so I didn’t.
But now, I want to share some experiences. I feel the time has come to talk about certain matters that could have a public benefit. Since we are by my, ‘Shnas Hachamishim,’ 50 year anniversary, I’m not holding back in hopes that it helps at least one individual.
In the summer of 5727 (1967), I was offered a Shidduch to which I agreed to inquire about, of course with the Rebbe’s permission. The Shidduch was finalized and made official on the 12th of Tammuz, a special illuminated day, and with the Rebbe’s agreement, I became a Chosson.
At that time, I was in Crown Heights and the Kallah wasn’t here, she was working in a camp in Detroit. After she finished the camp, we made a Vort, which today is called a L’Chaim. (A nostalgic Vort: In close proximity of time to that I made my own, a friend of mine also made a Vort during which his Shver to be, Rabbi Nissan Mindel, the Rebbe’s secretary, asked ‘Where do we find the word Vort in the Torah? We see it in the Shidduch of Yitzchak and Rivkah where it was proclaimed, ‘MeHashem Yatza HaDavar,’ ‘It came from Hashem.’ Both the words Davar (Dibur) and Vort relate to a shared meaning, speaking.)
Our Vort was made on Tu Be’av, another auspicious day after which we were able to schedule a Yechidus with the Rebbe. Even though I asked for a Yechidus before our official Vort, I was told that before you make one you are not allowed in for a Yechidus with Rebbe regarding the Shidduch.
We merited having a Yechidus with the Rebbe on the 19th of Av, during which we asked for his agreement and blessing for our union.
The Rebbe gave us all the Brachos, blessings. May we merit that that they be fulfilled in us. (I transcribed all the blessings he gave us, and the conversation of our meeting with the Rebbe, but what exactly were the blessings is irrelevant to the story now.)
Then the Rebbe asked us, ‘When are you thinking of making the Chasunah?’
‘According to our calculations we are planning on making it sometime in the month of Kislev,’ we answered.
The Rebbe turned to us and asked, “Why Kislev? Why not in Elul?”
(Remember that the day was the 19th of Av, and having the wedding in Elul meant to make it, at the very latest, 5 weeks from that day of the Yechidus.)
We didn’t answer and remained silent.
The Rebbe continued, ‘Because of the event that has occurred…’
What was the event the Rebbe was referring to?
The father of the Kallah, Rabbi Avraham Zisskind, passed away on Rosh Chodesh Nissan of that year of 5727, which means that she was still within the year of mourning for her father. Interesting to note, he passed away in 770, in front of the Aron Hakodesh, upstairs, before Krias Hatorah, the reading of the Torah.
‘Maybe because of the event that had occurred, maybe there is a problem with that (making the wedding in Elul), but still, why not make the Chasuna in Elul?’
The Rebbe Continued and said, ‘Maybe if you made your Chasunah in Elul, so soon, it’ll make a Tumult, a commotion, in Ezras Nashim, the lady’s section. Perhaps because of that make it in Kislev. Nevertheless try, if it’s possible, to make the Chasuna in Elul.’
We didn’t respond. The Rebbe is speaking and we are quiet. We clearly see though that he is leaning towards and would like for us to make the Chasuna early, in Elul, if at all possible.
After we left the Yechidus, we first told my Kalla’s mother about what the Rebbe had said in our Yechidus. Since my parents were not in New York, and she was a widow, she was shouldering the organization and preparation for the wedding alone.
‘If the Rebbe said so, we can try. Even though we only have a few weeks, perhaps it’s still possible to do it,’ she replied.
She then looked into the matter and researched to see if it’s really feasible, and she concluded that yes, it’s doable. She can organize the wedding to be in Elul to satisfy the Rebbe’s will.
My father was in Israel at the time for my sister’s wedding, who was to be wed during Tishrei. I called my father and told him the Rebbe’s keen interest in making my wedding in Elul.
My father’s immediate reaction was, ‘No problem!’
Even though he is in Israel preparing for my sister’s wedding, since the Rebbe wants it in Elul, he agrees one hundred percent to come to America for my wedding in Elul and then he will travel back to Israel for my sister’s Chasunah.
After getting the green light from both sides regarding scheduling our wedding for Elul, I wrote in to the Rebbe, informing him of our parents’ consent to the date he proposed.
The written response I received from the Rebbe was, ‘BeChodesh Hageula Hu Chodesh Kislev,’ ‘In the month of redemption which is the month of Kislev.’
The Rebbe’s surprising response came despite all I wrote to him in detail how we are able and willing to make the wedding early as he wanted. Of course we didn’t ask questions. If this is what he wrote, this is what we do. I called my father and told him what the Rebbe’s final word regarding our wedding date was.
Since the Rebbe’s note to us emphasized Kislev as ‘Chodesh Hageula,’ the month of redemption, we couldn’t find a more appropriate day to make the wedding than on the 18th of Kislev, 5728, Ohr Le’Yom Yud Tes Kislev, the eve of the 19th of Kislev, the day of redemption of the Alter Rebbe, of course, with the Rebbe’s blessing.
AS I mentioned before, today is the 50th anniversary of my wedding on the 18th of Kislev which continued into the night of 19th of Kislev.
(Once a man passed by the Rebbe who congratulated him on this man’s anniversary, which was that day. Apparently the man himself forgot, but the Rebbe didn’t, and he reminded him.)
Even though this is a private Simcha of mine, I wanted to mention this because I see my experience as a lesson for Bochurim who are about to get married.
Bochurim are getting married but they don’t know what to do.
They should know that the Rebbe wants that a Bochur who is already a Chosson, engaged and about to get married, shouldn’t delay the date of the wedding. There is no good reason to make the wedding at a later date. This is contrary to the American mentality were people are slow with their wedding preparations and take a long time, unaware of this need to rush.
Hashem blessed you with the right Shidduch but now, as Eliezer said, ‘Al Te’achru Osi,’ ‘don’t delay me,’ because, ‘MeHashem Yatza Hadavar,’ ‘This is from Hashem.’
Since Hashem brought this proposed union about, it must be brought into action quickly.
Regarding my own wedding, how come he changed his mind and directed us to marry in Kislev instead of his original interest of Elul?
‘Hanistaros Lehashem Elokenu,’ ‘the concealed mysteries are reserved for Hashem.’ However, ‘Hu Amar Veyehi,’ ‘He said and it was so.’ This is what he said and therefore it must be done. I’m not asking questions.
Nevertheless, the Rebbe did repeatedly suggest for us to make our Chasuna early, in Elul. Therefore, if we are the ones deciding, we should know that the Rebbe didn’t want us to delay the wedding date.
This is the Horaa, directive, that I received privately however I believe it relates to everyone. As it says, ‘Lo Lelamed Al Atzmu Yatza Ela Lelamed Al Kol Haklal Kulo,’ ‘This occurred not only to teach oneself, but rather it’s a teaching for the entire public.’
This was the first lesson.
Perhaps this next lesson will be hard for some, but this too is also from the Rebbe.
Like I said before, I didn’t reveal this publicly before, only to some individuals, privately, but now I’m sharing this publicly. It’s against my nature, but at this time, Shnas Hachamishim, I’ll go contrary to my nature to perhaps help even one person.
Back then, for Tznius reasons, the Chosson would go out of town to Newark, which now is called Morristown, for the duration of his engagement, coming back to Crown Heights for a couple of Shabbosim here and there. This was done to minimize contact between Chosson and Kallah in the interim until their marriage and it was the common Seder, schedule, for engaged Bochurim.
After we became Chosson and Kallah I asked the Rebbe the following question.
Since I have a Chavrusa who is not a Chosson yet (Rabbi Zalman Labkowski, now Rosh Yeshivah of Tomchei Tmimim at 770), during my engagement period, can I stay in Crown Heights and continue learning with my friend. Or should I do what the rest of the Chossonim do and go to Newark. What should I do?
‘Because you have a Chavrusa here with whom you study, you can stay here, you don’t have to run away. But regarding occasionally meeting up with the other side, the Kallah, only see each other when a Mashpia or Rov will permit,’ the Rebbe answered.
The Rebbe was clear that we mustn’t see each other whenever we wanted to in this in-between stage, but rather whenever it was allowed by a Mashpia or a Rov.
This is what the Rebbe told me directly, face to face, ‘Peh El Peh Edaber Elav,’’Mouth to mouth I spoke to him.’ I can still hear his words in my ears, even though I wrote them down. I remember them well because it came, ’Yotze Mepiv Shel Cohen Gadol,’ ‘Out of the mouth of a Cohen Gadol.’
Of course, if the Rebbe says, there is no problem and we must do it.
Since the Rebbe gave me the option to choose from either a Mashpia or Rov I chose a Mashpia. The Rebbe wanted everyone should have a Mashpia. Mine was Rabbi Sholom Marasow A”H, a Meshiv in 770 at the time. He was a student of my father, and he was close to us, therefore I trusted and connected with him. Even though the Rebbe also mentioned, as an option, to consult with a Rov, and I was also close with the Rov, Rabbi Dworkin A”H, whom I would ask questions, I felt more comfortable with Rabbi Marasow.
So before every meeting with the Kallah for whatever matter, according to the Horaos, directives, of the Rebbe, I would first need to approach the Mashpia.
I told Rabbi Marasow what the Rebbe had said to me, and so it was.
Before every meeting I approached him and told him about the specific need to see each for us to arrange our wedding and our future. Reb Sholom, was a straight shooter and a little square.
Whenever I would approach him about meeting my Kallah he would ask me, ‘Tell me, this matter cannot be resolved by making a phone call? Its only ten cents to make a call…’
‘Yes it’s possible. We can talk about it and arrange it via telephone,’ I would answer.
‘If so, why do you need to meet? Speak to her on the telephone.’ he would advise me.
Since this came from my Mashpia, I listened to him and telephoned instead of meeting her face to face. This is how it proceeded to be for all the months of our engagement.
Every time we needed to discuss something it was through the telephone, except for a few rare exceptions, like making a wedding license.
In light of the Rebbe’s directive to us, all in all we met in person from our engagement to our wedding only four of five times, not more.
I saw in this a lesson. The Rebbe isn’t interested or happy from this that a Chosson and Kallah meet each other too much during the stage of engagement. As much as the amount of meetings can be minimized they should be minimized. The only times the two should meet is when it is really necessary and not more.
I thought that today this needs to be said. I don’t know how many people will actually listen to me. I wasn’t so successful with some of my children that they should listen, but that doesn’t mean anything, I must say it…
The Rebbe is interested in two things which he had directed us.
Whoever can fulfill his wishes will surely succeed.
- The wedding date shouldn’t be delayed. No long engagements, unless there are some unusual circumstances and there really is no other way.
- Between the engagement and the wedding, the Chosson and Kallah should minimize the amount of times they meet. There shouldn’t be needless meetings, more than what is truly necessary. It’s just not healthy nor is it good.
Following these wishes of the Rebbe will surely bring success in the Shidduch and in the future in all matters that follow so that everything will be as it should…
I understand that today people are not so… But alas, this is the will of the Rebbe and everyone can decide for themselves, if this is what the Rebbe wants, this must be for my own good. Therefore a person must do whatever he can do in this matter. Don’t tell me the Kallah wants or she doesn’t want. You are the one to decide what you will do, so don’t give excuses. Remember, this is the Rebbe’s wish.
I see in this a Hora’ah, a directive, even though this guidance was given personally to me. It is quite possible that the Rebbe wanted this to be a ‘Hora’ah Lerabim,’ a guideline for everyone.
I didn’t speak about this up until now, but now that we have approached the 50th year, and 50 years are considered ‘L’Olam,’ forever, it needs to be publicized.
It doesn’t matter if it’s publicized in my name or it isn’t in my name.
The times we are living the world is very complicated and dark, and a person might not know what to do… A Chosson should know that this is the wish of the Rebbe and therefore it’s only for his own good and benefit and that’s how it should be.
Here I am, living proof, Baruch Hashem, 50 years later, everything is alright. There is nothing to worry about and all is good. We didn’t miss out on anything and we are lacking nothing. What needs to happen will happen and you won’t miss out or lack in anything if you follow the Rebbe’s words. It’s the right thing to do. It’s good!
Hashem should help us, as we are within the week of the Rebbe’s wedding anniversary. This is a good time for us to bring this topic up in conversation for a positive effect.
Those Bochurim that are either before Shidduchim, or are pursuing a Shidduch or are already Chossonim, and all should know what affects their Shidduch success.
The Rebbe had once stated that all the Kiruvim, close gestures, made at the time that shouldn’t have closeness, hurts the time that closeness is obligated, and is needed.
Therefore, the close gestures that people think are necessary, should be designated to the time when closeness needs to be expressed (marriage) and if this closeness is displayed at the time when closeness shouldn’t be exhibited (engagement) this diminishes the time that closeness needs to be utilized (marriage).
Hashem should help us fulfil the Rebbe’s will and not question or second guess him.
Rabbi Yaakov Goldberg is an admired and beloved educator who merited to be called a Lamdan, a diligent scholar, by the Rebbe. He is the Rosh Yeshiva of Hadar HaTorah and a Meishiv in Tomchei T’mimim in 770.
Writer Bentzion Elisha is the author of the book 18 Frames of Being, a compilation of short soul stories.